Department of Black and Latinx Studies

Baruch College • CUNY

Fall 2022

Course: LTS/BLS 3085 Special Topics in Latin American and US Latinx Studies: Afro Latinidades

Professor:  Rojo Robles, Ph.D


Office (student) hours: Wednesdays 1:00-2:00 pm (Office 4-272). This designated time is to discuss any questions or concerns about the class. We can meet briefly if you have a quick question or schedule a more extended session if you need help with coursework or content. If you prefer to meet at some other time, write me.

Course blog:

Class meets:  Wednesdays 4:10- 5:25 pm (In-person*) Room B- Vert 9-130 + weekly asynchronous assignments.

*All Wednesday sessions are in person at Baruch College. In this class, we are NOT doing synchronous zoom sessions unless there is an emergency.* 

Weekly announcements: Mondays

Institutional course description: This course provides an opportunity to focus on specific issues in Black, Latin American, and Latinx studies from historical, sociological, and/or anthropological perspectives, among others. Topics vary from semester to semester and may address questions of gender, race, language, and culture in the Latinx groups living in the United States.

Course description for this section: A diverse Afro-descendant population, mainly from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, has complicated the topic of what it is to be Black in the United States. Through a collection of theoretically engaging and creatively grounded sources, this student-centered course will examine African-descended populations in Latin America and Afro-Latinx in the United States. We will explore questions of Black identity and representation, colonialism, resistance to slavery and its afterlives, transnationalism, and diaspora. Offering insight into Afro-Latinx lives and new ways to understand culture, ethnicity, nation, identity, and anti-racist politics, the course presents a complex hemispheric view of Afro-descendants. We will address history, music, gender, class, social activism, and media representations during the class. We will include scholarly essays, memoirs, articles, poetry, short stories, films, documentaries, and interviews. Together, these sources will help to bring Afro-Latinxs into a critical center. 

*I want to thank Dr. Tshombe Miles (Baruch, BLS) for his intellectual support in the design and development of this course.* 

Student-centered pedagogy: The student-centered approach puts participants’ interests first by acknowledging their needs as central to the learning experience. Rather than designing the course entirely from the professor’s perspective, we will create it as a collaboration centering on the learners’ perspective. Each student will select their study path via an option-based practice. 

Learning goals: Our focus is on studying Afro-Latin American/Latinx cultures and their intersections with transnational Black lives as we develop these learning goals:

.Using interdisciplinary methods to build and support arguments addressing issues and ideas that center Black people’s knowledge production in the hemisphere and the Caribbean.

.Communicating ideas and arguments in written, oral, and digital forms.

.Evaluating issues of social and racial justice using multi/transdisciplinary perspectives.

.Assessing and identifying reliable sources of research and information.

.Develop skills for research and problem-solving.

Course objectives: During this course, students will:

. Survey some critical and theoretical debates about the history, societies, and cultures of Afro-Latin Americans and US Afro-Latinx people.

. Deepen knowledge of the cultural values, traditions, achievements, and history of Afro- Latin Americans and US Afro-Latinx people. 

. Demonstrate understanding of the dynamics of colonialism, race, ethnicity, class, migration, and diasporic formations concerning the experience of Afro-Latin Americans and US Afro-Latinxs.

Statement on grades and assessments: I believe people learn when they are curious and find stimulus and, many times, joy and pleasure to study. Grades do not reflect the subjective character of learning nor societal issues of access and equity. Everybody learns in complex ways that grades usually cannot reflect. This course will focus on qualitative assessment. Qualitative assessment is driven by the intention of understanding how people make meaning of and experience the sources they engage with. I will not use grades for individual assignments but add points based on your self-evaluations. I will also comment and ask questions that engage your work. At the end of the term, I will add all the points you have to determine your final grade.

