Center of Mexican American Studies
Center of Mexican American Studies

Mónica Jiménez

Assistant ProfessorPh.D., 2015, History; J.D., 2007, The University of Texas at Austin



AFR 374E • Debt/Colonialism Caribbean

29855 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM SAC 5.102
(also listed as AMS 321, HIS 363K, LAS 366)


In this course we will examine the role that debt has played in the formation of colonial and neocolonial practices in the Caribbean region. In particular we will look at debt as justification and in furtherance of colonialism throughout the Caribbean region. The course will begin with historical examinations of the United States colonial projects and military invasions in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua during the early 20th century. These early interventions acted as testing grounds for US policies in the region that were premised on extractive economics and debt fueled dependence. The latter half of the course will take a close examination at the deep crisis in the US’ island territory of Puerto Rico and the emergent crisis in the US Virgin Islands. Our aim is first to take a historical view of colonial practices in the 20th century and next to evaluate how those practices have evolved into the contemporary debt fueled colonial practice.


Proposed reading list (subject to change):

  • Julie Greene. The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal. (New York: Penguin Press, 2009.)
  • Mary Renda. Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.)
  • Jana K. Lipman. Guantánamo: a Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.)
  • Ellen Tillman, Dollar Diplomacy by Force: Nation-Building and Resistance in the Dominican Republic. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2016.
  • Peter James Hudson, Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2017).
  • Alan McPherson, A Short History of U.S. Interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2016).
  • Noel Maurer, The Empire Trap: The Rise and Fall of U.S. Intervention to Protect American Property Overseas, 1893-2013, (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2013)
  • Lara Merling, Kevin Cashman, Jake Johnston, and Mark Weisbrot “Life After Debt in Puerto Rico: How Many More Lost Decades?” Washington DC: Center for Economic and Policy Research, July 2017).
  • Agustín Rodríguez, “The Last Caribbean Colony, Harvard International Review; Cambridge 37.4 (Summer 2016): 14-15.
  • Linda Backiel. “Puerto Rico: The Crisis Is About Colonialism, Not Debt” Monthly Review; Oct 2015; 67, 5.
  • Diane Lourdes Dick, “U.S. Tax Imperialism,” American University Law Review, 65:1 (2015).


Proposed grading rubric (subject to change based on number of students and course level):

Attendance and Class Participation (20%)

Reading Responses (40%): Four, three-page reading responses

Lead Class Discussion (20%)

Final Paper (20%) – 10-12 page final paper 

AFR 374E • Race/Rights Latin America

29865 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM PAR 208
(also listed as AMS 321, HIS 363K, LAS 366)


This course is concerned with the role that race has played in the construction and development of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. It takes a historical approach to rights development in order to understand the growth of human rights discourse and policy in the 20th and 21st centuries. Human rights practitioners and activists in the region have critiqued the project of rights building as steeped in the old logics of colonialism and have pointed to the problem of racism that lies at the core of contemporary human rights thinking and rhetoric. Ultimately, certain groups’ rights are privileged over those of others and this course is concerned with why.

We will first examine how the logic of rights was constructed during the early republican period as excluding black and indigenous peoples. Historically the question of who was a citizen and thus who could claim rights before the state has been a fraught one in the region. 19th and 20th century debates to that effect and the laws that resulted continue to have reverberations in the contemporary moment, especially in discussions about the rights of women, and indigenous and afro-descended groups and individuals. The course is thus concerned with understanding how that logic has come to define and inhibit the possibility of rights for those communities throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Concurrently, the course will also examine how those communities have pushed against discrimination and legal boundaries to carve out rights for themselves. 

We will examine particular cases in order to understand how individual nations have treated the rights of historically marginalized groups. Case studies will include the struggle for recognition and rights of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, the current Garifuna struggle for land rights in Honduras, the case of the Awas Tigni in Nicaragua, as well as the impacts of Cold War era dirty war policies on the development of rights in the region.


Proposed reading list (subject to change):

  • Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraín Ríos Montt, 1982-1983. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.)
  • Joan Didion, Salvador. (New York: Vintage, 1983).
  • Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's “Dirty War,” (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).
  • Antony Anghie. Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
  • Poalo G. Carozza. “From Conquest to Constitutions: Retrieving a Latin American Tradition of the Idea of Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 25, pp. 282- 313 (2003)
  • Aime Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism. (New York: Month Review Press, 2000).
  • Marti Koskenniemi, “Colonization of the ‘Indies’: The Origins of International Law?” in: Gamarra Chopo, Y., ed., La Idea de América en el Pensamiento ius Internacionalista del Siglo XXI. (Zaragoza, Universidad de Zaragoza: 2010), pp. 43-64.
  • Julia Suárez-Krabbe, “Race, Social Struggles, and ‘Human’ Rights: Contributions from the Global South.” Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, Issue 6 (2013), 78-102.

