Course details

  • MWF
  • January 11–May 5, 2021
  • 9:40-10:30 AM
  • Online

Contacting me

E-mail is the best ways to get in contact with me. I will try to respond to all course-related e-mails quickly, but also remember that life can be busy and chaotic for everyone (including me!)

Course objectives

This course will do two things. First, it will teach you about the most pressing political, economic, and social problems in Latin America, and how Latin Americans navigate these problems on a daily basis. Second, it will teach you about these challenges from a decidedly social science perspective. This means you will get your hands dirty with data, think hard about how to measure the concepts we read and discuss in class, and worry about how we can really know what we “think we know” about what’s happening in the region.

This course assumes no prior knowledge of Latin America or working with data. In class, we will mostly focus on broad, regional issues that are relevant to multiple countries in Latin America. Outside of class, you will develop familiarity with a country of your choosing through homework assignments.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify pressing political and economic problems in Latin America, and their relevance to the current moment
  • Draw on political science concepts and theory to explain how citizens negotiate these problems
  • Discuss these issues in-depth in a country of your choosing
  • Feel comfortable manipulating and analyzing data from the region in Google Sheets/Excel

Course materials

All of the readings in this class are free.

Articles, book chapters, and other materials

Most of our readings will come from journal articles, book chapters, and videos. I’ve provided links to most articles. In some cases, you will need to be on school wi-fi to access them. In others, you might need to look up the article on your own if the link breaks.1

Google Sheets

All homeworks requiring data will be done in Google Sheets or Excel. Google Sheets is free to use with a Google account, and I will do all data analysis tutorials in Google Sheets. However, you can easily follow along in Excel if that’s what you prefer.


You should listen to podcasts, although I won’t grade you on it. Here are some of my favorite podcasts that frequently discuss politics and history in Latin America:

Warning on Disturbing Content

This course will require spending a significant amount of time covering disturbing material (e.g., violence, extreme poverty, racism), which can be difficult to read about or watch. I will do my best to flag especially graphic content but ask that you please consider this in deciding whether to take the course.

Course policies

Communicating with me

For big questions – stuck on the homework, question about a grade, confusion/questions about the reading – the best thing is to come to (virtual) office hours. You will get better help from me during office hours than over email. You can sign up for office hours here. There’s no need to ask before signing up for hours, or warn me that you did sign up (Calendly will send me an alert).

For small, clarifying questions, you should email me. In your emails, please:

  • Be professional (include a subject line, a greeting, e.g., “Dear Prof. Tellez,”)
  • Be brief (I won’t be offended!)
  • I don’t take attendance, and therefore do not need to know you are missing a non-exam class!
  • Do not email to ask what you missed during an absence (it’s on the syllabus!)
  • Do not ask for extra credit opportunities. There are none!

Honor code

Be nice. Don’t cheat. The Carolinian Creed is in effect in this class and all others at the University. I will treat violations seriously and urge all students to become familiar with its terms set out here. If you have doubts, it is your responsibility to ask about the Creed’s application.

Counseling & Psychiatry Services

Life at USC can be complicated and challenging. You might feel overwhelmed, experience anxiety or depression, or struggle with relationships or family responsibilities. Counseling and Psychiatry Services provides confidential support for students who are struggling with mental health and emotional challenges. Please do not hesitate to contact CPS for assistance—getting help is a smart and good thing to do.

Assignments and grades

You can find descriptions for all the assignments on the assignments page.

Assignment Percent
Problem sets (10) 30%
Midterm 20%
Final 30%
Final project 20%

Grade Range Grade Range
A 90–100% C 70–76%
B+ 87–89% D+ 67–69%
B 80–86% D 60–66%
C+ 77–79% F < 60%

If you think you received the wrong grade, you will need to submit a memo giving specific detail about why the grade should be changed. I will then re-grade the entire assignment. Your grade might go up, go down, or stay the same, so try to be honest with yourself about whether a grade appeal is reasonable. Please note that I will only accept grade appeals one week after the posting of a grade.

Historical figures

Once you have read this entire syllabus and the assignments page, please email me a picture of an interesting historical figure from Latin America along with a one-sentence explanation of why they matter (2 extra credit points; you’ve got until January 18th).

  1. Either through Google Scholar or the library.↩︎