Latin American and Caribbean Studies Major
By Leigh Brown Perkins
Although it is Rollins’ oldest area-studies major, Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) continues to innovate, not only in its academic offerings, but also in highlighting the region’s culture on campus. “We have a passion to bring events to this community,” said Dexter Boniface, associate professor of political science, holder of the Weddell Chair of the Americas, and coordinator of the major. “We are lucky that we have historically benefitted from important donations to the program, so that enables us to organize events that speak to our interests in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Last fall was the inaugural Semana LACS—a weeklong event so multicultural seven days could hardly contain it. There were Hispanic film screenings with famous actors on hand (Edward James Olmos with his movie Zoot Suit), panel discussions about violence in Mexico, and a celebration of the Day of the Dead.
• Number of languages offered to majors: 2 (Spanish and French)
• Percentage of LACS students who are fluent in a second language when they graduate: 100
• Departments with courses in the LACS curriculum: 8
• Percentage of Rollins students who are Latino/a: 11
The previous fall, LACS students were invited to meet Alejandro Toledo, who served as president of Peru from 2001 to 2006 and came to campus as a Winter Park Institute Distinguished Visiting Scholar. “We read about political figures in Latin America and we read about the culture, but here he was, physically, in the same room,” said Jane Lombardi ’11, a senior with a double major in LACS and Spanish. “To be able to talk with him one on one and ask him questions was an amazing experience.”
Such experiences—on campus and studying in the countries of the Caribbean Basin and Latin America—give LACS students a fuller appreciation of the region. “Latin America is not the same in reality as it is in the classroom,” Boniface said. “Being in Latin America is critically important to students’ understanding of the language and culture. You can study, for instance, inequality in Brazil, but it’s a very different experience to live in a city that is very stratified by income.”
Most LACS students, who must reach fluency in Spanish, Portuguese, or French, take full advantage of the study-abroad opportunities, which now include Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Brazil, with future programs possible in Chile, Peru, and Argentina.
“I have had wonderful experiences in study abroad,” said Lombardi, who has traveled to Mexico, Chile, Peru, Portugal, and Spain. She has even co-authored a scholarly article with Associate Professor of Spanish and LACS faculty member Gabriel Barreneche related to her summer research on Puerto Rican migration to Central Florida.
Back on campus, the program that for so many years was championed by beloved anthropology professor Pedro Pequeño has new energy, new focus. After revamping its curriculum in 2009, the program now requires only two core courses, allowing students the flexibility to choose their remaining schedule from their own personal area of interest: environmental studies, history, business, economics, political science, anthropology, music, literature—all offer LACS courses.
“The amount of choice students have to frame how they’re going to get the broader, holistic sense of the region, that’s the real innovation here,” Boniface said. “Because our focus is on the area, not a particular discipline, they’re getting a more profound sense of Latin America.”