Colonial Spanish America (Spanish)

Monday & Wednesday 2:00‐3:15 PM
University Hall, Room 100

Joseph Paola
New Cabell Hall 438

Office Hours
M/W: 3:15‐4:30
& by appointment

What this course is all about:
“In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” If you’re like many students in the United States, you were probably introduced to this rhyme in elementary school, and it’s possible that your experience with Spanish American history ended there. Nonetheless, the importance of the Spanish language and the prominence of Hispanic culture in the United States are growing like never before, and our relationships with our neighbors to the south are becoming more and more relevant. In this course, you will have the opportunity to learn about the past and at the same time make connections to the present. Certain questions that we’ll discuss throughout the semester include:

  • Did Columbus really “discover” anything, and how was his “discovery” received in Europe?
  • Who were the native peoples that the Spaniards encountered in the New World, and how were their lands conquered?
  • What was the role of slavery in Spanish America?
  • What do terms like “Hispanic” and “Latin American” actually mean?
  • How did Spain manage to exert so much cultural and political influence over such a large area of land?
  • When, how, and why did the Spanish American colonies declare independence?

On a basic level, this course will be an introduction into the society and culture of colonial Spanish America. You will analyze various primary sources written in Spanish that will give particular insights into the lives of people at all levels of colonial society. On a deeper level, you will become critical readers of the past, and learn how to approach historical documents as literary texts and products of a particular cultural environment. This way, you will challenge common assumptions and preconceived notions about colonialism and Spanish America, from the arrival of Columbus to the Spanish-American War and beyond. You will examine how cultural and racial diversity in the Americas led to the creation of a hybrid culture that continues to thrive today. You will also consider the various socio-political factors in the first worldwide empire that led to the creation of a particular Spanish American consciousness, ultimately ending in independent states. By doing all of this, you will hopefully gain a richer understanding of the origins of Latin American history and culture while also learning how to be a stronger analyzer of historical writings and question the foundations of social power.

What you’ll learn and do in this course:

  • Practice and improve spoken and written Spanish language skills and reading comprehension and analysis through constant writing, discussions, and reflections
  • Analyze the origin of institutions of power in colonial Spanish America and think critically about their later implications in society
  • Develop and enhance reading and interpretation abilities to gain a deeper understanding of what is being said – or omitted – in historical and literary texts
  • Compare and contrast various aspects of Spanish- and English-American society to broaden our understanding of the interconnectedness of the US and the Hispanic world today
  • Discuss and dispel common misunderstandings that emerge from cultural disconnects between the US and Spanish America to gain cultural competence
  • Consider how the literature and history of colonial Spanish America can be related to the contemporary US and your own life with a reflective e-Portfolio

How you’ll learn: E-Portfolio (15%): The e-Portfolio is your chance to document and reflect on your learning process throughout the semester. In it, you will consider a particular aspect of colonial society that interests you and produce a comparative research-based project through the semester. You will also use it as a reflection space, in which you will document your learning process, look back at your work and development in cultural competence, and set goals for further development.

Student-Led Course Discussion (10%): An important part of this course is learning how to critically read and analyze historical and literary works of the colonial time period. With that in mind, you will work with a partner to do a brief presentation in Spanish on a scholarly article about a primary text from the course syllabus that will focus on colonialism and the historical narrative. You will give a brief analysis of the primary text in which you present the sociohistorical context in which it was written, and then highlight the arguments that the article makes. Afterwards, you will lead a course discussion in which you give classmates questions that will help everyone to gain a deeper understanding of the readings and think critically about central themes in the text as related to what we’ve learned so far in the course.

Compositions (20%): There will be two out-of-class compositions written in Spanish through the semester. For each composition, you will be given two essay questions to consider and will choose one. You should write about 700 words for this essay, and may utilize any source used in the course (no outside sources). The purpose is not to conduct a research paper, but rather to allow you to apply critical and analytical thinking skills and demonstrate your understanding of the material we’ve covered in class. To write a successful essay, you will have to argue your point with a strong argumentative style and specific examples.

Mid-Term and Final Exam (40%): There will a mid-term and a final exam in the course. The exams are designed to assess your content knowledge and understanding of the course material. They will consist of two sections: a brief identification section and a short essay section. In the brief identification section, you will be given twelve subjects, and have to identify ten of them with brief (three- to four-sentence) descriptions, explaining their historical, literary, and/or social significance. In the short essay section, you will be given three essay questions, and have to respond to two of them with an analysis of 250-350 words.

Attendance & Participation (10%): You are expected to actively engage in all aspects of the course. Classes will be largely discussion-based, and therefore your attendance, daily preparation, and active participation in class will not only contribute to your learning, but are also important factors in determining your grade. The course will be instructed in Spanish and you should try to speak only in Spanish during each class. This is a flipped classroom, which means you read before class sessions and will be expected to actively engage in discussion during class time. I will assess your participation on a daily basis. You should bring any assigned reading to class each day.

Pop Quizzes (5%): Pop quizzes will be administered throughout the semester. The quizzes are designed to get you in the habit of being prepared and engaged for every lesson, as well as helping you to review material recently covered. As such, you should be better prepared and more confident going into the exams and compositions (hopefully) without the added stress of cramming.

Texts: There are two required textbooks that we will consult throughout the course:

  • Burkholder, Mark A. & Lyman L. Johnson. Colonial Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Adorno, Rolena. Colonial Latin American Literature: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

The rest of the course readings will consist in articles and chapters that will be made available on Collab.

