Latin American studies (major)
The Latin American Studies major is one of three tracks in the Spanish and Portuguese Department (the other two are literature and Hispanic studies). You can begin the major at any level of Spanish proficiency, but you will need to complete the four semesters of Spanish or its equivalent. Latin American Studies, which focuses on the language, history, and culture of Latin America, is a great major for the student whose language interests go beyond the four semesters requirement but aren't limited to just literature. The requirements for the major -- and there are plenty -- allow for a rigorous yet flexible interdisciplinary course of study, which means enough variety to intrigue you and enough Spanish to keep your tongue sharp.
The major weighs in at around 40 points worth of courses, enough to keep even native speakers busy. Two introductory courses, 3200 and 3332, are intended to acclimate students to serious reading and writing in Spanish: 3200 can be considered L&R in Spanish, while 3332 is a less rigorous version of Lit Hum. Latin American Humanities I and II, taught in English traditionally by some of the department's finest professors, provide an introduction to Latin American literature and thought, as well as an opportunity to kill the Core's Major Cultures requirement with a single stone. For those actually interested in Spanish-speaking lit classes, Barnard's Colonialism through Modernism (3351) can be substituted for Lat Hum I.
The real thrill of the major begins with the rest of the requirements: any two history courses covering Latin America, five courses in a department of your choosing (nine options from which to choose), and a senior seminar in Spanish, Political Science or your chosen department. The two history courses need not be in the History Department, so avoid Latin American Civilization unless you desperately need *another* oversubscribed class. Also, given the overcrowding of some departments (Economics, for instance), you are given the option, not a guarantee, of taking a seminar in your department of choice. Departmental representatives and administrators are extremely stingy on this matter.
The Spanish Department itself can be viewed as half full or half empty. Advising is suspect at best, so don't expect many pearls from the departmental rep about what courses to take. Conversely, the major affords tremendous freedom, benefitting brave souls eager to discover previously unknown interests. As much if not more than any other major at Columbia, Latin American Studies provides students the ability to pursue an extremely diverse course of study tailored to their own liking.