Wappingers Central School District

    Social Studies Department

    Course Syllabus



    September 2020 - Google Classroom Code - x37hhx4




    Course Name




    Course Code

























    A teacher-created final exam, term paper or culminating project will be included and counted as 20% of the final course average.




    Various Assigned Readings



    Areas of Study

    This is general survey course designed to provide students with an overview of history, culture, politics, people, and society in Latin America.  The course is taught at a college level with high expectations.  There is a focus on historiography, philosophical debate, and a broad array of intellectual discourse.  These themes are designed to provide students with a meaningful and comprehensive understanding of Latin America.


    I. Geography

    • Political and Physical Maps of Latin America
    • Political Map: includes Nations and Capitals, National borders
    • Physical Map: includes rivers, rainforests, islands, desert, mountains, shields/plateaus, coastlines, sertão, shrub, tropical and temperate grasslands, e.g. Pampas and Llaños.
    • Soil Quality, Annual Precipitation, and other topographical data related to population densities.


    II. Ethnic Groups

    Read “The Body Ritual of the Nacirema”

    ·         Mypuran-Arawaks

    ·         Llaños, Transhumance Migration

    ·         Fishing/Burn and Trap and “Protein Efficiency”

    ·         Settlement of Escarpment, artificial irrigation

    ·         Overpopulation

    ·         Tupi-Guarani

    ·         Highlands/Shields

    ·         Isolated Settlement Clusters

    ·         Varzea lakes / Terra Firma in the Selva

    ·         Kayapo/ Yanomano

    ·         Napoleon Chagnon’s The Fierce People is discussed.


    III. Civilizations

    1. Olmec

    o   Stone Heads – theories of West African civilization

    o   Book: They Came Before Columbus by Ivan van Sertima is discussed

    o   Animism and Hieroglyphics

    2. Teotihuacan

    o   Valley of Mexico

    o   Pyramid of the Sun – Base and Height – Compare to Giza

    3. Toltec

    o   Valley of Mexico

    o   Militaristic; compare to Sparta

    o   Quetzalcoatl

    4. Maya

    o   Yucatan and Guatemala

    o   Slash and Burn – Isolated population clusters

    o   Hieroglyphics

    o   Calendar – Ceremonial Days/Nights

    o   Step Pyramids – Ix Chel, Ix Zamna

    o   Demise – Overpopulation, War, and Hurricane

    o   Collapse by Jared Diamond is discussed

    5. Aztecs

    o   Northern migration / Nomadic lifestyle

    o   Valley of Mexico settlement

    o   Incorporation of Toltecs

    o   Omen – Eagle, Snake, Cactus, Lake Texcoco

    o   Tenochtítlan – 250,000 inhabitants by 1500

    o   Urban Planning, Chinampas, Templo Major

    o   Tribute System, Canoe and riverine networks

    o   Human Sacrifice, Purposes, Methods,

    o   Huitzilopochtli, Tonatiuh

    6. Inca

    o   Chavin

    o   Atacama Desert

    o   Cuzco – Inca, tribute, conquest

    o   Pachacuti; Tupac Yapanqui

    o   Llama – Purposes, rituals

    o   Terrace Farming

    o   Hierarchy of Water Needs

    o   Interlocking System

    o   Road system, quipu, tambos

    o   Gender roles, parallel descent

    o   Mummification


    IV. The Age of European Conquest

    ·         Motivations for Exploration: Domestic Saturation of Markets, religious proselytizing, 3Gs,

    ·         Technologies of Conquest: Compass, Caravel and Galleon, Firearms, War Dogs

    ·         Epidemics: Smallpox, Bubonic and Pneumonic Plagues, Influenza, Common Cold, Typhoid, Cholera.

    ·         Christopher Columbus: Legacy?  San Salvador/Bahamas

    ·         Taino, Carib, Arawak Indigenous

    ·         A Short Account of the Destruction of the West Indies by Bartolemeu de las Cases is discussed

    ·         Columbus’s Voyages and Precedents

    ·         Hernan Cortes; Doña Maria (La Malinche), Cuba, Hispanola, Veracruz, Tenochtítlan, Moctezuma II – Antagonisms

    ·         Francisco Pizarro; Andes, Cajamarca, Atahualpa; Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond is discussed.

    ·         Balboa, Coranado, de Leon, Cabral are discussed.


    V. European Colonization of Latin America/Atlantic World

    ·         Terminology: Encomienda, Hacienda, Socidade das Castas, Colono,

    ·         Social Hierarchy: Peninsulares, Creoles, Mulattoes, Mestizos, Quadroon, Quarteroons, Zambos

    ·         Culturcide/Ethnicide of Indigenous People

    ·         Enslavement of natives

    ·         Atlantic Slave Trade: method, numbers, “seasoning”

    ·         Economic realities of slavery and “New World” economics

    ·         Mercantilism

    ·         Piracy in the Caribbean and Atlantic

    ·         Silver: Zacatecas, Potosi – limited gold supply

    ·         Agricultural monoculture: sugar, coffee, cocoa, cotton

    ·         Peninsulare power vs. creole numbers = demographic changes.

    ·         “Salt Water” Slaves and “Creole” Slaves

    ·         Creolization as a process, African practices/hybridization

    ·         Vodun/”Voodoo,” Islam, “Christianity,” naming rituals, family organization, hierarchies of community, dances, drumming, song.

    ·         Slave and indigenous survival strategies.


    VI. Latin America, 1700s-1800s: Revolutions and Society

    ·         Toussaint Bréda (L’Ouverture)

    ·         Book: The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James is discussed.

    ·         Haitian Revolution – Dessalines, Christophe, Laveaux, Leclerc, Rigaud, Moïse, Sonthonax

    ·         “Aristocracy of the Skin” vs. “Aristocracy of the Class”

    ·         Simon Bolívar

    ·         Creole power, enlightenment influence,

    ·         Gran Colombia – 1817-1830

    ·         Padre Miguel Hidalgo

    ·         Mexican peasantry, Catholic Church power vs. populist demands

    ·         Liberalism vs. Conservatism in nineteenth-century Latin America


    VII. Country Case Studies

                In this section of the course, we encourage anyone teaching the course to choose between 5-7 countries throughout Latin America in which they feel the most comfortable to teach.  We generally choose different countries every year to avoid redundancy and boredom.  We would suggest approaching the rest of the course with this recommendation.  In years past, we have used the following combinations.  We almost always include Mexico and Brazil given their size and historical contributions.


    Ex. Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Guatemala, Puerto Rico

    Ex. Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Haiti/D.R., Nicaragua

    Ex. Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica