HIST 280G/LACS 210: Latinxs in the United States

Image Attribution: “Latinx (Trending Twitter Topics from 27.06.2019)” by trendingtopics is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Professor: Dr. Michael Cangemi

Class Location and Time: Lecture Hall 4, Monday and Wednesday, 3:30-4:55 pm

Email: mcangemi@binghamton.edu

Office: LT 615

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 2:00-3:00, Thursday, 1:00-2:00

Course Description

This course explores the historical experiences of the peoples from Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and those of their descendants, in the modern United States. The primary focus of the course will be to compare and contrast the twentieth-century experiences of the five largest Latino populations: those who can trace their heritage to Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. The immigrant experience, the development of Latinx communities in the U.S., Latinx political and cultural life the development of a Latinx or “Hispanic-American” identity, and the integration of Latinx people into American cultural and political life will be the major themes studied. All course meetings and readings will be in English. Familiarity with the Spanish language is not required. 

Course Requirements

The typical week will include a traditional lecture on Monday and a discussion of the lecture and week’s assigned readings on Wednesday. To ensure your attendance and reading, unannounced quizzes will be given throughout the semester – the three lowest quiz grades will be dropped. With three free drops, there are no make-ups for missed quizzes other than those missed for religious observance or documented medical reasons. You will also be responsible for a midterm exam, as noted on the course calendar. Third, you will be responsible for two short (5-7 pages) papers that will answer a question based on material from course lectures and assigned readings. Last, but very important, you will be given a grade based on your participation in this class. Attendance and participation are required and not to be taken lightly.

Technology Policy

Unless you have appropriate documentation, I do not allow the use of laptops during class time for two reasons. First, research shows that using laptops for notetaking is actually less productive than taking notes by hand (For example, see this article in The Atlantic.) Second, it is incredibly distracting to be in the middle of giving a lecture and seeing someone checking their email, chatting on Facebook, tweeting, etc. Not only is it distracting to me while I give a lecture, it is also distracting to people around you. This also applies to phones: there’s no reason for them to be out during class. If you feel it necessary to send that text or post something to your Instagram, just leave and don’t come back.

Written Assignments

Whether you are a history major or not, developing good writing habits and skills is critically important in your academic and future professional careers. During this course, you will have the opportunity to hone those skills with three brief written assignments. First, you will be responsible for two short papers that will offer short summaries of the arguments presented in one of the assigned readings, as well as your response to the reading. Additionally, you will also be responsible for a short (500 word) book review to practice writing in a succinct, informative fashion. Additional information on these assignments will be given during class.

Grading Breakdown

Final exam30%
Midterm exam20%
Short papers (each)15%
Class participation10%

Grading Scale

A   100-92.0

Required Books (may be purchased at the University bookstore and are available on reserve through the library)

Brian Behnken, Fighting their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas

Maria Cristina García, Havana, USA: Cuban Exiles and Cuban Americans in South Florida, 1959-1994

Jesse Hofnung-Garskof, A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950

Don Mosley and Joyce Hollyday, With Our Own Eyes (Out of print, available as an ebook through the library only)

Omar Valerio-Jimenez and Carmen Teresa Whalen, eds., Major Problems in Latina/o History

Darrel Wanzer-Serrano, The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation

Rules, Regulations, and Critical Information:

  • Attendance is not mandatory. It should be pointed out, though, that rarely attending class will negatively affect your participation and quiz grades, and, in general, just isn’t a smart thing to do in college. In short, it is difficult, if not impossible, to do well in this course without attending class regularly. NOTE: LECTURE SLIDES WILL NOT BE POSTED ONLINE.
  • Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. If you do not want to be in class and plan to make it known to everybody by disturbing your fellow students or instructors, just don’t come to class. If you insist on coming and doing disruptive things, after one warning you will be asked to leave. If this happens, it will lower your participation grade two full letter grades.
  • While late arrival to class is not a crime, it can be a distraction to your professor and your fellow students. Please do not let it become a persistent problem. If you are having trouble getting to class on time because of the location of your preceding class, just come talk to me.
  • We will be discussing many contentious issues throughout the semester. While different opinions are expected—indeed, encouraged!—please show courtesy and respect to your fellow students and me at all times. If you don’t, we will have a long unpleasant talk.
  • While not encouraged, late papers will be accepted with penalties. You will lose a letter grade for every two days an assignment is late. But it is better to turn in a late paper than to plagiarize in order to get a paper in on time. Why? Because…
  • Academic misconduct of any sort—cheating, plagiarism, etc.—will be punished severely and filed with Harpur College’s Committee on Academic Honesty. In writing papers, be certain to give proper credit whenever you use words, phrases, ideas, arguments, and conclusions drawn from someone else’s work. Failure to give credit by quoting and/or footnoting is PLAGIARISM and is unacceptable. See this BU Library site on avoiding plagiarism. Please also review the Student Academic Honesty Code.
  • If you have any questions about what constitutes academic misconduct, please come speak with me. Do not jeopardize your standing at Binghamton University by failing to abide by these rules.
  • Students requiring classroom accommodations must follow the University’s
  • Services for Students with Disabilities procedures for accommodations found at http://www2.binghamton.edu/ssd/ . Please do so as soon as possible so accommodations can be made early in the semester and you do not get too far behind.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact me during the semester if you have any individual concerns or issues that need to be discussed. It is always better to contact me sooner rather than later with any potential problems.
  • Please check your BU email account regularly.

