Folklore | Latin American Folklore
F315 | 28062 | McDowell
The peoples of Latin America have created a remarkable panorama of
folk traditions. Our purpose in this course is to sample some of
these delights, first of all, simply to savor their artistic power,
but secondly, to understand how they relate to the history of the
region, and how they connect with the hopes and fears of those who
Our journey will not be all-inclusive, for Latin America is a vast
and varied zone embracing the entire South American continent,
Central America, much of the Caribbean, and a good deal of the North
American continent – depending where you draw the line. The folklore
of this zone is copious, finding expression in many verbal, visual,
festive, and material forms. What we are bound to do is seek out a
representative sample of this treasure, though students will be
encouraged to bring in reports on specific communities and particular
folk traditions not directly covered in the class.
Drawing on the prof’s main areas of expertise, we will accentuate
these components of the larger topic:
1. The traditional (and popular) music of the Mexican people, in
Mexico and in the US.
2. The folklore of indigenous peoples of the Andes in South America.
In general, we will deal most carefully with folk music, festival and
carnival, and verbal forms of expression such as ballad, mythic
narrative, and ceremonial speaking, noting how all of these connect
with what Latin Americans call cosmovisión, that is, world view or
The student’s burden:
As this is an abbreviated course, no large project will be assigned.
Instead, students will be required to hand in several short exercises
such as book and movie reviews, reports on museum visits, and
responses to interpretive questions. Grades will be based on
participation in class as well as performance on these exercises,
plus a take-home final that will encourage students to pull together
some of the insights they have been accumulating along the way.