Grade breakdown: 

Four online “critical posts”: 12.5% 

Four online “reaction posts”: 12.5%

Class presentation: 10%

Midterm writing project + self-evaluation: 25%

Final project + self-evaluation: 30%

Attendance & participation: 10%

Self-evaluation:  You will reflect critically on your learning (with specific questions and rubrics) and evaluate your midterm and final project. After interacting with your work, I will give you feedback on your midterm and, optionally, on your final. I reserve the right to change your self-assessment if there is a significant disparity between your self-evaluations and my appreciation of your work. 


93-100 A; 90-92 =A-; 87-89 =B+; 83-86 =B; 80-82 =B-; 77-79 = C+

73-76 = C; 70-72 = C-; 67-70 = D+; 63-66 = D; 60-62 = D-; <60 = F

Attendance: Students are encouraged to attend, be on time for all in-person sessions and submit online posts. After three unexcused absences and/or lateness, your standing in class will be affected and will lower your final grade (for example, an A becomes a B). 

Statement on Covid-19 and mask-wearing: As informed by CUNY central, “for the Fall 2022 semester, students taking in-person or hybrid courses must be fully vaccinated when classes begin. Further, all students taking in-person or hybrid classes must upload proof of that status to CUNYfirst by ten (10) days before classes begin.”

Although mask-wearing is optional, I believe that protecting our community in and beyond the classroom should continue to be a priority. When using your mask during our time together, you are taking care not only of immunocompromised classmates but also of our extended circles and loved ones.  

Assignments: Students will engage with the course objectives by doing these assignments.

I. Class presentation

Research and analyze an assigned source from the syllabus. Your class presentation is an opportunity for you to practice your communication skills.  It should also demonstrate your ability to design an argument based on your close analysis of the text assigned for the day’s discussion. Present your breakdown orally based on the prompts below (8-10 minutes). You are welcome to use slides, images, sound, or text to help visualize and engage the class. 

. What are the central ideas of this writer, poet, thinker, filmmaker, or artist?

. Analyze one specific section by your chosen author that best communicates what you identified in the question above.

. Discuss how the text or film’s structure enhances the author’s or filmmaker’s conceptual goals.

. Can you establish any analogy/relationship between what the author says or what the filmmaker presents and your personal experience? If this is not the case, can you show any association with other works you have read/heard/seen (books, comics, plays, paintings, photographs, podcasts, music, movies, series, documentaries, etc.)?

*Ideally, all presentations will be group presentations. However, there is openness for individual presentations. After the presentation, you will respond to a short post-presentation Q&A with the professor and classmates.*

II. Midterm writing exercise: a letter

This assignment is a hybrid of creative and essay writing. Imagine that you are writing a letter to a friend, family member, or loved one. In your style, you will tell them what you have learned so far in the class. Think of it perhaps as a recap of a tv show. Discover original ways of recounting these ideas. The letter should have at least five sections:

.In the first section of the letter, you will summarize the overall themes and historical events discussed during the first half of the semester. 

.Through your perspective, in the following three sections of the letter, you will discuss three different sources we examined in class. Try to find good, impactful quotes to support your narrative. Find connections and write connecting sentences to tie them all. 

.In the last section of your text, you will write an “all in all” reflection on what you got from these discussed sources and your expectations for the second half of the semester. 

(4-5 Pages; Double Space; Font Size 12) 

III. Final projects

You may consider the following three options for your final project:

Option 1: Argumentative essay


. Select one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Write an introduction in which you present the author(s) and text(s) to be discussed, your chosen research question, and your thesis statement (your main argument and answer to the question).

. Develop at least three body paragraphs presenting supporting evidence from the primary source(s). Integrate at least one secondary source that you find during your research.

. Write a conclusion in which you wrap up your discussion on the author(s) and text(s), summarize your argument(s), and finish with a personal statement.

(4-5 Pages/Double Space/ Times New Roman/ Font size: 12)

Option 2: A podcast episode


. Select one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Record a podcast (10-12 minutes) using the following template:

. Present the author(s) and text(s) to be discussed, your chosen research question, and your thesis statement (your main argument and answer to the question).

