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HIST 533


HIST 533/622 COMM 510/690                                                          C.Ehrick

Twentieth-Century Latin America                                                          MW 2-315 GH203

Office: GH 301D                                                                                  Tel. 852-3973

Office hrs MW 10-11 or by appt                                                



Mass Media, Politics and Culture

in Latin America since 1900


FALL 2008


The history of the twentieth century is in part the story of the development of mass media and mass communications, all of which had major implications for politics, society and culture. Mass media and massification have been global phenomena, but like so many global trajectories, mass media was also shaped by and conformed to local contexts and forces. One of the goals of this course is to understand some of these interactions between the global, regional, national and local in twentieth-century mass media.


This course examines the history of mass media and popular culture in twentieth-century Latin America, with a focus on Mexics (although we will venture out of Mexico at times). The focus on one country is meant to make things simpler for students who may not have a lot of background in Latin America, but it also reflects the the field of media history in Latin America, where Mexico has received the lion’s share of attention.  For your research paper you will be asked to select a topic on some aspect of twentieth-century Latin American media that does not primarily deal with Mexico We will start of course with print media, and move on to early visual and aural media (film and radio which, like print media, continue throughout the period in question), followed by television and the internet. We will also examine other media forms like photography, comic books, and popular music.




Readings available in university bookstore(s) and on reserve at Ekstrom:


Gorman and McLean Media and Society in the Twentieth Century


Joy Elizabeth Hayes; Radio Nation: Communication, Popular Culture and Nationalism in Mexico, 1920-1950


Eric Zolov; Refried Elvis: The Rise of Mexican Counterculture


Chappell Lawson, Building the Fourth Estate: Democratization and the Rise of a Free Press in Mexico


Readings Available on Reserve:


José Ignacio Lopez Vigil, Rebel Radio:  The Story of El Salvador’s Radio Venceremos

(Available on Reserve)


Electronic Reserves and other Reading and Listening Assignments (available on Blackboard site under “E-Reserves’ and “Course Documents”)



I realize that most (if not all) of you are coming to this class with a deficiency in at least one of these areas (Latin American/Mexican history, media history). We will do our best to provide background in these areas.  To that effect, the main ‘textbook’ we will use here, Media and Society in the Twentieth Century, by Lyn Gorman and David McLean does not deal with Latin America at all, but will serve to give us a baseline understanding of media history in the US and Great Britain, that we can then later apply comparatively to the Latin American case. Joy Hayes’ Radio Nation: Communication, Popular Culture and Nationalism in Mexico, 1920-1950 looks at the tremendously important and influential, but often understudied, topic of radio history. Radio’s ‘golden age’ in Mexico coincided with the era of significant state formation and national unification of the late and post-revolutionary era and played a key role in that process.

When looking at any aspect of twentieth-century Latin American culture, one runs up against questions of cultural autonomy, authenticity, and the tremendous influence of the United States. How have Latin Americans negotiated “yankee” media images and cultural forms, and come to shape those influences into something distinctly Latin American? Eric Zolov’s Refried Elvis: The Rise of Mexican looks at this subject of popular culture and mass media, focusing on rock music and youth (counter)culture in Mexico from the 1950s to the 1970s and beyond. Zolov is particularly interested in constructions of “authenticity” in Mexican youth culture, and the role that mass media played in shaping those constructions. As in the US, this “Youth culture” attracted much unwelcome attention from government authorities, and this study also looks at another important theme of this course: the role and limits of the United States as political and cultural force in Latin America.


Mass media has long maintained what has often been an uneasy relationship with the state. The topics of censorship and propaganda speak to the ways governments and other groups have sought to shape the content of mass media messages to serve their own objectives. We will start with the topic of World War II propaganda, but will focus mostly on the Cold War in Latin America that, as in many parts of the world, was anything but cold. The Cold War in Latin America was in some cases a shooting war, and involved numerous human rights atrocities, but it was also a media war. Agencies like the CIA set up clandestine radio stations to undermine governments thought to be unfriendly to US interests and frighten their supporters with “War of the Worlds” scare tactics. But leftist revolutionaries made highly effective use of radio as well. Rebel Radio is a history of Radio Venceremos, the radio station of the main guerrilla group in El Salvador, the FMLN. This is a first-hand account written by an FMLN militant that speaks to the vital role that media plays in revolutionary movements, and the particular suitability of radio (in pre-internet age) to this project. But mass media can and does serve the interest of the state as well. Lawson’s Building the Fourth Estate is a study of the links between the erosion of PRI hegemony in Mexico and the rise of more independent journalism.  Lastly, a series of articles and interviews posted on Blackboard for this class will supplement the above readings in a number of different areas. Most readings are located under “E-Reserves”, but others are located under Course Documents on the course Blackboard site. The syllabus will tell you where to go to find particular assignments.


