K-12 Teaching Resources

Latin America and the Caribbean in the Classroom: Resources in Political Science

No. 88 Spring 2003
Compiled by Nan Volinsky and Christine Klingsporn

Neighborly Adversaries: Readings in U.S.- Latin American Relations. Edited by Michael J. LaRosa and Frank O. Mora. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

From http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com/Courses/areastudies.shtml: “The history of U.S.-Latin American relations has been marked by a complex fusion of tension, misperception, intervention, and cooperation. Providing a balanced and interdisciplinary interpretation, this comprehensive text reader traces the troubled relationship from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present. Presenting seminal works that spawned an entire generation of revisionist scholarship, the editors have juxtaposed diverse views from both Latin American and U.S. academics and policymakers on a wide variety of issues spanning two centuries. This unique structure will help students to evaluate opinions while gaining a deeper understanding of the historical trajectory of scholarship and policies surrounding U.S.& Latin American relations. This format, together with the comprehensive scope of the readings, will encourage students to read across the disciplines, essential for generating meaningful dialogue"

"The readings are framed by the editors' opening chapter on U.S.-Latin American relations and introductory essays for each part and each selection. Students who use this book will learn that U.S.-Latin American relations, although based on specific policies, actions, and theories, have been deeply influenced by dynamic, constantly evolving scholarly interpretations in both the United States and Latin America. Comprehensive in scope yet comparative and historical in organization and structure, this collection will benefit students and specialists of Latin American history, politics, and international relations alike.”

This website from Georgetown University and the Organization of American States, provides an in depth database of political structures and systems in the Americas. Information can be sought either by country or type of governance. It is a great reference tool; this site provides general information and specific case studies.

This site is a compilation of links to Latin American and Caribbean government documents. A great research tool for students who are doing research papers or projects dealing with the various Latin American governmental structures.

The Latin American Bureau (LAB) Website Bookstore is a great resource for books on politics in Latin America. The assortment of books available is broad, covering regional issues and country-specific case studies for all the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The LAB has a series entitled “In Focus” that addresses the politics, economics, culture, and history of each nation. For example, Nicaragua In Focus discusses the following political topics: Sandinista divisions, conservatives in power, rolling back land reform, civil society, and grassroots politics.

In the “Country Profiles” of this website, you will find a brief description of each country including statistical and graphical information. Topics covered are area, population, ethnic composition, major cities, a summary of important economic indicators including GDP, exports, imports and trading partners, and brief descriptions of the political system, the military, and human rights.



This website is great for any social studies or government teacher who wants to discuss different governmental structures. This website covers basic information about the structure of Cuban government, as well as the names of government officials, political parties, and links to other government websites.



This site is a short fact page on the Venezuelan government. It will be useful for background information for more extensive lessons on the government in Venezuela.



This website, provided by the Latin American Data Base, University of New Mexico, does a great job of presenting the chain of events that led up to the failed military coup in April, 2002. It gives excellent background information and makes interesting comparisons with other socio-political incidents in Latin America.



Photo.net provides a synopsis of Costa Rican history, including information about Presidents and the establishment of the longest standing democracy in the Americas. This page would work well for doing a lesson on comparative political systems, especially within the Latin American context.

RETAnet (Resources for Teaching about the Americas) offers the following lesson plan and curriculum resource:


Mock OAS Conference
Lesson plan by Barbara Trujillo
Grade Level: 6-12
Subject Area: History, Sociology
This lesson plan is designed to be part of a larger unit on Latin America and the Caribbean. The unit covers geography, history, people, culture, economics and government. This mock conference would serve as the culmination of research done by students on specific nations of Latin America, with the following rationale:

  1. to give meaning to their research and to give students responsibility for in-depth learning.
  2. to help students develop an appreciation for the significance of multiple factors of history, geography, economics and culture on present day situations
  3. to help students understand the "art of negotiating" and the limited powers of organizations like the OAS.
  4. to develop an appreciation for how complex the issues are that The Americas face.
  5. to give students a reason to become familiar with ways to access both current and historical information through the electronic technology of the Internet.

Vagrants and Citizens: Politics and the Masses in Mexico City from Colony to Republic, a book by Richard A. Warren, 2001, is appropriate for grades 11-12. (Publisher: Scholarly Resources, 104 Greenhill Ave., Wilmington, DE 19805-1897 Phone: 800-772-8937, E-mail: sales@scholarly.com.

Description from this web page: “This is the first book to demonstrate the crucial role that the urban masses played in shaping political change as Mexico struggled to become a stable, independent nation state in the nineteenth century. Richard Warren examines the political world of Mexico City during the first tumultuous decades of the nineteenth century, from King Ferdinand VII's abdication of the Spanish crown in 1808 to the end of Mexico's first federal republic in 1836. He shows that the relationship between elites and the urban masses was central to Mexico's political evolution during the struggle for independence and in the decades thereafter. As alternative political models were contested, the poor stepped into the political arena in both traditional and new forms, from riots to electoral campaigns. Warren explains how their presence influenced elite perceptions of the new nation's problems and potential solutions. Control of Mexico City, capital of both the old viceroyalty and the new nation, was essential to any group aspiring to national authority. Its population often served as the first wave of "public opinion" to respond to the national policies. This book reveals important themes: the changing role of elections in the transfer of power at the municipal and congressional levels, and the place of electoral practices in the broader political culture; the relationship between the evolving concept of popular sovereignty, the political mobilization of the masses, and elite programs to put society back in order; and the conflict between the municipal and national governments over the distribution of authority and the role of the masses in this situation. This volume sheds new light on this poorly understood era and shows the importance of the urban masses both as actors in their own right and as objects addressed in elite discourse and programs. Vagrants and Citizens is ideal for courses on Mexican history and Latin American studies.”

Overview of Latin American Electoral Systems by the Inter-American Dialogue


This page contains a brief summary of the electoral systems in Latin America. Provides the following information on Latin American nations: presidential system, legislative system, governors and municipalities, and general electoral information. For instance, in Bolivia, the presidential system is described as follows: “Beginning in 1997, the president will be elected for a five-year term without the possibility of consecutive re-election. The president may run for office again after one term has passed. If no candidate receives a majority, the Congress chooses the president from among the top three candidates in a secret ballot.”

The general electoral information provided for Peru reads, “In April 1992, President Fujimori dissolved Congress and called for new congressional elections. The new 80-member Congress served for two years and drafted a new Constitution, which was approved by a nationwide referendum in October 1993 by 52% of the people who voted. The new Constitution dissolved regional government and created a larger 120-member unicameral Congress. The new Constitution also permits the president to run for re-election.”

This page also provides information on recent and upcoming elections in Latin America.