Latin American Studies

Latin American Studies Program at Western

Interdisciplinary in nature, the program in Latin American Studies (LAS) at Western offers a rich set of courses, preparing students to not only have an in-depth understanding of Latin American histories, cultures, politics, sociologies, and languages, but also to explore Latin America’s connections with a globalized world. The Latin American community at Western believes that it is more important than ever to encourage collaboration across disciplines and to bring together efforts to construct a deep and multiple understanding of a region that is strongly connected with, and has a large impact on, the United States (just as the United States has a large impact on it).

The program is jointly housed in the Department of History and the Department of Modern Classical Languages, involving other departments and bringing together a variety of scholars of the highest quality from across the campus. Students can earn a B.A. degree in Latin American Studies at Western choosing a Concentration either in History or Spanish. Focusing on Latin American Studies also pairs well as a Second Major to almost any degree program, including History, Spanish, Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology, Business, Journalism, and many others.


As part of the program’s efforts to create and engage all students and Western faculty with multiple activities throughout the year, the program sponsors a variety of events, including lectures of national and international experts, exhibits, and the annual Latin American Studies Forum in Winter.

Fall Open House

Interested in learning about the LAS program at Western?

Virtual Open House

Thursday, October 29, 2020

1:00 –2:00 pm (PT)

Register Nowfor the Fall Open House

Book Presentation: The Cuban Hustle. Culture, Politics, Everyday Life

Sujatha Fernandes and her new book, The Cuban Hustle

November 19, 2020

3:00 -4:00 pm (PT)

In The Cuban Hustle, Sujatha Fernandes explores the multitudinous ways artists, activists, and ordinary Cubans have sought to hustle, survive, and express themselves in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Whether circulating information on flash drives as a substitution for the internet or building homemade antennas to listen to Miami’s hip hop radio stations, Cubans are often forced to improvise alternative strategies and workarounds to contend with ongoing isolation. Throughout these essays, Fernandes examines the emergence of dynamic youth cultures and social movements as Cuba grappled with economic collapse, new digital technologies, the normalization of diplomatic ties with the United States during the Obama administration, and the regression of US-Cuba relations in the Trump era. From reflections on feminism, new Cuban cinema, and public art to urban slums, the Afro-Cuban movement, and rumba and hip hop, Fernandes reveals Cuba to be a world of vibrant cultures grounded in an ethos of invention and everyday hustle.

Register Now

Criminal Governance in Contemporary Latin America

Photograph of Andreas Feldmann

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

12:00 – 1:20 pm

Latin America is experiencing an acute security crisis with rising levels of violence raging across the region. The configuration of violence is complex as a plethora of actors involved in different criminal activities dispute power among themselves and with the state. As these groups have grown in power and resources, they have begun to challenge states’ monopoly of coercion transforming themselves in de facto authorities in large swathes of their respective countries. It is estimated that 10-15% of the LA population live under these conditions. This dynamic is conceptualized as criminal governance understood as the regulation of social order, informal or illegal economies through the enforcement of formal and informal institutions that replace, complement, or compete with the state, or through the distribution of public goods such as social services, justice, and security.

Study Abroad

The Program in Latin American Studies highly encourages students to have an immersion experience in Latin America. The Program works very closely with Education Abroad to give students all the possibilities and resources available to maximize experiences abroad and to use those experiences to keep enriching our communities at Western. Credits from WWU will be transferred automatically and credits from other institutions will be transferred by the advisor.

Student Experiences

Photograph of Lochlan Roberts

I did not realize how little I knew about Latin America before becoming a Latin American Studies major nor did I have a clue at how pertinent these topics would be in understanding the contemporary world. From this major I developed an unfaltering appreciation for Latin American culture and its wide array of practice. I am driven to continue to research and understand this beautifully vast region and people for the rest of my life.

Lochlan Roberts
Photograph of Lesly Velázquez

Being a Latin American Studies Major has been a great experience all around. I have really enjoyed learning the history between Latin America and the US in depth and being a LAS major has become a major part of who I am today.

Lesly Velázquez
Photograph of Kara Henry and her host family

While I was studying on exchange last fall in Argentina, I realized my passion for learning about the rich cultural diversity of Latin America. Studying Latin American Studies at Western has given me the opportunity to further understand how histories of the United States are inextricably linked to histories of Latin America and our collective present moment. I am constantly learning about new perspectives that help me gain a deeper understanding of my place in the world.

Kara Henry


Name Title Name Title
Rudy Alamillo Assistant Professor Melina Juárez Assistant Professor
Blanca Aranda  Associate Professor of Spanish James Loucky Professor Emeritus
Max Barahona Instructor Ricardo López Professor
Sheryl Bernando-Hinesley Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics Rodolfo Mata Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics
Pedro Camellese-Pesce Assistant Professor Mark Miyake Assistant Professor of Music and Society
Angela Fillingim Assistant Professor Niall O Murchu Professor
Josh Fisher Associate Professor Luis Portugal Latin American Studies Program Director
Hugo García  Associate Professor of Spanish Lysa Rivera Associate Professor
Lourdes Gutiérrez Nájera  Associate Professor María Timmons Flores Professor
Ernest Hartwell Assistant Professor of Spanish Michael Wolff Associate Professor


Latin American Studies Major

The Latin American Studies major is designed to expand the students’ knowledge and experiences related to Latin America’s histories, societies, politics, political economies, racial relations, class formations, and social movements.

Catalog Entry for the Latin American Studies M

Information Page

Latin American Studies Minor

If you are interested in the literature, history, and cultures of Latin America, you should consider a Latin American Studies minor. This minor will help you to see the connections between your courses in Latin American literature, history, and anthropology.

Learn More in the Catalog about the Latin American Studies Minor

Course Offerings

Many unique courses are offered through the Latin American Studies major and minor. View the full list here:

2020-21 Courses

The Latin American Studies Program is an organic and essential part of Western Washington University and a vital connection to Latinx in campus and Latin American communities. Your support will help the program to keep bringing scholars to our campus and enrich student’s learning as well as creating a sense of academic community. The program sponsors a variety of events, including lectures of national and international experts, exhibits, and the annual Latin American Studies Forum in Winter. To make a donation to our program or if you have questions please contact Program Director, Luis Portugal (