. Develop at least three sections presenting supporting evidence from the primary source(s). Integrate at least one secondary source that you find during your research.

. Wrap up your discussion on the author(s) and text(s), summarize your argument(s), and finish with a personal statement.

*A podcast has a more informal tone than an essay. It’s a project that could let you own the material. Please brainstorm ideas that could go beyond the referred template.*

Sample projects and tips by Dr. Rebecca Salois (Co-creatior and co -host Latinx Visions)

Sample Projects:

Option 3:  Creative writing project


. Consider one of the research questions developed collaboratively.

. Respond to the selected source and question through a short story, a short poetry collection, or a script (2-3 pages). Remember to:

. Identify and match the central concerns of the selected source.

. Present your piece as an artistic interaction.

. Refer to or underscore specific sections or your chosen source.

In a reflective essay, describe your creative process. Reflect on what you learned from your chosen work. Discuss how your creative writing piece integrates, interacts with, and replies to the main ideas presented by the primary source. How has this exercise helped you incorporate past experiences into your sense of identity and worldview?

Sample Projects:



(1)_______________ (concise introduction of your topic). (2)___________________ (presentation of the text(s) and author(s) you are going to analyze). (3) __________________ (plug-in). (4)___________ I will argue that_________________ (your thesis statement on the texts).

*Avoid empty generalizations and stereotypes like: “since the beginning of time,” “for all Latinxs,” etc.

Body Paragraphs

You analyze relevant sections of your primary source (the text read and analyzed in the class) and bring evidence to support your thesis statement from the secondary sources (reviews, scholarly articles, opinion pieces, chapters, newspaper articles, etc.)

*When adding quotes remember to bring context and analyze the quote.

There are many phrases you can use as:

As xxx says (argues, presents, discusses, analyzes, examines, etc.) in their article (essay, chapter, online discussion, talk, etc.)on_______________ (add quotation marks to the text).

If you have questions on how to do citations, please let me know.


(1) In this essay/podcast, I/we examined the (theme of)______________ in ______________ (work (s) and author(s)). (2) I argued that_____________ .  (3) In conclusion, I found that this/these author(s) deal with these themes to _______________. (4) _____________ (closing statement).

Statement on academic honesty: Learning involves pursuing honesty and dialogue, which you cannot achieve by presenting someone else’s work as your own. Writing in college means taking part in a conversation with other scholars, writers, and thinkers. By using academic citations, you demonstrate the relationship between your ideas and those of others. On the other hand, plagiarism is the failure to prove that relationship. I want to hear your voices and read how you get involved in the dialogue. Part of your academic experience is to enter these conversations by learning different ways to engage with sources. If questions remain, ask me. For the record, if you violate the precepts of academic honesty, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

Baruch College guides and resources 

Statement on missing work: If you have concerns about assignment due dates or the use of technology, please, let me know ahead of time. I am ready to work with you. I will take special consideration for those affected by COVID-19. I will deduct the total percentage of any missing work from your final grade. You are encouraged to email me or request a zoom meeting for questions or further clarification of readings, audiovisual pieces, and assignments.  

Course materials:  All readings will be available on Blackboard as PDFs or links.

Languages: Although I will conduct the class in English if you feel more comfortable and/or want to work in either Spanish, Spanglish, Portuguese, or French, you may also write/create in any of these languages.

Are you looking for a minor or a major? Make BLS your choice: The Department of Black and Latino Studies offers interdisciplinary, intersectional approaches to the study of the ideas, history, politics, literature, music, religions, cultures, economic and social contributions of people of African and Latin American descent, including the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Our courses practice critical thinking and analysis skills, advanced writing, communication, and research. They also engage in digital literacies, collaboration, and project management— essential workforce skills. The interdisciplinary structure of our courses also offers excellent preparation for graduate school and careers in education, law, business, public relations, marketing, journalism, the arts, and education.