Latin American and Latino Studies

32 Merrill Academic Building
(831) 459-4284

Programs Offered

Latin American and Latino Studies B.A.

Latin American and Latino Studies/Politics Combined Major

Latin American and Latino Studies/Sociology Combined Major

Latin American and Latino Studies Minor

Latin American and Latino Studies Ph.D.

Latin American and Latino Studies Designated Emphasis

LALS is the combination of Latin American studies and Latina/o/x studies. LALS is grounded on the understanding that U.S. Latina/o/x, Chicana/o/x and Latin American peoples, subjects, histories and processes are interrelated. It is an area of study that draws from disciplines and fields. Our disciplines include sociology, history, anthropology, political science, economics, environmental studies, and literature. Our fields include ethnic studies, migration studies, environmental studies, media studies, communications, cultural studies, feminist studies, and health studies. Our focus is across the Américas, and our mission is driven by a deep commitment to activist scholarship, engaged teaching, and social justice.

Undergraduate Program

The Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) Department prepares students to be active global citizens, engaged in rigorous educational study with "real world" applications. Our students become committed scholars who want to better understand the roots of major issues like inequality, rights, oppression, globalization, and migration—and to learn about effective strategies for addressing them through a variety of fields and disciplines. Our students take seriously the importance of understanding others from a variety of perspectives, and engaging peoples and ideas through several languages including English, Spanish, and Portuguese. LALS students learn about the historical, economic, social, political, and cultural processes that are shaping and transforming the Américas. Our majors graduate with a commitment to social change with tools to help make our world a just place for all.

LALS is for students interested in better understanding the Américas. It is for students who 1) want to learn from multiple perspectives and work directly with faculty; 2) are interested in ethnic studies, Latin America,  human rights, and social change; and, 3) want to know about the roles various countries, peoples, and cultures have played in shaping Latina/o/x and Latin America today. LALS students have the opportunity to take major courses in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Our majors study topics, concepts, and theories grounded in the Américas to learn about local, regional, global, and transnational dimensions shaping our world. LALS students often become involved in local communities, in Santa Cruz County, and in their hometowns. They strive to build the community resources and opportunities that help everyone thrive.  

LALS is for students who want flexibility in pursuing educational opportunities within their degree coursework. The interdisciplinary structure of our major encourages students to explore many different kinds of courses, opportunities, and programs. Many of our students combine their study with other majors in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and sciences. LALS also encourages transfer students and works closely with them to ensure their success in the major. There are no specific high school-level courses required for admission to the major in LALS at UCSC, but we encourage you to embrace as much language preparation as possible.

LALS students learn about individual countries of the Américas; about historical and contemporary issues, processes, and cultures; about migration, transnationalism, intersectionality, inequality, collective action, social movements, power and culture; and about strategies and solutions for addressing questions of rights, advocacy, and justice. LALS students investigate the historical, political, economic, social, and cultural processes that are shaping and transforming the Américas region. By viewing societies as interrelated—specifically U.S. Latino/a communities and Latin American/Caribbean communities—LALS students learn to analyze from multiple perspectives, to understand imperialism and colonialism, and to clarify local, regional, global, and transnational dimensions affecting the histories, politics, and cultures of the hemisphere.

In addition to academic knowledge, LALS supports and encourages students to pursue opportunities to acquire practical skills. Through internships and field study experiences, students can acquire useful, pre-professional skills in key areas, such as political advocacy, community development, public policy, education, legal services, and research.

Graduates of the LALS major have forged careers in a wide variety of fields, including environmental activism, community organizing, teaching, health care, legal services, politics and government service, and journalism. Many have gone on to pursue advanced degrees in the U.S. or abroad in fields such as law, anthropology, bilingual education, media, communications, cultural studies, ecology, economics, geography, history, literature, educational counseling, public health, and sociology. LALS majors graduate with knowledge, skills, and understandings that propel them forward into exciting careers grounded in justice, rights, and creating social change.

Graduate Program

The Ph.D. program in Latin American and Latino Studies at UC Santa Cruz offers an innovative transnational and interdisciplinary approach to the study of the peoples, cultures, societies and institutions of the Américas. The program is designed to educate students in this new field of study and train them to develop the conceptual and analytical skills necessary for understanding the dynamics of hemispheric change. This is the first doctoral program in Latin American and Latino Studies. In preparing students for research and teaching at the university level, the department offers four thematic clusters in the emerging field of Latin American and Latino studies: 1) transnational migrations within the Américas; 2) social inequalities; 3) cultural politics and cultural flows; and 4) collective action and social movements. Doctoral students specialize in one of these four substantive themes, as well as a focus area of their own design.

  1. Transnationalisms, Migrations, and Displacement. While transnational migrations are the subject of research in multiple disciplines, this program analyzes these transformative processes through an interdisciplinary lens. A transnational approach examines links between regions in the Américas, analyzing the social and historical foundations of economic dynamics such as remittances from the United States or the dollarization of Latin American countries. A transnational approach to the study of migratory processes explores the dynamics of bi-national communities, bilingualism and multilingualism, immigrant integration into host societies, and North-South exchanges of ideas and cultures.
  2. Intersectionality, Identities, and Inequalities. This program’s research in the Américas foregrounds the study of transnational social inequalities formed by power relations based on race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, class, territory, gender and/or sexuality. These social hierarchies are analyzed as institutions, historical processes, discourses, or symbols with multiple meanings, and are examined in terms of how they have been mobilized to build, transform, or challenge identities, communities, and social movements in local, national, and global contexts over time.
  3. Cultural, Power, and Knowledge. Another distinctive area of inquiry in the Américas is the study of cultural politics and cultural flows that shape everyday life, institutions, social identities, discourses, meanings, and cultural forms and practices, in global, regional, and local contexts in an increasingly interconnected and integrated world. The transnational analysis of culture focuses on the ways in which cultural forces and cross-cultural communication and media are contributing to the formation of new transnational imaginaries, as well as how these cultural processes are transforming and redefining national and local cultures.
  4. Collective Action, Social Movements, and Social Change. This area of research addresses collective action and social movements at local, national and international levels viewed through transnational lenses. As migrants engage in public life, both in their communities of residence and in their communities of origin, they construct diverse practices of political participation, including "civic bi-nationality.” These processes are crucial for understanding the largest wave of immigration in a century, including how migrants relate to U.S. society. 

The doctoral program provides rigorous training in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of transnational processes that link the Americas. The program educates doctoral students in the theories and research methods based in disciplines of the social sciences and the humanities.