Have you used this book?

I just discovered Hispanidades, which breaks down El espejo enterrado, which Tulane faculty already felt they were slightly … cheating … by using in the 80s, since it was already so masticado. Should I in fact be teaching at a lower-than-that evel for a culture course that is taken in the sixth semester? Or has this textbook been created for use in the case of having many graduate students, M.A. instructors and adjuncts teaching this course, and not for people like me who do not need it?

I have not used El espejo enterrado before but I had decided to relent and use it; I also ordered a series of essays on cultural studies and intend to annotate and illustrate all of this somehow. Now that seems dry and dull and too hard for the students and time consuming for me, and I am impatient with the tone of El espejo enterrado (and Fuentes is not my favorite author).

My problem is that I must cover all of Latin America and Spain, and some students may only know enough Spanish to read, say, 15 pages a week. I used to not attempt “coverage” of that kind, but simply choose five interesting topics and discuss them. I have all sorts of lists of these but what might it be interesting to discuss this time? It would serve me well to emphasize Mexico and Spain as much as possible, but what else would I like to have people have heard of before they hit Take 1 of senior year? A very rough list —

0. What is Hispanic, Maps of the Hispanic World, Spain and the Mediterranean (here we should see slides).
1. The Spanish civil war. I need them to know about this. We could talk about the present events in Spain then.
2. His- and Her- Panics. Gender, gender politics.
3. Galeano, Las venas abiertas de América Latina, and updated discussions around this. The economy and colonialism.
4. The Mexican Revolution, what came before and after it. We could talk about the present events in Mexico as we did this.
5. Afro-, Indo- and other non Hispanic Latin Americas. Is there a way to talk about this without going on about mestizaje?

Ay, but that, at this university, would be a senior level course, so round and round we go. I am highly tempted to switch to this Hispanidades book right now and supplement it, but I so dislike textbooks and it would be such a last minute change.


13 thoughts on “Have you used this book?

  1. I have nothing useful except that this course sounds awesome and I would totally want to take it.

    Oh, and maybe this: have you read Soccer in Sun and Shadow? I read it in English, so I don’t know what it’s like in Spanish, but it’s utterly beautiful and also less serious and bloody than some of the rest of this, so if you needed something like that…

  2. I have not used nor seen Hispanidades, but a dumb down version of El Espejo …is a little too much for my conscious to take. When I use El Espejo…, I dumb down the chapters on my own, straight lecture on them for about 30 minutes, and then move on to more interesting things.

  3. When you use the Espejo Enterrado, do you use the DVDs? I do not have them and do not want to buy but am thinking perhaps I must, if they are to get through the text. I do not want to buy with my cash because I do not want them myself, but on the other hand they may just make it possible for the students to handle the book.


    Had I not found these brilliant teaching modules from Columbia which were then taken down before I grabbed them, I would have kept building my course and not ended up ordering this Espejo at the last minute.

    (Maybe I will write someone at Columbia, gosh, I was going to steal your class but you have prevented this, can you now just donate it?)

    1. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never seen the videos. My institution has them on VHS, my VCR stopped working years ago, and I am too lazy to watch them at my institution. There is a 30 minutes documentary that I’ve discovered and like to show: “Sentinels of Silence”, narrated by Orson Welles. You can find it online for free (I think it’s on Vimeo).

      Actually, I would try emailing the Columbia person. You never know. I’ve shared copies of my syllabi and material I use for my classes with readers, and I have no problem doing it. In fact, I enjoy doing it. Teaching is a collaborative enterprise, and I am glad helping with what I am good at. In fact, if you want my dumb down power points of Fuentes, just let me know and I’ll be glad to send them to you (though I only have a few chapters, mostly of the colonial era).

  4. Ay, you have jogged my memory. The post is wrong because I am still trying to semi anonymize, and some of the falsities I speak block true memories, for example of the Tierra Mágica. It is this Tulane thing we, at my former institution, were embarrassed to use but did use as a stopgap, until we each came up with something less generic. At my present institution it probably is exactly right although it doesn’t do Spain, which is why I came up with the Fuentes book.

    But I will definitely look at the Tierra Mágica, I haven’t in, like, 20 years. And I am definitely e-mailing Columbia, should have before, these are people I know, and I’ll look at Sentinels of Silence which I have not seen.
    And I’d love to see your .ppts.

    It is: anything I would truly like and that would be easy for me would have to be given here at a higher level, and to do something at the level I must and include Spain I would have needed and may still have to create my own teaching modules, and I have other new courses this spring, and it is smart to use a textbook or somebody else’s modules or something.

