HIST 451 (3 cr): Family and Community in Latin America


Course Outline

  • Three graded essays
  • Individual journals
  • Online discussions

Course Description

History 451 (3): Family and Community in Latin America examines the role of the family and community in modern Latin America from the late nineteenth century to the present and the emergence of the nation state as it affected community and family structures.The course employs a thematic approach to the family and community, focusing on marriage, kinship, neighbourhood, race, religion, community celebrations, migration and gender. The course offers a unique set of print and media sources that provide students with a foundation for acquiring historical and analytical skills in the context of Latin American history and culture.


There are no prerequisites for History 451 and you are not expected to know Spanish or Portuguese or to have taken any previous courses in Latin American history.

Intended Audience

History 451 is aimed at upper-division undergraduate students, both full- and part-time, who are majoring in history or international relations; at other third- and fourth-year students in the humanities and social sciences; and at non-degree students interested in Latin America.

Course Aims

Upon completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Use primary sources, such as oral histories and personal accounts, in order to write your own analytical essay.
  2. Become familiar with the analysis of visual materials and their academic discussion.
  3. Describe how migration has affected families and communities in selected areas of Latin America and, conversely, how family and community organization has affected the migration processes throughout the region.
  4. Understand migration as a complex process that requires an understanding of the local, regional, national, transnational, and global factors, as well as the various actors involved in the process.
  5. Describe some of the ways that laws and legal codes attempt to shape family and family formation.
  6. Be able to see love letters as a complicated genre that, rather than offering unproblematic access to “true” inner feelings, must be subjected to historical analysis.
  7. Understand broadly debates around popular culture, mass media and nation-building in Latin America.
  8. Have reflected individually and collectively about the role of the family and romantic love in producing the nation as an “imagined community”.
  9. Analyze the ways that meaning is constructed in the context of telenovelas viewing in relation to gender, sexuality, class, and race.

Course Overview

The course is structured around three main units. Following an Introductory unit, Unit Two will explore some of the ways in which a history of “romantic love” might be undertaken and you will write your own paper on a collection of love letters from judicial cases that date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in northern Mexico. In Unit Three you will learn about the role of telenovelas in Latin America, both in terms of the production of the nation as an imagined political community, as in the production, reproduction and resistance of gender and sexual norms. Unit Four explores the ways in which migration has affected family and community relations and, conversely, the impact that family and community organization has had on migration patterns in Latin America. It does so by concentrating on the study of migrants’ oral histories and other personal accounts.

Course Requirements

History 451 contains the following course work:

  • Three graded essays which analyze the arguments in assigned readings and lessons; about five typed pages each;
  • Individual journal entries, participation in Discussion forums and contributions to a Social Network Sharing Resource.

Grading System

Three Essays (20% each)
Individual Journal Entries
Discussion Participation

Required Course Material

HIST 451 Custom Course Materials

HIST451 Textbook Order Form