What is my idea of Latin America at the start of the course? What are my learning goals associated with LAS101?
As a senior Latin American Studies minor that spent a semester in Southern Mexico through a program that emphasized experiential learning, I would like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable about Latin America. Despite this, there are so many gaps in my knowledge of Latin America as a whole. The reality is that I am very well versed in topics pertaining to Mexico, the Northern Triangle, and the Caribbean, but topics pertaining to the Southern Cone, for example, elude me because the courses I have enrolled in did not dedicate substantial time or focus to the area. Truthfully, my scope is also narrowed by my own personal academic niches, meaning I have a deeper understanding of Latin America through the disciplines of Sociology, Anthropology, and Literature than Political Science, Economics, and History, though no discipline exists in a vacuum and I have encountered each throughout my studies.
I think of Latin America as the overarching grouping for Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, though it is obviously an extremely heterogenous swath of cultures, histories, and lived experiences being lumped into one simplified category. As someone who has been trained to think sociologically, I know that the categorization is truly just that: something that we use to be able to grasp a broader idea, organize space, and, ultimately, create dichotomies of belonging. It’s not unique to Latin America, of course–we do this same grouping all across the globe. It’s not inherently harmful either, but in my eyes I believe it to be important that we acknowledge that these groupings of countries, and the nation-states themselves, are merely social constructions fabricated by people. They are ever changing and will never perfectly mesh because the human experience varies so widely.
I believe that it would be naïve of me to believe that I will fill in these gaps with this one final course in the minor sequence, intended to be an introduction to Latin American Studies rather than a grand finale, but I do think that it will push me to reach to disciplines that I may not be as comfortable working with when searching for more holistic views of events or phenomena in Latin America.