Contemporary Latin American Fiction


Department of Black and Latino Studies| Baruch College • CUNY| Spring 2023

Course: LTS/BLS 3058/ ENG 3950- DMWA: Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Professor: Rojo Robles, PhD   


*I respond to emails from Monday to Friday during regular working hours, 9:00 am-5:00 pm. The estimated time to respond is 1-2 days. *

Office (student) hours: Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:00 am-12:20 pm in-person (Office 4-272). This designated time is for discussing any questions, needs, 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 would prefer to meet at some other time, that is also a possibility, write me an e-mail, and we could set up a meeting time that works for both of us.

Course blog:  

Class meets:  Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:50-2:05 pm in-person (A – 17 Lex 1000H)

Weekly announcements: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays

Institutional course description: This course examines significant Latin American novels and short stories. While concentrating on literary themes and narrative techniques, this course aims to provide students with a better understanding of contemporary Latin American societies. Issues of feminism, gender, sexuality, and race, as well as political expressions, are central to class discussions. Critical essays dealing with those issues, as well as videos and films, are integrated into the coursework. 

Course description for this section: Contemporary Latin American Fiction is an enlivening class that delves into the rich and diverse cultural landscape of Latin America and the Caribbean. From the powerful and moving short fiction of prominent voices like Roberto Bolaño and Edwidge Danticat to the new thought-provoking film of emerging filmmaker Nathalie Álvarez Mesén, this class offers a dynamic and engaging exploration of how literature and film reflect and shape the social, political, and cultural realities of the region. Through different self-directed learning projects, you will have the opportunity to analyze and discuss a wide range of texts and films (and a live performance!) and gain insights into the unique perspectives of some of the most talented and influential creators in contemporary Latin American culture. You will notice that these literary, cinematic, and graphic texts challenge borders and fixed national constructs, presenting hemispheric fluidity and archipelagic flows instead. We will examine present-day crises, of course. Still, all the inventive ways Latin American and Caribbean people use to survive, envision futures, narrate their realities, and create spaces for self-reliance and hope.

Course objectives: 

. Demonstrate knowledge of the dynamics of colonialism, race, ethnicity, class, migration, and diasporic formations concerning the experience of Latin Americans throughout the hemisphere and the archipelagos.

. Evaluate the effects of different social issues in the region: colonial life, neo-colonial extraction, displacement, gender violence, racialization, state-promoted repression, corruption, and patriarchy.

. Articulate experiences of resistance, queer, feminist, racial, and cultural affirmation in a transnational and often migratory context.

Learning goals:

.Using interdisciplinary research methods to build and support arguments addressing issues and ideas that center Latin American and Caribbean peoples’ literary and cinematic production. 

.Develop skills for research, enhanced analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Students will communicate ideas and arguments in written, oral, and digital forms.

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

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 from the professor’s perspective, it is designed from the learner’s perspective. Each student will select their learning path via an option-based pedagogy. This approach can lead to several benefits for students, including:

.Increased engagement, understanding, and retention: When students are allowed to take an active role in their learning, they are more likely to be interested and invested in what they are learning and thus understand the material better.

.Improved self-directed learning: Student-centered methods can also help students learn how to take responsibility for their learning, which is an essential skill for success in school, the job market, and life.

.More opportunities for differentiation: Student-centered methods often allow for more chances to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of individual students, which can help to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Statement on grades and assessments: Grades do not reflect the subjective character of learning nor societal issues of access and equity. Everybody learns in different and complex ways that grades usually cannot reflect. This course will mainly focus on qualitative assessment. Qualitative assessment is driven by understanding how people make meaning of and experience the sources they engage with, something we will discuss further during the class. While you will be working toward a final grade at the end of the semester, I will not be grading individual assignments but instead commenting and asking questions that engage your work.

Grade breakdown: 

Online posts (3% each x 9): 25% (+2% extra credit)

Class presentation: 5%

Midterm project + self-evaluation: 30%

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, your final. I reserve the right to change your points if there is a disparity between your self-evaluations and my appreciation.


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 blog posts. After three absences, your standing in class could be affected. Please communicate your needs and concerns.

Statement on Covid-19: As determined by CUNY central, “for the Spring 2023 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, 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.  


Class Presentation

Research and analyze an assigned source from the syllabus. Present your breakdown orally and with slides based on the following questions (8-10 minutes):

. What ideas of this writer or filmmaker appeal to you the most? Why?

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

. Discuss how the structure of the text and its linguistic choices (style) enhance the narrative goals of the author.

. Can you show any analogy/relationship between what the author is saying and your personal experience? If this is not the case, can you establish any connection to 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 in case you prefer or need to work by yourself. After the presentation, you will respond to a post-presentation Q& A with the professor and classmates. *

Midterm: creative writing project

Write a short story (3-4 pages) from the narrative voice of a character in one of the sources we analyzed so far in the semester.


. Choose a source we covered in class with a well-developed and distinct character whose voice you would like to emulate.

. .Read the short story or novel, observe the film, and pay attention to the character’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Please take note of their unique, expressive style, tone, and use of language.

.Create a short story written from the character’s point of view. Make sure to use the same expressive style, tone, and use of language as the character in the original text.

.The story can be a continuation of the events in the original text or a completely new story that takes place in the same universe.

. In a reflective essay (3 pages), describe your creative process. Discuss the choices you made and the challenges you faced during the writing process. Reflect on what you have learned from the original text. Discuss how your short story integrates, interacts with, and/or replies to the main ideas presented by the original text. How has this exercise helped you incorporate past experiences into your identity and/or worldview?

(double space/ times new roman/font size 12)

Final project: 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 in class. 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 your takeaways regarding the literary and film works discussed during the semester and the themes we explored. This section should be an original account in your voice, not a general summary or a transposition of the syllabus.

.Through your perspective, in the following three sections of the letter, you will discuss three different sources we examined in class. Find good, relevant quotes to support your analysis. Focus on close reading, not generalities. Find connections between the works and write connecting sentences to tie them all. 

.In the last section, you will write an “all in all” reflection on what you got from these discussed sources and the class. 

(4-5 pages; double Space; font size 12)

Sample Project:


Statement on academic honesty: Learning involves pursuing openness and dialogue, which cannot be achieved 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 deduct the total percentage of missing work from your final grade. You are encouraged to email me or request a meeting for questions or further clarification of readings, audiovisual pieces, and assignments.  

Course materials:  Most readings will be available on Blackboard as pdfs except for these requested texts:

Alarcón, Daniel and Sheila Alvarado. City of Clowns. Riverhead Books, 2015.

Bellatin, Mario. Beauty Salon. Deep Vellum Publishing, 2021.

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 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.