Class Notes 9/18/19

The first item on our agenda Wednesday was the Border Studies program, discussed by a guest speaker in class. In the program, which is structured similarly to studying abroad, students live mainly in Tuscon, Arizona, but cross the border often on excursions to areas in Mexico. Students live with Spanish-speaking families, so experience in the language is required. Additionally, all students intern with organizations in the borderlands area. Those with high proficiency in Spanish may work with detained migrants and work in areas such as migrant justice or the interviewing of detained asylum seekers, and those with a lower proficiency may work in community gardens or schools. Those who can’t take part in this program (most likely seniors) can apply for internships, and there are week-long non-student programs.

After this, Professor Holt informed us of the History department picnic, and the screening of the documentary “Undeterred”, both events occurring later that Wednesday. She also played a segment of “Corrido de Nipsey Hussle”, a contemporary song about the late rapper in the corrido style we learned about in during our study of the Mexican Revolution. Gio then presented his “LA in the News” research, on government sponsored killings in Nicaragua. Professor Holt then spoke briefly on the fact that the Ortega in Nicaragua today resembles little the Ortega of the revolution, and that in our future study of the revolution it will be important to make a distinction between the two.

Our discussion of our readings and HAP was brief. Professor Holt showed us a 1959 American newsreel celebrating Fidel Castro, portraying him as charismatic, a man who would bring Cuba “back to normal.” In this sense, normalcy refers to aligning with US economic interests, as Batista was previously supported by the US and produced vast amounts of sugar. The clip is very clearly on the side of the revolution, quoting Castro as saying “I am fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to dictatorship”, which would soon be greatly ironic as American governmental opinions shifted.

In our groups, we discussed the “Declaration of San José” by the Organization of American States, and Castro’s response of the “Declaration of Havana.” The bureaucratic nature of the former when compared to the fiery rhetoric latter was attributed by Professor Holt as the first document being written by committee, while the second was written by Castro as a speech. Questions about the nature of imperialism were raised, as the Declaration of San José claims it rejects imperialism in all forms, and specifically calls out Sino-Soviet influence in the western hemisphere by name, referencing Castro’s decision to ally himself with the Soviet Union. Castro rebuts this by calling into question the Monroe Doctrine as an extension of US imperialism in the western hemisphere, that by giving America the right to police the hemisphere, the clause is already broken.

Corrido—a popular Mexican style of song, in the format of a ballad that tells a story.

Borderlands—the area beside a border, used here in reference to that between the United States and Mexico. It also has connotations of being a liminal space, a space of overlap, which relates to the cultural aspect of the Border Studies program.

Imperialism—the action of one country extending its influence over another using force or coercion.


Does imperialism always have to be militaristic? Must coercion always come from the barrel of a gun? Why or why not?


How are cultures blended together today in the United States? Specifically, how do the cultures which exist on either side of the US-Mexico border interact with and change one another? Is the cultural divide distinct or blurred?


Our discussion of the protests in Nicaragua mentioned the fact that the protesters in the photo were wearing masks. Is hiding one’s face when engaging in this action morally acceptable, if it’s to do more than to protect from tear gas? Does its acceptability change if it is a protest in the United States, rather than in Nicaragua?



Further information on the events in Nicaragua.

A history of US-Cuba relations.

Corrido de Nipsey Hussle (Music Video)

Cuba’s New Government Recognised By Us (1959)


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