Proposed grading rubric

  • Attendance and Class Participation (20%)
  • Reading Responses (20%): Students will turn in three, three-page reading responses.  The responses should fully discuss the work or works read for that week. Your discussions should include a brief summary of the work or works (including the author(s) arguments and reasons for writing); as well as the work’s connections to other readings from the class and the larger discussions we are engaged in. For weeks in which several works are assigned you should discuss each readings connection to the others assigned (i.e. why are you reading them as a group? How are they in conversation with each other?) You can also discuss the author’s methods and approach and how that leads to strengths/weaknesses of the work. Finally, your responses should pose questions (What did you not understand? What was left unanswered for you?).
  • Lead Class Discussion (20%) – In groups of two students will present the week’s readings to their classmates and the instructor. Presentations should begin with an introduction to the authors for each week (Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What are their scholarly interests?), the presenters should then give a brief introduction to the works giving the major themes, ideas, arguments and questions presented by each. Why did the author write the work, etc? Think of this is as an extended and oral reading response. The students should also bring questions and themes that will direct class discussion. Students should feel free to consult outside sources to prepare presentations as well as provide any background information and materials as needed. 
  • Final Paper (25%) – 10-12 page research paper on a topic related to the course. Students will develop a suitable topic for investigation in consultation with the instructor, they will create a research plan, select a variety of suitable primary and secondary sources for analysis, and convey their findings in clear prose. At every stage students will work with the instructor to develop their topics and ideas. Students will also exchange work with their classmates in small groups for peer-review and work shopping of drafts.
  • Presentation of research (15%) – formal 10-12-minute presentation of your research to the class that is a substantive talk organized and rehearsed beforehand and not informal comments about the paper or reading passages from the text. It should address your research goals, methodology, thesis, evidence, argument, and conclusions.

MAS 374 • Puerto Rico In Crisis

36197 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BEN 1.122
(also listed as AFR 374E, HIS 363K)

This course will provide a history of the island’s relationship with the United States focusing in particular on questions of law and capitalism. The course will center around two questions: What is Puerto Rico to the United States? And how did we get to the present moment of crisis? In answering these questions we will focus in particular in the ways that law has racialized islanders and conceived them as unprepared and undeserving of rights. This conception has thus shaped the way that capitalism has worked as a force in shaping the islands possibilities throughout the 120 years of its relationship with the US.


Readings (subject to change):

  • Jorge Duany, Puerto Rico: What Everyone Needs to Know, (New York: Oxford UP, 2017).
  • Reconsidering the Insular Cases: The Past and Future of the American Empire, Gerald Nueman and Tomiko Brow-Nagin, eds. (Caimbridge: Harvard UP, 2015).
  • Charles Venator-Santiago, Puerto Rico and the Origins of US Global Empire: The Disembodied Shade, (New York: Routlidge, 2015).
  • Joanna Poblete, Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai’I, (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2017).
  • Kelvin Santiago-Valles, “ ‘Our Race Today [is] the Only Hope for the World:’ An

African Spaniard as Chieftain of the Struggle Against ‘Sugar Slavery’ in Puerto Rico, 1926-1934” Caribbean Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1 (2007), pp. 107-140.

  • Gervasio Luis Garcia, “I am the Other: Puerto Rico in the Eyes of North Americans, 1898,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Jun., 2000), pp. 39-64.
  • Solsirée del Moral, “Negotiating Colonialism ‘Race,’ Class, and Education in EarlyTwentieth-Century Puerto Rico,” in Alfred W. McCoy and Francisco A. Scarano, eds. Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009.)
  • Eileen J. Findlay, “Love in the Tropics: Marriage, Divorce, and the Construction of Benevolent Colonialism in Puerto Rico, 1898-1910,” in Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of the U.S. and Latin American Relations, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.)
  • Ellen Walsh, “The Not-So-Docile Puerto Rican: Students Resist Americanization, 1930,”Centro Journal, Vol. XXVI, No. I (Spr. 2014), pp. 148-171.


Grade breakdown (subject to change):

-      Attendance and class participation (20%)

-      News Journal (20%): Given that the history of Puerto Rico in crises is quite literally being written daily, an essential part of this course will be to keep track of the events on the island as they relate to the topics of our course. Students will explore the ways in which media sources report on and interpret contemporary issues and events in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community in the United States. Each week you will read a minimum of two articles about PR and Puerto Ricans and craft a brief (3-4 sentence) written summary of them in your own words.

  • One of the articles must explore the relationship between the island and the United States (e.g. through politics, economics, migration); the other article can report any aspect of current life in PR or for mainland based Puerto Ricans. Please note the title, date and source of your newspaper articles and include a web address.
  • The articles and summaries will be kept in an on-going journal and collected four times during the semester.
  • Sources should be legitimate media/ news sources and not simply entertainment or opinion blogs or websites. Acceptable examples include NY Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, BBC, Guardian, etc. Sources in Spanish are acceptable. Bring your journals to each class. We will begin each meeting with a brief news update.
  • Please come to class prepared to discuss the current events on the island as these will feature prominently in our course.

-      Short Paper (20%) – One 4-5 page paper

-      In-class examination (20%) or 2nd short paper (will depend on size of class)

-      Final examination (20%)

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