How do poor people inhabit rich lands?* That is only one of the many contradictions I have explored in my Caribbean and Latin American Studies classes at St. Lawrence. Latin America is definitely one of the most fascinating, exciting and often contradictory regions in the globe. I came from Brazil to the United States for college and I was glad to know that the university offered a variety of classes about the region. It was an opportunity for me to acquire a well-rounded and in-depth knowledge of the region where I grew up and experienced the multiple levels of what it means to be a Latino. I knew I was passionate about Latin America and I wanted to make a difference in the region so I needed to go deeper in its political, social and economic realms. That was possible through this interdisciplinary program that allowed me to explore different disciplinary perspectives including fields of study like History, Government, Languages, Music and Sociology. The program has motivated me to explore a broad range of courses like Advanced Spanish, Latin American Politics, Dilemmas of Development and La Frontera.
My strong interest and passion about Latin America have been highly supported by the CLAS program. I have to say that the classes I have taken so far have matched with my commitment to social justice and equity. The program has been a great opportunity to engage in research in many different topics related to Latin America. Some of my work includes researching the current situation of education in Brazil, the role of Corridos as a tool of resistance and its similarity to Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art form), and urban poverty and federal social programs in the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil. I have worked with issues of human rights and active citizenship as well. For instance, in my Latin American Politics class with Prof. McConnell I did research and conducted a couple interviews in order to better understand the situation of violence and the militarization in some cities in Mexico. That project allowed me to share the issue with other students on campus and reflect on our role as global citizens in the process of pushing for social justice and peace. Being a Caribbean and Latin American Studies minor has allowed me to interpret complexities and controversies and develop imaginative ways to look at and approach traditional and contemporary issues.
I really like the fact that learning about Latin America is not restricted to the classroom. There have been different ways to enrich coursework such as free Capoeira lessons through the Capoeira Club, events organized by the Hispanic Society Club, different lecturers by well-known scholars and the Latin American Night. It has become essential to learn more and more about Latin America as the region reaches a point of becoming an actor with great economic potential. In addition, issues of social justice, equity and sustainability have been receiving a lot of attention lately. The minor in Latin American Studies is preparing me for my future graduate studies in Sociology because it makes my critical analytical skills stronger and helps me better understand and evaluate social inequalities, dynamics of historical legacies and complexities of diversity and multiple identities. In sum, studying about Latin America empowers me as a Latino and motivates me to continue on my commitment to social justice.
* Bradford E. Burns & Julie A. Charlip (2007)