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Best Latin American Studies Undergraduate Programs

Last Updated on January 15, 2023 by Team College Learners

European and American discourses that exclude the notions of race, class, and gender have long dominated academia.  But, since the early 20th century, universities across the country have adapted their curriculums to expand the cultures, languages, and people studied in higher education.

One of the programs developed over the last century is Latin American studies, an interdisciplinary academic and research field that examines the past, present, and future of Latin America through various lenses. Some of the disciplines valued in Latin American studies include biology, sociology, economics, and history. The field is often confused with Latino studies, which, in contrast, examines the experiences of people of Hispanic ancestry in the United States.

The first academic journal dedicated to the field of Latin American studies was the The Hispanic American Historical Review created in 1918 by the American Historical Association. Though several factors led to the addition of different fields, the passing of Title VI of the National Defense Act in 1958 made way for more varied areas of studies in the US. The National Defense Education Fund provided funding for Centers of Area and International Studies in the United States.

Today, hundreds of programs in Latin American studies have emerged around the country, each focusing on different aspects of the vast cultures and histories of Latin America. While some choose to focus on the present status of politics and society in Latin America, others examine the pre-colonial history of Central and South America. And still others have gone so far as to develop courses on the politics of soccer, the anthropology of food, and Caribbean dances. The programs also offer a variety of internship opportunities abroad and a chance to learn new languages, including Indigenous tongues like Quechua. Overall, Latin American studies is an opportunity for students and researchers to further the academic canon by proving that studying our communities is beneficial to all.

While the fall semester already started, the application season is about to begin. If you’re looking to dive into Latin American studies, these schools offer some of the best Latin American programs in the United States. 

1

UCLA

The Latin American studies program at UCLA is designed for students who want to focus on the culture and society of various sub-regions in Latin America. The program requires all students to achieve intermediate level of two modern languages spoken in the area of their choice, which could vary from Indigenous tongues, such as Quechua and Nahuatl, to Latin-derived languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese. Some of the classes offered include a whole course on Day of the Dead, Perspectives on Afro-Cuban Identity, and Indo-Andean Literature.

2

Boston University

This program focuses on an interdisciplinary understanding of Latin American histories and cultures. The range of its courses vary from history and anthropology to political science and sociology. The program, which is held inside the Pardee School of Global Studies, also hosts a variety of events and panels focused on issues in Latin America, such as the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico. The program offers courses in both undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as a minor option.

3

Princeton University

Princeton offers both undergraduate and graduate certificates in Latin American studies with opportunities to study abroad and apply for fellowships. Some of the courses offered include: Anthropology of Populism, Black Activism in Latin America and the United States, and Native Christianities in Colonial Mexico. The program also offers various seminar classes in topics such as Mario Vargas Llosa’s work, the city of Havana, and Luso-Brazilian literature.

4

University of Texas at Austin

The Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American studies offers both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as internship opportunities. The research and academic center has two programs – one in Latin American studies and a second in Indigenous Languages of Latin America.

Some of the courses offered in the Latin American studies include: Afro-Brazilian Diaspora, Latino Migration and Asylum, and Religions of the Caribbean. The internship program is open to undergraduate students pursuing a degree in Latin American studies or work with Latin American issues and offers multiple types of recruiting categories, including multimedia production, photography, research, and scholarly programs.

5

City University of New York

The Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies is part of CUNY’s Graduate Center, offering an MA and PhD. The courses range from introductory classes in Latino and Latin American studies to electives in Comparative Literature, History, and Theater. The program strongly recommends prospective students master Spanish or Portuguese. Students leave the program with a published thesis or capstone project on a topic of their choice.

6

Harvard University

The Harvard University center on Latin American studies offers various programs, including an Andes and Southern Cone program, Brazil studies, and Cuban studies. The programs are focused on understanding of democracy, social progress, and sustainable development in Latin America. Some of the courses offered include: Social Revolutions in Latin America, Moctezuma’s Mexico, Human Rights and the Global South, and Frida Kahlo’s Mexico. The program also offers travel opportunities and fellowships in Argentina, Chile, Cuba, and Brazil.

7

University of Pittsburgh

The Center for Latin American studies in Pittsburgh offers both degrees and special certifications in for researchers and students. The undergraduate degree can be obtained as a certificate or as a related concentration, while the graduate degree also offers a public policy certification. The course catalog for fall 2018 includes Afro-Caribbean Dance, South American Archeology, and Anthropology of Food. The Center also offers study abroad program in Ecuador and a short seminar in Colombia.

8

New York University

This program offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and is well-known for its emphasis on Indigenous and Caribbean languages. Some of the courses in the programs include: Comparative Racisms in the Americas, Puerto Rico Under US Rule, and Masculinities in the Americas. The program offers an internship, as well as cross-listed courses with Columbia University. NYU also offers a program in Quechua language studies, teaching various levels of this Indigenous language.

latin american studies university

MSc in Latin American Studies

About the course

This is a nine-month programme which spans three academic terms and is intended to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of the main developments in Latin America from c. 1900 to the present.

While the programme emphasises the specific features of individual countries, there is also broad comparative coverage of major trends such as authoritarianism and democracy, the economic cycle, the effect of international factors, the evolution of the Left and Right, revolutionary movements and the effects of neo-liberal economic models.

The five core papers are:

  • Latin America since Independence
  • Introduction to the Latin American Economies
  • Sociology of Latin America
  • The International Relations of Latin America
  • The Politics of Democracy in Latin America

The optional papers on offer vary from year to year. As a guide, the following are currently available: 

  • Andean Politics
  • Cities and Citizenship in Latin America
  • Human Rights in Latin America
  • The Politics of Brazil
  • State, Organised Crime and Drug Trafficking in Latin America

These topics are addressed through taught classes for a number of academic disciplines (including history, politics, sociology, international relations and economics), individual preparation for a range of exam papers, and a lively programme of seminars and conferences with visiting speakers.

A typical week during term time will involve around 40 hours of study, including two to six hours of scheduled contact hours, two hours for the weekly seminar and at least thirty hours of independent work. During peak times around exams and the deadline for the thesis/dissertation, the amount of work could be higher depending on your own study habits. 

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.

Assessment

You will be asked to submit two portfolios of essays on subjects of your choice during the first two terms. In the final term of the programme, you will be required to sit three exam papers from a list to be provided on your arrival in Oxford. The exam papers for 2021-22 are not yet confirmed, but you may view the range of papers available for the current year by visiting the course page on the Latin American Centre website (see under Further information and enquiries).

In addition to the three exams, you will be required to submit a dissertation of 10,000 words. The preparation of this dissertation will allow you to develop a critical focus by examining a particular topic in depth.

Graduate destinations

Latin American Centre alumni work in a wide range of careers, both within and outside of Latin America, in the public and private sectors. 

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

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