  5. Until Wednesday, I only have an IPod Touch that is acting up, and I am a little incompetent, technology wise. I just sent you, to your Real life email, a link to one of the power points. I doubt it will work, but would you check it and tell me if by some miracle it actually did work?

  6. There was also this course at Columbia that had its modules online, which impressed me more than my own plan, and which I was planning to shamelessly lift, crediting Columbia and impressing my students with the idea of taking as our point of departure a syllabus from Columbia University. Then wily Columbia took their materials down and I was discouraged, because I had liked what they had already done even better than my own proto-plan. However, I am betting that my plan is better than any textbook, although we might now want to use part of the Fuentes book I ordered.


    This module will address its title question and also the question, what is it to analyze cultural production and cultural objects? We will consider as well the distinction(s) among high, popular and mass culture. We could read some brief essays from Roland Barthes, Mythologies (very popular in the Spanish speaking world) and from a critic like Jesús Martín-Barbero (who analyzes mass culture). As part of this introductory module we might analyze something just for the sake of practice in contextualization. It could be a series of ads for a particular product, or the way the image of a major cultural figure (e.g. Frida Kahlo, Eva Peron, Diego Maradona, Che Guevara) has been deployed. (And if this is not too ambitious, the students could do semester long research projects on some more of these figures, and those presentations could be the final exam.) Then we would move on to our first topical unit, analyzing maps.


    Here we would look at maps as active objects. Maps are not just neutral reflections of reality (although they do give information), they are also indicators of cultural attitudes, imperial plans, horizons, and more.

    Spain: with Greece, Rome, Visigoths, Arabs; Reconquista, expansion into Europe, Africa, America, Asia; current maps with regional divisions.

    Americas: indigenous maps, Peters projection, upside down map, historical maps (e.g. viceroyalties, Gran Colombia, Mexico before the war with the United States), and more.

    I would have to get all these maps and put them into slides for Moodle or Drupal.


    There is a lot to say on this question. It could segue into several other discussions, which could be threads in this one or units on their own, to wit:

    1. Prehispanic cultures and their continuing presence in the Americas
    2. Indigenous, Afro-Hispanic, and minority identities (such as Judeo-Hispanic, and so on)
    3. Mestizaje, race, and racism (readings from A. Castro [Spain] as well as Latin American classic writers, to start with, and then more current news and legal discussions)
    4. U.S. Latino identities
    One could include here excerpts from Benedict Anderson and his concept of nation as “imagined communities”, followed by fragments of Facundo, “Nuestra America”, and then the new Colombian constitution of 1991 in relation to the recognition of indigenous cultures (and the critiques it has received from many sides). What is a nation? What constitutes a nation? How do we imagine the indigenous elements in relation to projects of modernity in the periphery?

    The point would not be to “cover” these topics completely, but to choose some key cultural objects that engage the issues, and contextualize and analyze these.


    This is easy to teach and important, and is something people know surprisingly little about. There is a lot of interesting film, art, songs, news reporting, videotaped interviews of people, etc., to use.


    We have a lot of film on this and there is a lot to talk about. Spain is an important country in this area since there have been a lot of recent changes in laws on child custody, domestic violence, abortion, gay marriage, and so on. This could be a stereotype breaking unit, since Mexico too has comparatively advanced laws now, and Latin American and Spanish feminisms, gay rights movements, and so on are very large. What is patriarchy, what is machismo, what are traditional divisions of gender, what struggles are there around these issues?
    …Entre Villa y una mujer desnuda is a good film to watch here and it fits in with the FAMOUS IMAGES concept and also opens to discussions of current economies.


    Immigration from Mexico to the U.S. is not the only kind of immigration there is in the Hispanic world: consider Africans in Spain, Bolivians in Argentina, Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, and so on, as well as migrations within countries (sierra to coast in Peru, for instance). Materials can include the Argentine movie “Bolivia” by Adrian Caetano, about which there is a fair amount written, and more.


    Galeano, Naomi Klein, film Our Brand is Crisis, NAFTA…


    TYPE 1

    Discourse around sports, Carnaval, television; research on national film industries or a particular director; research on Hispanic languages (note the plural here), research on music, art, dance, food, sports; research on the imagery and discourse surrounding a current political or economic issue. Any cultural or socially relevant topic allowed so long as the focus is on analysis of cultural production. Remember, though, that this is a junior, not a senior or graduate level course, so we want research that involves critical thinking skills, yet also beginner’s projects for people still in the process of mastering el castellano.

    TYPE 2


      1. But, it is a great resource list. At the very least I could get students to find and view some of these films.

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