During Centre College’s CentreTerm, a three-week January term that gives students the opportunity to explore unique topics and faraway places through immersive courses, students examined the character and spirit of the Hispanic people through selected works of Latin American literature, articles, art, film and music.
Jason Doroga, assistant professor of Spanish, focused the class on Latino culture in the U.S. by discussing severel main themes: the major historical events that have shaped how American society categorizes and understands Latino culture, and of equal importance, how Latinos themselves respond to the American experience. Among other topics, the course also covered U.S. Latino culture as something innovative and unique as a product of the amalgamation of two cultures—it is not only a continuation of Mexican culture, Cuban culture and so on.
Doroga said the course themes resonate with the students in a way that inspires him.
“They care about the way the Spanish language is perceived in the U.S.,” he added. “They care about the way Latinos are portrayed in the media and in pop culture. The course feels collaborative to me. I have main points that I want to communicate to the students, but our readings have multiple interpretations, and I want to hear what the students think about canonical readings.”
Doroga also said he approaches this course the same way he would teach a class abroad.
“The students are attentive and are looking for new, challenging and engaging experiences. There are more opportunities to do ‘out-of-the-box’ activities,” he explained. “We held a class at Kentucky Refugee Ministries and La Casita Center in Louisville, which contextualized our reading that we have done on Latino culture. Students might feel differently, but the three-hour time slot has been fantastic for digging deep into our main course themes. We did dramatic presentations of key scenes from Sandra Cisneros’s class novel ‘The House on Mango Street.’ The students used the entire three hours and presented extraordinary work.”
Annie Holmes ’20 (Louisville, Kentucky) said she took this course because she was interested in the topic, and it is relevant to today’s national conversation.
“I have friends who are part of the Latino community, and I wished to further explore their shared culture and experiences,” she said. “Although I have studied the Spanish language since elementary school, I feel that language is only one aspect of being a Spanish student and the other is cultural understanding. I felt as though my time as a Spanish student would be incomplete without this important component.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
February 12, 2019