Why I Majored in Latin American Studies

Alfredo E. Moreno ’22

I chose to major in Latin American studies on a whim—I had just switched out of the chemistry major. As I took more classes, I fell in fascination with the region’s stories and people. As someone of Latin American descent myself, I felt a visceral connection to those stories and people. I guess majoring in Latin American studies was like swearing an oath of devotion and remembrance to my roots. All in all, the answer is hazy but the decision to major in Latin American studies was ultimately a no-brainer for me.

I absolutely enjoy the flexibility that I have with this major. The courses required for the major are simple. Don’t be fooled, however, because the classes are rigorous. This is expected since we are studying an entire hemisphere (studying Latin America and the Caribbean intrinsically means studying the United States). This in itself comes with the advantage of approaching my work from the point of view of various disciplines—philosophy, history, politics, public health, art to name a few. Truly a 47-in-1 major!

During the first summer of the pandemic in 2020, I interned remotely for an online publication/non-profit organization. On the surface, I was writing stories on Central America for a U.S. audience. I made it a point to write stories that described tragedy and the resistance, activism, and hope that comes out of it. In doing so, I wanted to objectively describe the plight of Central Americans and how they cope. Writing these stories inspired me to advocate against the trope of the “corrupt Banana Republic.” I think U.S. media reinforces this trope, and it can persist in the minds of people unless the issue is critically examined. By continuing this trope, we are building walls in the exact moment that we need to be building bridges.

For my final thesis, I want to analyze how state-enforced policies actively create the violent conditions that harm Latin Americans’ physical and mental health. I hypothesize that I will find information that paints the story of a region (for lack of better phrasing) playing and intense game of poker that dates back to the region’s inception.

In the future, I hope to continue to create bridges with Latin America. Before coming to college, I never thought I would be able to say that. In nurturing my growth, I would like to give a huge shout out to my faculty advisor Professor Miguel Tinker Salas. He has been an inspiration to me and all of his students in the midst of this pandemic. I would also like to thank my friend and brother Gerardo Rodriguez, who is also a Latin American Studies major. We are always talking about the future of politics, diplomacy, Latin American, the U.S., and the world. I can hardly wait to work with him in the future.