Latin American studies minor makes its way to UP

Minor expected to be available starting Fall 2024

By Tiffany Marquez Escobar | February 9, 2024 12:00pm
UP's newest Latin American Studies minor will tentatively be available to students starting Fall 2024.Graphic by Janea Melido.

In a report by the Latinx Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, Latin American studies was found to be offered at only 89 four-year colleges and universities. This is out of the over 2,600 institutions across the United States. 

Now, UP is about to join the list. The tentative start date for the minor is Fall of 2024.

Associate Professor of History and Department Chair Blair Woodard was one of the many professors advocating to bring Latin American studies to UP. Prior to his arrival in the fall of 2012, there had never been a history professor who specialized in Latin America.

“It sort of became a natural conversation with other members of the faculty who were here and also doing Latin America,” Woordard said.“So we started talking about it and it's been one of those things that I've never let go.”

The Latin American studies minor will take 16 total credit hours to complete and has a prerequisite of a 200-level, or intermediate, Spanish course. Besides this Spanish prerequisite, students will have seven various disciplines to take classes in. 

This includes, but is not limited to, history, environmental science and philosophy. There will also be a required capstone to complete. While no new classes will be made to specifically cater to this minor, the professors on board to teach the classes aim to utilize as many courses that are already available to ensure students can complete the minor. 

Prior to the new minor, the Spanish department only offered a Latin American studies track, giving Spanish majors the opportunity to focus on the region. The concentration was presented to UP by Maria Echenique, an associate professor of Spanish.

Echenique is also accredited for working alongside Woodard on the Latin American studies minor. With the new minor, both Echenique and Woodard aim to make Latin American studies accessible to more students.

“Sometimes what happens is that the only students that focus in the region are the ones that are also pursuing the language, because the classes are in Spanish and that limits, definitely, who our audience is,” Echenique said. “But the fact is that we can talk about Latin America without it being in Spanish, and luckily, we have enough professors now that are studying and researching the region and teaching about the region in English.” 

Benjamin Carey-DiGregorio, student representative on the Curriculum and Academic Regulations Committee, served as the student voice to add the minor to the curriculum. As part of his role, he, alongside Woodard, would visit Spanish classes to garner interest from the students and decide if the minor was something students would be interested in. 

“I think having more of that space to explore the culture and heritage is a really awesome opportunity for students that isn't otherwise presented,” Carey-DiGregorio said.

As the demographic of Latinx-identifying students at UP reaches its peak since 2014, sitting at 23% of the student body, the professors believe Latin American studies has been long overdue. 

“We’re one of the few universities on the West Coast that doesn't have this already, so it was also, in my opinion, really needed,” Woodard said.

Tiffany Marquez Escobar is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at

Ethan Sanders contributed to this story. He can be reached at