An added note on listening assignments: I expect you to take these as seriously as you would reading assignments. That means *undistracted* listening, taking notes and retaining this information for exams, etc.


Assignments and Grading:


Your grade will be determined as follows. There are 525 points possible in this course.*

Paper Proposal: 25 points

Midterm Exam: 100 points

Discussion Papers (3): 10 points each, possible total of 20

Paper Draft: 50 points

*Final Paper: 100 points

Poster Presentation of Research Topic: 40 points

Poster Session Report: 25 points

Participation & Attendance: 50 points*

Final Exam: 125 points


*Note: I will not accept final papers without having reviewed an earlier draft.


*Graduate Students Enrolled at the 500 level: You will have additional reading, which you will be expected to comment on and explain in class. You will also be held to a higher standard on your written work.  Your participation grade will be out of a possible 75 points, and your final grade based on a possible total of 550 points.


**Graduate Students Enrolled at the 600 level: In addition to all of the criteria listed above for grad students enrolled at the 500 level, you will have one additional book critique assignment of 4-6 pages (see forthcoming handout for details). This assignment will be worth a total of 50 points, and a graduate student’s grade will be based on a possible total of 600 points (in addition to the additional 25 points in participation and attendance listed above).


As this is a WR course, you can expect both substantial reading and writing. Other than the midterm and final examinations (essay format), your main assignment will be a term paper on a topic related to the history of Latin American media but that does not substantially focus on Mexico (see list of possible topics). Early in the semester, you will submit a short (1-2pg) term paper proposal, outlining your paper topic and providing me with a preliminary bibliography. You will also be required to submit a draft of your paper and respond to critiques and suggestions made by me in that draft before submitting your final (10-15 pg) paper at the end of the semester. In addition, we will be experimenting with a ‘poster session’ format after submitting your paper, to allow you to share your findings with your fellow students. More details on this TBA, but you are to put together a poster presenting a textual and visual (if possible) overview of your topic and main findings. Students will be asked to circulate in the room and ask questions and discuss their posters and larger papers with other students. All students will then submit a brief (2-4 page) report on the poster session, detailing what they learned and their evaluation of the session and the posters as a whole. Lastly, there is a participation/attendance component to your grade. You are expected to attend class regularly, and to come to class having done the readings assigned for that day, and prepared to participate in class discussion on those materials.


Statement on Plagiarism and Academic Honesty:  Plagiarism -- the use of others’ words as your own -- will not be tolerated in this class. Plagiarism on any assignment will result in your receiving and F in the course. In addition, plagiarism cases will be reported to the College Dean and a record of the plagiarism will be placed in your permanent file. Repeat offenses can result in suspension or expulsion from the university.  Plagiarism includes the significant use of textbook or other reading materials, or other papers (published or unpublished).  If you have questions about plagiarism and/or about the proper way to cite materials, feel free to ask me or consult the undergraduate catalog’s statement on this issue.


Plagiarism includes any of the following:

1. Handing in someone else’s work as your own.

2. Taking credit for ideas that you have heard or read somewhere, without citing your sources.

3. Including exact phrases, sentences, paragraphs or any text from a book, article or website without marking the text as a quotation and citing the source. 

            4. Paraphrasing text from another source (that is, changing the words slightly or summarizing the information) without citing the source. 


This semester we will also be using “SafeAssign” a plagiarism checking program. More information on the system, and on electronic submission of papers, forthcoming.


Disability Statement: All students with a disability who require special accommodation to participate in and complete this course must contact the Disability Resource Center (852-6938) for verification of eligibility and for determination of specific accommodation.


Late papers/exams: Late papers and exams will be marked down one full letter grade (ten points) for every class day the assignment is late. No exceptions. Papers not turned in during or before class on the due date will be considered one class meeting late. Papers are not accepted electronically (via email) or by fax... Papers may be turned in early if you are unable to attend class on the due date. Please make a note of all due dates for this class and notify me immediately if there is any conflict.



