BA English Literature and Spanish

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Culture and Cold War in Latin America

Course unit fact file
Unit code SPLA20871
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit explores the role that culture played as a field of struggle during the Cold War in Latin America. From US interventions in Central America and the Caribbean in the 1950s, through the Cuban Revolution and Che Guevara’s call for continent-wide uprisings during the 1960s, right up to the authoritarian regimes and civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s, Latin America was a key battleground in a period marked by the split between capitalist and communist ideologies. Culture was one way in which Latin Americans, often in response to cultural interventions on the part of the US and the USSR, sought to position themselves.  


Students will reflect on how different cultural forms (such as literature, film, art, photography, magazines, essays, testimonio, etc.) in different Latin American countries engaged with the social and political impact of the Cold War. Analysis of those texts will be situated within the wider history of the period in Latin America, with a particular focus on key cultural policies and events (e.g. the activities of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the creation of Prensa Latina, the Padilla Affair, etc.) that shaped cultural production. 


Medium of Language: English, though some primary texts will only be available in Spanish.

Available on: SPLA

Available as Free Choice: Yes (though please note language requirements) 



  • To provide a historical overview of how the Cold War (c.1947-c.1989) developed in Latin America 

  • To highlight the role that key cultural events and policies (drawn up by both foreign powers and Latin American nation states) played within that history 

  • To reflect on how participants in the cultural field variously promoted, commented on and resisted the different ideological positions that characterised the Cold War 

  • To analyse and compare a range of cultural texts from different Latin American countries 

  • To explore the multiple and changing relationships between cultural production and politics 


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this unit students will be able to: 


  • communicate knowledge of key historical events in the Cold War as it played out in Latin America 

  • identify different ideological standpoints taken by diverse actors, both foreign and domestic, during this period, with a particular focus on the cultural field 

  • understand some of the ways that cultural producers (artists, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, etc.) engaged with the politics of the Cold War 


Intellectual skills

By the end of this unit students will be able to: 


  • synthesise historical trends in the Cold War and draw comparisons between different national and political contexts 

  • analyse the role that culture played in the specific socio-political contexts of Cold War Latin America 

  • engage critically with diverse cultural texts (broadly understood) that address different aspects of the Cold War 

  • discuss the theoretical relationship between culture and politics in relation to the Cold War in Latin America 


Practical skills

By the end of this unit students will have enhanced their ability to: 


  • communicate ideas in written form 

  • deploy effective research strategies 

  • undertake close-reading of cultural texts 

  • work in groups 

  • engage critically with primary sources in the target language 


Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this unit students will have enhanced their ability to: 


  • demonstrate independent, analytical and critical thinking 

  • utilise research into historical events, cultural policies and cultural texts  

  • present an argument in written form 

  • work constructively in group activities 

  • use theory to analyse cultural texts where appropriate 


Employability skills

This unit will be particularly useful for students interested in pursuing careers related to the following areas: cultural industries (publishing, art, museums, translation, etc.) politics journalism humanitarianism, particularly in the developing world Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world postgraduate study

Assessment methods

Assessment task Formative or Summative Weighting within unit (if Summative)
Essay 1 Summative and Formative 25%
Group video presentation Summative and Formative 25%
Essay 2  Summative 50%

Resit Assessment

Assessment task

Feedback methods

Feedback method  

Formative or Summative 

Essay 1: individual written feedback and oral feedback for whole cohort 

Formative and summative 

Group video presentation: written feedback for each group 

Formative and summative 

Essay 2: individual written feedback 


Recommended reading

Beverley, John (2004) Testimonio: On the Politics of Truth 

Brands, Hal (2010) Latin America’s Cold War 

Franco, Jean (2002) The Rise and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War 

Grandin, Greg (2004) The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War  

Iber, Patrick (2015) Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America 

Keller, Renata (2019) ‘The Revolution Will Be Teletyped: Cuba's Prensa Latina News Agency and the Cold War Contest Over Information’, Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol.21(3), pp.88-113. 

Larsen, Neil (1992) ‘The "Boom" Novel and the Cold War in Latin America’, Modern Fiction Studies, Vol.38(3), pp.771-784 

Pettinà, Vanni (2018) Historia mínima de la Guerra Fría en América Latina 

Stites Mor, Jessica and Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas, eds. (2018) The Art of Solidarity: Visual and Performative Politics in Cold War Latin America 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Scorer Unit coordinator
Ignacio Aguilo Unit coordinator

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