Hispanic homeschool mom and teens

Learning Latin American History

When most people talk about American history, they are referring to the history of the United States. But America is bigger than just our country or even our continent! Before the founding of the United States of America, people generally referred to the western hemisphere as “the Americas,” comprised of both the northern and southern continents. We are part of a vast assemblage of countries and cultures that occupy these two continents! But how often do we take the time to learn about the history and culture of these other American countries?

In Fall of 2022, I am teaching a semester long high school history course called The History of Latin America. This 13 week course will acquaint your students with our neighbors to the south, giving them a much richer appreciation for Latin America’s history, geography, culture, and politics. The class covers Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. It also explores the long and turbulent relationship of the United States to this part of the world. This would also be good to pair with Mrs. Schmitt’s Spanish courses if you want to make it into a unit study!

How is the history of Latin America relevant to students in the United States? Latin America boasts cities larger than any in the United States (Sao Paolo, Brazil and Mexico City, both consistently ranked among the biggest cities in the world). Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest minority group in the United States, and Spanish is the second most prevalent language in the U.S. after English. Latin America accounts for 12.8% of our exports and almost 30% of our imports (source). The United States maintains 76 military bases in Latin America and has engaged in 55 military engagements in the region! Clearly this region is of immense importance in our own history and culture.

It is also very important from a Catholic perspective. Did you know that—

  • Latin America has more Catholics than any other region of the world? At 483 million Catholics as of 2020, it almost has twice as many as Europe and over five times as many as North America? (source)
  • Four out of every ten Catholics on the planet live in Latin America? (source)
  • Seven countries in Latin America recognize Catholicism as the official religion?
  • Our current pope comes from Latin America?
  • St. John Paul II’s first international trip as pope was to Latin America in January of 1979?
  • The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world? (source)
  • Over 25 saints and scores of blesseds have come out of Latin America?
  • Weekly Mass attendance in Latin America averages at 39% (with some countries, like Guatemala, as high as 72%)? Compare that to 17.1% in the United States. (source)

Read on for more course info! To register, click here.

Here is a promotion video I recorded (very clearly reading a green screen) the last time I taught this class in 2015. It gives a bit more of the rationale for why your student should study Latin American history! Te veo en clases!

Course description: Americans routinely hear about problems all over the globe, but seldom do we have the historical hindsight to understand the origin of these conflicts. In “The History of Latin America,” students will survey the history and culture of Central and South America, from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial period through the age of the revolutions and into the region’s troubled modern period. Focus will be on South and Central America but will also touch on the Caribbean, with an emphasis on illustrating how the region’s past relates to its modern character.

Course outline:

Week 1: Geography: Introduction to the geography of south and central America
Week 2: Pre-Columbian Peoples: Cultures of south and central America prior to Columbus
Week 3: First Contact: Initial contacts with the Europeans and the Conquest
Week 4: Brazil: The calamitous history of South America’s largest nation
Week 5: The Caribbean: Culture and history of the Caribbean islands
Week 6: The Catholic Church: The role of the Church in creating the culture of Latin America
Week 7: Culture and Society: Distinctive cultural characteristics of Latin America
Week 8: New Spain: The creation of Mexico
Week 9: The Age of Liberty: Revolution rocks Latin America throughout the 19th century
Week 10: Banana Republics: Latin America and U.S. influence in the early 20th century
Week 11: The Strong Men: Pinochet, Peron, and the Latin American dictatorships
Week 12: The Specter of Communism: Latin America’s experiment with socialism and communism
Week 13: Unresolved Issues: Contemporary problems in Latin America

Course materials:
 Provided free by the instructor as PDF files available via Moodle.

 Five hours per week, including attending the live class, watching recordings, completing reading assignments, online quizzes, and occasional short answer or mini-essay questions graded by the instructor.

NOTE: This course will be available as a recorded, independent-learning course March 15, 2023 through our Unlimited Access program for Catholic homeschooling families.

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