History Learning Outcomes 

  • Learn to read primary and secondary sources with a critical eye and express these ideas in effective papers; to analyze a variety of different types of written texts (or in some cases material evidence or oral accounts) and identify how each of them is shaped by author, audience, and the context in which they were constructed.
  • Develop the ability to communicate effectively in writing in a manner that is coherent, well-developed, and expressive of complex thought.  
  • Improve the ability to think critically and to argue effectively.
  • Learn about the interactions between different groups within a single society and how these relationships have affected the development of respective regions, ethnicities or identities.
  • Improve the ability to recognize and develop connections between historical issues and life outside the classroom.
  • Enhance the ability to examine current issues from a historical perspective.

University Writing Center

Because this course has a W designation, written work is an extremely important component of the course and your overall grade. The University Writing Center provides individual, no-cost tutoring and assistance to all students. This is an excellent resource for students of all skill levels, particularly those students looking to improve their paper grades. The Writing Center is located in Library North 2411. Appointments may be made on the Writing Center website, or students may walk in for assistance.


Note: Schedule subject to change


January 22: Course introduction and syllabus overview; mini lecture, “What is history?”


January 27: Lecture: A short history of the Chicano movement

January 29: Readings for discussion:

  • Behnken, Fighting their Own Battles, introduction, ch. 1-3
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 37-43 (documents 2-5)
    • Pg. 74
    • Pg. 181 (document 5)


February 3: In-class documentary: “Fighting for Political Power”

February 5: Readings for discussion:

  • Behnken, Fighting their Own Battles, ch. 4-7, conclusion
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 240-243 (documents 1 and 2)
    • Pp. 250-257
    • Pp. 281-282


February 10: Lecture: The Trujillato

February 12: Readings for discussion:

  • Hoffnung, A Tale of Two Cities, ch. 1-3
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 389-407


February 17: Lecture: Dominican immigration to the US 

February 19: Readings for discussion:

  • Hoffnung, A Tale of Two Cities, ch. 4 and 5
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 407-430


February 24: In-class documentary: “Haiti and the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided”       

February 26: Readings for discussion:

  • Hoffnung, A Tale of Two Cities, ch. 6-8


March 2: NO CLASS (study for your midterm)

March 4: MIDTERM IN CLASS                


March 9: Lecture: Puerto Rican independence and activism

March 11: Readings for discussion:

  • Wanzer-Serrano, The New York Young Lords, introduction, ch. 1-2
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 99-102 (documents 2 and 3)
    • Pp. 103-105 (document 6)
    • Pp. 108-128 (document 9, Nieto-Philips and Erman essays


March 16: In-class documentary:

March 18: Readings for discussion:

  • Wanzer-Serrano, The New York Young Lords, ch. 3-5, conclusion
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 149-156 (documents 6-8)
    • Pp. 175-180 (documents 1-3)
    • Pp. 183-194 (Glaser essay)
    • Pp. 217-222 (documents 4-6)


March 23: Lecture: Cuban-US relations since 1898

March 25: Readings for discussion:

  • García, Havana, USA, intro, ch. 1-2
  •  Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 98-99 (document 1)
    • Pp. 105-106 (document 7)
    • Pp. 139-142 (document 1)
    • Pp. 157-164
    • Pp. 220-223 (document 6)


March 30: In-class documentary:

April 1: Readings for discussion:

  • García, Havana, USA, ch. 3-5, conclusion
  • Valerio-Jimenez and Whelan, Major Problems:
    • Pp. 310-345




April 13: Lecture: Guatemala and the United States 

April 15: Readings for discussion:

  • Mosley and Hollyday, With Our Own Eyes, ch. 1-7


April 20: Lecture: El Salvador and the United States

April 22: Readings for discussion:

  • Mosley and Hollyday, With Our Own Eyes, ch. 8-13


April 27: Video: “Father Roy: Inside the School of the Assassins”

April 29: Readings for discussion:

  • Mosley and Hollyday, With Our Own Eyes, ch. 14-21


May 4: Course wrap-up

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