Spanish 452 - Viewing the Hispanic Caribbean (formerly Spanish 210)

Dr. Sara E. Cooper

Trinity 150 * 898-5161 *

Office Hours 

Course Description/Objectives

The goal of Spanish 210 "Viewing the Caribbean" is to introduce students to literature, film, and culture of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, in this case Cuba. All works will be discussed within the historical and sociopolitical context. The course focus may vary according to the instructor’s specialty (e.g. focus on Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic). A 3-unit seminar taught in Spanish, with the majority of films and readings in Spanish, this course will emphasize critical thinking and contemporary theories of literary and cultural criticism. The ultimate goal of this upper division course is to engage in scholarly research and discussion of important cultural production of the Caribbean and thereby to improve in the more advanced skills of reading and oral comprehension, writing, and speaking in Spanish.

The course will involve lecture, screenings of films (feature and documentary),viewing of art, reading of primary (literary) texts as well as background texts, discussions in small groups and in Socratic seminars in which priority will be given to informed textual analysis and understanding of the political and cultural context.

The class meets once a week for three hours. Students will be required to participate actively in discussion, attend film screenings, synthesize and analyze films and/or readings, participate in oral presentations, and complete a final written project that demonstrates a deep understanding of the issues represented in Caribbean (Cuban) cultural production. There also will be two written exams that ensure the students’ broad comprehension of major issues, figures, and works. Beginning with the third week of class, students will prepare in pairs or small groups (and under the direction of the professor) to direct the discussion of one reading selection for the week. Each student will participate in at least two such "oral presentations."


  • SPAN 104A (mandatory)
  • SPAN 105A or 105B or any literature course in Spanish (suggested)

Textbooks/Materials required:

  • Course Reader
  • Cristina García Soñar en cubano
  • Miguel Barnet Biografía de un cimarrón
  • Nicolás Guillén Sóngoro consongo
  • Mirta Yáñez El diablo son las cosas
  • Nancy Alonso Cerrado por reparación

Grading Criteria:

  1. Grades will be assigned as a letter with a numerical value, and there will be no curve. Final grades will be announced after they have been turned in, the week after finals. For any questions about grading *at any time during the semester* please visit office hours.
  2. 94-100=A 90-93.4=A- 88-89.4=B+ 84-87.4=B etc.
  • You must turn in all ASSIGNED WORK by the date and time specified for complete possible credit. For each day late, 10% will be deducted from total possible credit. In-class activities can not be made up.
  • 20% Participation. Both as a method to improve communicative competency and as a way to demonstrate your understanding of the course material, your attendance and participation are vital to your success in this class. An excellent participation grade will reflect that you ask questions, answer questions, contribute actively in-group work, and are well-prepared for the topics covered. Absence or failure to participate will be reflected in your grade. In-class activities such as Quick-Writes count toward the participation grade.
  • 15% Group Presentation. Students will work in a group to present a supplementary reading and direct discussion on their presented topic. You should make good use of visuals and have a number of discussion questions prepared for the class. As a general rule, you should present for 10-20 minutes (5 minutes per group member) and then guide a discussion for 15-20 minutes.
  • 30% Electronic Analytical Essays (3) Students will write and post on WebCT three essays that analyze the major issues in Cuban culture and cultural production. Essays will be analytical and text-specific, making direct references to the course readings. Essays may refer to the supplemental readings and/or outside research. Each essay should be from 2-3 pages, include a list of works cited, MLA format, double-spaced, one-inch margins, proofread and spell-checked in academic Spanish. The essay topics are:
    • Essay 1: Pre-revolutionary Cuba. What was the social, economic, and political makeup of pre-revolutionary Cuba? How did race relations, class structure, and the relationship between Cuba and the United States add to the tensions of pre-revolutionary Cuba?
    • Essay 2: The Cuban Revolution and Anti-Revolution. What are the ideological concerns of the Cuban Revolution? What issues form the basis of the Anti-revolution? How have these tensions affected the culture and cultural production of "island Cubans" versus "Miami Cubans"?
    • Essay 3: Changing Gender Roles in Cuba. How have expectations around gender and sexuality changed over the years in Cuba? How has the Cuban family adjusted to accomodate revolutionary ideals and necessities?
  • 25% Final Research Project. Students will complete a final research project that demonstrates a deep understanding of one of the issues represented in Caribbean (Cuban) cultural production. Although students must incorporate research in this project, the main focus will be the student's own analysis of the issue or work in question. Throughout the semester, the student will be expected to turn in assignments in preparation for the final project; the grades received on the preparatory activities will be averaged with the grade on the final draft of the project. The final written project should be 8-10 pages, include a list of works cited, MLA format, double-spaced, one-inch margins, proofread and spell-checked in academic Spanish. The possible options for this project include:
    • A literary analysis of a Cuban novel, short fiction, film, art work, or poetry.
    • A literary analysis discussing one specific theme in various works of Cuban cultural production.
    • A literary analysis discussing a literary genre or movement, with specific reference to various works of Cuban cultural production.
    • A cultural analysis of one of the principal issues of import in Cuban history or society.
  • 10% Oral Presentation of Final Project. Students will come prepared to make a formal and professional presentation of their work and engage in question and answers with their classmates.


Topics and Assignments

For each week, please note that there are required readings and supplemental readings. The supplemental readings may be assigned to a small group or pair for a short in-class presentation; they may be assigned to any Masters students taking the course for graduate credit; or they may simply be offered as extra background for the extremely motivated student.

