Topics in American Politics: Latinos and the U.S. Political System

Spring 2011
Course Description
The purpose of this course is to provide a “critical” analysis of
the political conditions, status and the political behavior, activities and
impacts of the major Latino (or “Hispanic”) groups in the United States –
particularly Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban-Americans. Latinos
became the nation's largest ‘minority’ group in 2005 and are also the
largest minority group in U.S. schools. For this and other reasons the
political situation of Latinos are of broad social and political
significance. Thus, by examining the Latino situation in the U.S. a fuller
understanding of U.S. politics and government is developed (in a way and to
a degree not usually considered in ‘general’ analyses of U.S. politics).

We begin by considering various theoretical perspectives or
analytical frameworks and their accuracy and appropriateness for explaining
Latino politics. This is followed by a consideration of the historical
experiences and contemporary socioeconomic situations of Latino groups.
Attention then turns to an array of issues concerning individual political
attitudes, and political behaviors as well as activities and efforts to
influence the political system. Assessments of Latino influence upon the
local, state and national governmental institutions in the political system
-- and vice versa -- are next are considered. Policy areas particularly
significant for Latinos are also examined. A comparative perspective is
also integral to the analyses; i.e., the several major Latino groups are
compared with each other, and Latinos (as a whole) are occasionally compared
to various other groups as well. A number of fundamental theoretical and
normative issues will be addressed.