* CLA = Colonial Latin America, Burkholder & Johnson; CLAL = Colonial Latin American Literature, Adorno

Date What we’ll explore and what you’ll accomplish Texts we’ll discuss Reminders for next class…
How did it all begin?: From First Encounters to Conquest
1/17 What is history? What is literature? What is “Latin America”?
  • Hayden White, “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact”
  • Rolena Adorno, “Introduction,” Colonial Latin American Literature (1-11)
Create ePortfolio on WordPress
1/22 What was the world like in 1491?
  • “America, Iberia, and Africa Before the Conquest,” CLA (1-48)
  • Matthew Restall& Felipe Fernández Armesto “A Great Many Hardships,” (15-23) in The Conquistadors: A Very Short Introduction
  • Reading early modern Spanish: selection from Lazarillo de Tormes


Reading Check Cultural Investigation Project: Initial Reflection
1/24 What did Columbus “discover”: The “invention” of America e-Portfolio: Initial Reflection due
  • Christopher Columbus, “Carta a Luis Santángel,” “Relación del tercer viaje”
  • Adorno, “First Encounters, First Doubts,” CLAL (12-20)
  • Edmundo O’Gorman: “La invención de América” (Selections)
1/29 How did the Spaniards conquer the New World?: Settlement and (Re)Conquest  John Elliott, “Reconquest and Conquest” (Selection), Imperial Spain (58-68)  “The Age of Conquest,” CLA (52-91) Reading Check
1/31 What happened to the Aztecs?: The Conquest of Mexico Hernán Cortés, “Cartas de relación (1&2)” Conquest of Mexico  Anonymous indigenous accounts, Visión de los vencidos (Selections)  
2/5 Who were the Conquistadors?
  • Naufragios (Selections), Cabeza de Vaca
  • Verdadera historia de la conquista de la Nueva España (Selections), Bernal Díaz del Castillo
  • Restall & Fernández Armesto, “To Give an Account of Who I am”
Reading Check Cultural Investigation Project Proposal
2/7 Is there such thing as a “just war”?: The “Polemics of Possession” e-Portfolio: Cultural Investigation Project Proposal due Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Brevisima relación de la destruición de las Indias (Selections)  Rolena Adorno, “The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narrative”  Elliott, “Reconquest and Conquest” (Selection), (69-76)  “El requerimiento,”  
What happened next?: Spain and its Worldwide Empire
2/12   “Ruling New World Empires, ”CLA (94- 122) Alonso de Ercilla, La Araucana (Selections) Rolena Adorno, “Epic Accomplishments,” in Colonial Latin American Literature (63-68) Ricardo Padrón, “Between Scylla and Charybdis,” in The Spacious Word Reading Check
2/14    Ángel Rama, “La ciudad letrada,” (Selections)  Inca Garcilaso?  Brading,‘ Inca Huamnist” Sources & Outline for Cultural Investigation Project
2/19 What was life like in the world’s first multiracial society? e-Portfolio: Sources & Outline for Cultural Project due
  • “The Social Economy: Societies of Caste and Class,” CLA (194-224)
  • Charles Mann, “Forest of Fugitives” in 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (329-369)
  • Alonso de Sandoval, “Tratado sobre la esclavitud” (Selections)
Reading Check
  • Adorno, “Urban Baroque,” CLAL (77- 94)
  • Bernardo de Balbuena, La grandeza mexicana
  • John Headley, “Spain’s Asian Presence, 1565-1590”

Composition 1 questions distributed

2/26 What was life like for women in colonial Spanish America?
  • “The Family and Society,” CLA (225- 247)
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Hombres necios que acusáis.” “Respuesta a Sor Filotea,”
  • Catalina de Erauso, Historia de la Monja Alférez, escrita por ella misma (Selections)
Reading Check
2/28 Mid-Term Exam (Composition 1 due)    
3/5 Spring Break    
3/7 Spring Break    
How did the Spanish Empire become “Spanish America”?
  • The Spanish American Baroque
  • Adorno, “Baroque Plenitude,” CLAL (95-110)
  • Sor Juana “Este, que ves, engaño colorido”
  • Luis de Góngora, “Mientras por competir con tu cabello”
  • Caviedes poems
  • Guaman Poma
Reading Check

Cultural Investigation
Project Post 1

3/19 e-Portfolio: Cultural Investigation Project Post 1 due   Reading Check
Peer Review of Post 1
3/21 e-Portfolio: Peer Review Post 1    
3/26     Reading Check
4/2     Reading Check
4/4     Cultural Investigation Project Post 2
4/9 e-Portfolio: Cultural Investigation Project Post 2 due   Reading Check Peer Review of Post 2
4/11 e-Portfolio: Peer Review Post 2    
4/16     Reading Check
4/23     Cultural Investigation Project Post 3
4/25 As The Maine went: What about Cuba?
e-Portfolio: Cultural Investigation Project Post 3 due

Jose Martí, “Nuestra América,” “Versos sencillos (I)”

Composition 2 questions distributed

Peer Review of Post 3
4/30 Final Observations: Did colonialism in Spanish America end in 1898? e-Portfolio: Peer Review of Post 3   Final Reflection due (by 11:59 on 5/3)
5/5 Final Exam (Composition 2 due) e-Portfolio: Final Reflection due (by 11:59)    

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