Attendance and Office Hours: Regular attendance and participation in class discussion is expected. Excessive absences and or tardiness will result in a lower than average attendance/participation grade. Students should make every effort to attend each class and to arrive on time. If a class is missed, is the student’s responsibility to find out what material s/he missed and should try and get notes from another student (i.e. not from me). Students who attend regularly should feel under no obligation to provide notes to habitually absent students. Students must notify me ahead of time regarding any foreseen absence that will conflict with a test date, due date, etc. Please feel free to come to my office hours to discuss any question you might have about the course or the assignments, as well as any other question about readings, lectures, assignments or grades. In general, email is a more reliable and efficient means of contacting me than telephone.



Syllabus is subject to change at instructor’s discretion



WEEK 1-2: Print Media and “Imagined Communities”


M 8/25 : Course Introduction  and Latin America overview


Read: Course Documents #1-2:


            “El Excelsior”: The Rise and Fall of a Great Mexican Newspaper”


            “The “Al-Jazeera” of the South”


W 8/27:  Print Media, Community and Citizenship


Read: Gorman Ch 1-2  (pp.1-23, 64-76)




W 9/3 The Popular and Radical Press in Early Twentieth-Century Latin America


Read:  E-Reserves Readings 1 & 2:


            María Elena Díaz, “The Satiric Penny Press for Workers in Mexico, 1900- 1910”


            Donald Castro, “The Image of the Creole Criminal in Argentine Popular Culture”



WEEKS 3-4: Radio Consumption and Persuasion


M 9/8  Radio and Listening: Historical and Theoretical Overview


Read: Gorman Ch. 4 (pp.45-63) and E-Reserves Reading #3:


 Susan Douglas, “The Zen of Listening”


W 9/10:  Radio in Mexico: Introduction and Origins (Hayes part I)


Read: Hayes: Intro – Ch 3 (pp.xiii-62)






W 9/17:  Radio and Nation Building


Read: Finish Hayes (pp. 63-125)





WEEKS 5-8: Media and Culture at Mid-Century


M 9/21 World War to Cold War: Propaganda and Persuasion


Read:   Gorman Ch 7 (pp.77-125)


W 9/24:  Radio, Propaganda, and Community at Mid Century:


            Listen:  Course Document #5


                        “Hearts and Minds: Radio Liberación” on This American Life


                        Grad Students: Course Documents 3-4: World War II Radio Propaganda  Parts I and II”


            Read: E-Reserves #4


                        Bryan McCann, “Fan Clubs and Auditorium Programs”



M 9/29 Post –War/Cold War Mexico and the Origins of Mexican Rock, mid-1950s to mid-1960s


Read: Zolov pp.1-92


W 10/01  Tlateloco and ‘La Onda’


Read: Zolov pp.93-200


M 10/06 Avándaro and Beyond


Read: Zolov pp.201-259




W 10/8 Border Radio and Midterm Review


            Read: E-Reserves #5


                         Roberto Avant-Meir, “Heard it on the X: Border Radio as Public  Discourse and the Latino Legacy in Popular Music”









WEEKS 9-10 Television, Politics and Empire in Post-War Latin America


M 10/27   Television – overview


            Read: Gorman Ch 8-9 (pp.126-169)




W 10/29 Television in Latin America: Origins and TV Dynasties


            Read: E-Reserves #6-7


                         “The Autumn of the Patriarch: Mexico and Televisa”.


                        “The Telenovela: A National Obsession”.


            Grad students read E-Reserves #8 “Broadcasting Modernity”


WEEKS 9-10: Media and Revolution: Guerrilla Radio in El Salvador


M 11/03  Vencercemos part I (pages TBA)


W 11/05  Radio Venceremos part II (pages TBA)





Wks 12-14 Media and Democratization in Mexico


M 11/10 Print Media, Party and State in Mexico 1930s-1990s


Read: Lawson Intro and Part I (pp.1-58)


W 11/12  The Breakdown of the Old Regime


Read: Lawson part II (pp. 61-121)


M 11/17  The Consequences of Media Opening


Read: Lawson parts III and IV (pp.125-209)






M 11/24 Contemporary Television: Identity and Community


            Read: E-Reserves 9#10


            Dennis Smith, “Christianity and Television in Guatemala and Brazil”


            Jamie Winders, “Making Güeras: Selling White Identities on Late-Night Mexican  Television”





WEEKS 15-16: New Media and New Communities in Latin America and Beyond


M 12/01 New Media Overview

            Read: Gorman Ch 10-12 (pp.170-227)


W 12/04 New Media in Latin America


            Read: Course Documents #6 : “Government by TV”

            Other Blackboard selections TBA


M 12/08 Spanish Language Media in the U.S. and Course Conclusion


Readings TBA










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