I've wrapped up the semester, and I found myself in an interesting few conversations with the grad students this time around. Being Texas and having older grad students (MA program), I'm looking at mostly George W. Bush clones - until they read about Latin America from the historians. Economic, cultural, social, narrative - there was just no place for these folks to hide from the realities of the relationship between the US and Latin America and the play of class and race in Latin America that really had them questioning their positions on US policy as well as immigration. Dare I say it, but "mission accomplished." Not like I'm trying to create little Al Gore's here (heaven help us), but I like the idea of thinking and wrestling with ideas and problems from an informed position.
The strangest exchange came with a very vocal evangelical (who repeatedly self identified his faith for the class) who I assigned Leonardo and Clodovis Boff "Introducing Liberation Theology." His position all semester had been that blaming the United States for the sloth of Latin Americans (as he put it) made no sense. Well, he balled his eyes out at the intro to the book, and cried again as he told the rest of the grad students about the book. He caught me after class and went on and on for nearly an hour about how Americans consumed too much and that sin really can be structural. And while he had some good academic questions about the approach, personally he was moved by the Boffs.
Well, come the following week on US/Latin American Relations, he was back at Latin America, hammer and tongs, for what he called their clearly racists and envious greed at the Protestant success of the United States. Between comments on Hispanic culture and slurs at the Catholic church, it was as if the Black Legend had embodied itself in the student. We had one reader explaining Phillip Wayne Powell's Tree of Hate that week as well. When he jumped in and clearly explained the source of all of the biases that had been present in the student's comments the student looked a bit sheepish. That was followed by Emperor's In the Jungle and Empire's Workshop. Needless to say, good times had by all. (And yes, there were other books covered, so keep the "hey, you forgot book so and so" comments to yourself.)
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