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PRLS 3325 Institutions of Urban Life & the Latinx Experience, 1848-2018 (Ortíz-Minaya): Syllabus

Professor Ortiz-Minaya's OER course

Course Description

This is an inter and trans-disciplinary course which has two main objectives. The first is to critically examine the multi-faceted evolution of the Latinx population as an urbanized segment of United States society. Specifically, the course seeks to provide a cross-cultural understanding of the diversity among Spanish-speaking people within the urban context. Different processes and roles over space and time will be problematized included but not limited to the role of urban institutions in the conflicts between assimilation and cultural preservation; the dynamics of migration, immigration, and settlement; and institutionalized participation in the social processes of United States urban life.

U.S. society today is in the middle of facing heightened social transformation in the early 21st Century. Since the inception of well over 150 years of Spanish presence in the United States, structures of inequality, oppression, and fusion remain in place. However, these structures—and challenges against them—are indeed changing along with the identity of what is “Urban” life and what roles Latinxs play in such formation.

Furthermore, as diverse social forces struggle over the terms of development and direction of change, the current state of affairs of Latinxs in the U.S. is full of rising social conflict, political mobilization, renewed revolutionary movements, further economic restructuring, transnational migration, and cultural redefinition. These are some of the aspects/dynamics that will be investigated throughout the course.

However, it is only possible [in 15 weeks] to cover a limited surface/amount of the complicated and rich history and multiple research agendas on the complex relationship between the making of urban life in the U.S. and the role of Latinxs within such historical formation.

The second goal is to improve your skills in critical reading and writing. You will work on understanding and interpreting the materials throughout the course. Paper assignments and essay exams will provide opportunities to develop your OWN interpretations systematically and polish your writing skills.

Course Goals

Learning Goal #1: Develop a critical understanding of multiple perspectives to challenge conventional narratives.

Learning Objective:

  • Students will understand various theoretical frameworks reflecting on their implications and practical consequences for Puerto Ricans/Latinx/Caribbean, and or Latin America. They will also critique concepts such as injustice, rights, advocacy, and citizenship vis-a-vis the Puerto Rican/Latinx communities, the Caribbean, and/ or Latin America.

Learning Goal #2: Develop an understanding of the dynamics of diversity in a globally interdependent world.

Learning Objective:

  • Students will articulate the experiences of Latinx/ Puerto Ricans in a trans-national context.


  • Mid-Term Take Home Essay: 30%
  • Final Research Paper: 40%
    • 30% Paper
    • 10% Annotated Bibliography
  • Participation: 20%
  • Film Response Papers: 10%

Course Requirements

Mid-Term Take Home Essay Exam (30% of Final Grade)

  • You will have to choose 1 out of 5 essay questions for you to answer in complete essay format in 2-4 pages.
  • Exam will be handed out Tuesday, October 9, 2018 and will be due Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at the beginning of class and Online via Blackboard.

Final  Paper (40% of Final grade= 30% paper, 10% annotated bibliography)

  • You will be responsible to write a 7-10 pages RESEARCH PAPER based on the material discussed in the course.
  • Final Paper is to be a critical review of the materials and topics covered in the course. You choose and clear the topic with me beforehand.
  • Annotated Bibliography: Due October 18, 2018 @ beginning of class and on Blackboard.
  • Research Paper: Due December 6, 2018 @ beginning of class and on Blackboard.

Your Final Research Paper must be 7-10 pages, and you MUST include a Bibliography and appropriate MLA/APA citations.
You MUST discuss what you have learned in the seminar, how the diverse themes have come together, and new lines of inquiry and research directions you feel are important within the field of Latinxs experiences in urban settings in the United States.

Attendance/Participation (20% of Final Grade)


Participation grades are based on qualitative assessment of YOUR contribution to class discussions. You are expected to come to class having already read assigned course materials for that week and demonstrate familiarity with assigned readings and critical thinking ability.  You will also have several opportunities to participate in other ways, such as through Blackboard.

I also reserve the right to give any number of pop quizzes throughout the semester. These will be factored into your participation grade. You should have nothing to fear if you come to class prepared on a regular basis.

Film/Documentary Response Papers (10% of Final Grade)
We will have at least 5 documentary/film screenings in which we will review selections. You are to write a response paper [2-3 pages] to the films shown in a manner that illustrates critical engagement of the material/literature from class discussions, assigned readings, and content of the films. This is not a summary of the films, but rather a serious and scholarly analysis of the film.

American Me (1992)
Blood In, Blood Out (1993)
Mi Vida Loca (1993)
Sin Nombre (2009)
World’s Most Dangerous Gangs: MS 13 (National Geographic @2006) [International films/documentaries on gangs overseas available upon request.]

Note to Students

Plagiarism and Cheating

The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both. The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn College procedure for implementing that policy can be found at this site: If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member MUST report the violation.

Center for Student Disability Services

In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at 718- 951-5538. If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services please provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with him/her.

Nonattendance because of religious beliefs

The New York State Education Law provides that no student shall be expelled or refused admission to an institution of higher education because he or she is unable to attend classes or participate in examinations or study or work requirements on any particular day or days because of religious beliefs. Students who are unable to attend classes on a particular day or days because of religious beliefs will be excused from any examination or study or work requirements. Faculty must make good-faith efforts to provide students absent from class because of religious beliefs equivalent opportunities to make up the work missed; no additional fees may be charged for this consideration.

If classes, examinations, or study or work requirements occur on Friday after 4 p.m. or on Saturday, similar or makeup classes, examinations, or study or work requirements will be made available on other days, where possible and practical. The faculty and the administration will not allow any adverse or prejudicial effects to accrue to students availing themselves of this regulation. If students have complaints about the application of this policy, they are entitled to bring action or a proceeding for enforcement of their rights in the Supreme Court of Kings County.