Mexico, central america, and the caribbean

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Deustua-4850-Fall 12

Eastern Illinois University Fall Semester 2012

Department of History

HIS 4850


Professor: José R. Deustua Coleman Hall 2552

Phone: (217) 581-7115 Office Hours: MWF 9-10 a.m.


Coleman Hall 2741 MWF 12-12:50 p.m.

Description and Objectives.- The course will study historically particular areas within Latin America. It will focus on Mexico in North America and its adjacent areas, Central America at its southern border, and the island nations of the Caribbean in the Gulf of Mexico. Whereas Mexico was the site of large Indian native civilizations, even when the Europeans landed in its territory, Central America and the Caribbean experienced different historical developments. In the north of Central America the Maya civilization developed until the 9th century, when their classical era ended to give place to other historical societies; whereas in the Caribbean native societies combined settled small agricultural units led by a cacique (the Tainos) with warriors, hunters, and gatherers who preyed on them, the Arawak. The Caribbean people never developed large empires or civilizations before they were subjugated by the Spanish conquistadors and, later on, by British, French, and Dutch settlers. The course will study these historical bases to deal later with the colonial organization of these three areas and their modern nation states. Relationships among the following issues will also be part of the course’s inquiry: racial and ethnic identities, economic development, political structures, revolutionary upheavals, and class organization. The course will also combine social with post-modern, cultural approaches to History.

The course requires active student participation, particularly in the discussion of the weekly assigned readings. It will operate too for a great part of the time as a research seminar, which needs full student participation. Early on students should develop a research topic and do historical research which will have several level of presentation in the class. Students will also be divided into research groups. Students missing without justification 1/5 of the classes will automatically fail the course.

Course Requirements.- Students will be expected to take a mid-term exam, a post mid term exam, and a final exam. They must also write a thorough essay research paper. Participation in class discussions will also be graded. The percentage of the final grade given to these evaluations will be the following:

  • Mid Term Exam, 20%

  • Essay Paper, circa 8 pages, 30%

  • Final Exam, 25%

  • Class Participation, 25%

Readings.- Three books will be read during the course. Some in their entirety, some only partially. These books are:

William H. Beezly, Cheryl English Martin, and William E. French eds.: Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance. Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1994.

Elisabeth Burgos-Debray ed.: I, Rigoberta Menchú. An Indian Woman in Guatemala. New York and London: Verso, 1993 (14th reprint).

Walter LaFeber: Inevitable Revolutions. The United States in Central America. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

Copies of these books are available at the Textbook Rental Service (TRS) office.

Additional readings will be given to the students taken from:

Bonham C. Richardson: The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492-1992. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Edelberto Torres Rivas: History and Society in Central America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993.

James D. Cockcroft: Latin America. History, Politics, and U.S.Policy. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1996.

John A. Booth: The End and the Beginning. The Nicaraguan Revolution, Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1985.

John J. Johnson: Latin America in Caricature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993.

The Department of History website is

To reach resources, bibliographies, and organizations related to Latin American history click on


Week 1. Geography. Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean. Sierras (Sierra Madre), valleys, tropical rainforest. From Guatemala to Panama. From Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago. History. Mayas, Aztecs, Tainos, Arawaks.

Reading.- Beezley et. al., chapter 1.

Week 2. Social History (Hart) versus Cultural History (Beezley et. al.). Colonial organization of the three areas. Mexico, hacienda, viceroyalty, mines. Central America and the Audiencia of Guatemala (Antigua). The Spanish, British, French, and Dutch Caribbean. Plantations and slavery. Songs and dances in New Spain.

Reading.- Beezley, chapter 2.

Week 3. Obrajes and manufacturing in Mexico. Richard Salvucci thesis. The working poor and the 18th-century colonial state: gender, public order, and work discipline. Time, work discipline, moral economy (Edward P. Thompson).

Reading.- Beezley, chapter 3.

Week 4. Independence. Slave rebellions in Haiti and other Caribbean countries (Puerto Rico). The structure of the plantation, planters, “petit blancs”, mulattoes, slaves. Haiti compared to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles.


Week 5. The actions of Independence. Wars, armies, militias. From Hidalgo to Iturbide in Mexico. Independence in Central America.

Reading.- Torres Rivas, chapters 1 and 2.

Week 6.- The new states in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Mexico and “caudillismo” and Santa Anna and war with the U.S.. Central America and the United Provinces of Central America. Colonialism in Cuba and Puerto Rico, British and French control in the Lesser Antilles.

Week 7.- The economic development of Mexico during Porfiriato, railroads, land concentration. The dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, “pan y palo”. Streetwise history.

Reading.- Beezley, chapter 7.


Week 8.- The increasing presence of the United States in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The Spanish-American war, 1898. The Panama canal. Cuba.

Reading.- LaFeber, chapter 1, pp. 28-51; Political cartoons from Johnson, Latin America.

Week 9.- From World War I to World War II, US and its neighbors, FDR and to double lock the system. Clash at Bogota.

Reading.- LaFeber, chapter 1, pp. 51-85 and chapter 2, pp. 87-99.

Week 10.- The Mexican revolution and national reconstruction. The idea of nation and nationalism. From Zapata to Cárdenas. Patriotic festivals and Tecamachalco.

Reading.- Beezley, chapter 11, pp. 213-230.


Week 11.- State imposition or hegemonic articulation in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Reading.- Beezley, chapter 11, pp. 230-245.

Week 12.- From the Mexican to the Cuban revolution and the revolutionary era in Central America, FSLN, FMLN. Puerto Rico from colonial administration to the Associated State (Muñoz Marin). The Independence of the British Caribbean. The Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua.

Reading.- Booth, chapter 5.

Week 13.- The fall of the Somoza’s oligarchical dictatorship. The revolutionary government of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Reagan policies toward Central America, militarization and human rights violations. The low-intensity warfare doctrine. The Boland Amendment and the Iran-Contra affair.

Reading.- Debray ed., chapters 1-13.

Week 14.- El Salvador and the “killing fields”. Guatemala and Maya ethnic repression. Guerrilas and the UNRG. Pacification and the election of Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua. Peace processes, UN, and OAS.

Reading.- Debray ed., chapters 14-26

Week 15.- Guatemala, Maya Indian peasants, union organization, and revolution, a life. Conclusions.

Reading.- Debray ed., chapters 27-34.


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