Week 1: Viewing Cuba

Exams/Assignments due: Pre-exam on previous knowledge of Cuba

Guest: Rudy Giscombe, photographer

Cuban History through 1898

In-class reading: José Martí

Week 2: Cuban history 1898=>1959

Film: Lucía (1st and 2nd parts)

Reading: Chronology, Eduardo Aparicio "Fragmentos de narraciones cubanas" ; Louis A. Pérez Jr. Introduction, On Becoming Cuban;

Supplemental reading: Louis A. Pérez. Jr. "Context and Content of the Republic"

(Reserves: Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy 113-48)

Week 3: African Heritage (part I)

Reading: Miguel Barnet Biografía de un cimarrón

Art: María Antonia Carrillo

Supplemental reading: Miriam DeCosta-Willis "Self and Society in the Afro-Cuban Slave Narrative"(Reserves: loose article)

Week 4: African Heritage (Part II)

Film/music: Buena Vista Social Club

Reading: poets Nicolás Guillén Sóngoro consongo

Exams/Assignments due: Essay #1 posted to WebCT

Supplemental reading: Miriam DeCosta-Willis "Social Lyricism and the Caribbean Poet"

(Reserves: Blacks in Hispanic Literature pp. 114-22)

Week 5: The Revolution (Part I)

Film: Lucía (Part 3)

Reading: Che Guevara "El hombre nuevo" y "La mujer guerrilla"; Fidel Castro "La historia me absolverá"; Guillermos Cabrera Infante "El ambicioso general" y "Desde la cárcel"; Ambrosio Fornet "Alegría del Pío"; Celia Sánchez and Haydeé Santamaría "Recuerdos"

Supplemental reading: Edmundo Desnoes, Introduction (Reserves: Los dispositivos en la flor: Cuba/Literatura desde la revolución)

Week 6: The Revolution (Part II)

Reading: Mirta Yáñez "Todos los negros tomamos café", "El búfalo ciego", "Por la mañana Fifita nos llama"

Art: Street Graphics

Supplemental reading: Sara Cooper, "Irreverent Humor in Post-Revolutionary Cuban Fiction: The Case of Mirta Y��ez." FLNG Colloquium: Many Faces of Humor (CSU, Chico) April 23-25, 2002. (WebCT)

Week 7: The (Anti)Revolution

Film: Azucar amargo

Reading: Selections from Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Reinaldo Arenas, and Heberto Padilla (1st generation immigrants)

Exams/Assignments due: Essay # 2 posted to WebCT

Supplemental reading: María de los Angeles Torres, Introduction (Reserves: In the Land of the Mirrors)

Week 8: Gender Roles in Cuba (Part I)Reading: Fragment of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda Sab

Supplemental reading: Sara Cooper "Cuba" Women's Issues in North America and the Caribbean. Editor-in-Chief Cheryl Kalny. Women's Issues Worldwide Series. Series Editor Lynn Walter. Greenwood Publishing. (WebCT)

Week 9: Gender Roles in Cuba (Part II)

Film: Portrait of Teresa

Reading: Mirta Yáñez "Opera prima", "Kid Bururú y los caníbales," "Pájaro de mal agüero" and "El diablo son las cosas"

Exams/Assignments due: Proposal for final project, including Thesis Sentence

Supplemental reading:Judy Maloof Introduction, (Reserves: Voices of Resistance: Testimonies of Cuban and Chilean Women)

Week 10: Family

Film: Se permuta or Madagascar

Reading: Mirta Yáñez "Beatles contra Durán Durán"

Exams/Assignments due: Bibliography for final project

Supplemental reading: Sara Cooper, "Form and Functionality in Narration of Familia: An Argument for a Family Systems Approach to Latin American Literature." 19th Congress Louisiana Conference on Hispanic Languages and Literatures. (Baton Rouge), February 19, 1998. (WebCT)

Week 11: Sexuality in Cuba

Film: Fresa y chocolate

Reading: Achy Obejas "Venimos desde Cuba para que te vistieras así"

Exams/Assignments due: Essay # 3 posted to WebCT

Supplemental reading: Sara Cooper, "Queering Family: Achy Obejas's 'We Came All the Way From Cuba So You Could Dress Like That?'" Chasqui. Forthcoming November 2004 . (WebCT)

Week 12: The Special Period

Reading: Nancy Alonso Cerrado por reparación

Supplemental reading: Archibald R. M. Ritter "Cuba in the 1990's" (Reserves: Cuba in Transition)

Week 13: The Special Period

Film: Guantanamera

Exams/Assignments due: First draft of final project

Supplemental reading: Article from (WebCT)

Week 14 Cuban Literature "on and off the island"

Reading: Mirta Yáñez "Cortado en dos"; Ana Méndez "In Cuba I was a German Shepherd"; Cristina GarcíaSoñar en cubano

Supplemental reading: Pamela María Smorkaloff, Introduction (Reserves: Cuban Writers on and off the Island)

Week 15 New Cuban Aesthetic

Film: La vida es silbar

Art: New Art of Cuba

Exit Survey of Knowledge

Supplemental reading: Luis Camnitzer, Introduction (Reserves: New Art of Cuba)

Week 16 Final Exam Week

Exams/Assignments due: Oral Presentation of Final Projects; Final draft of final project due