Spring 2024 - WL 309 D100

Empire and Resistance (4)

Latin American mestizaje

Class Number: 6245

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Tue, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 16, 2024
    Tue, 7:00–10:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Juxtaposes the narratives of imperial conquest and colonial resistance. May focus on one particular imperial history or compare several. May feature narratives of rebellion and independence, national and/or postcolonial identity, or imperial nostalgia. This course may be repeated for credit when different topics are offered. Breadth-Humanities.


“We haven’t found the key to break the code, the unity of our soul. We are satisfied with knowing we are children of the conflict of two races.” With these words, Mexican intellectual Alfonso Reyes could be said to have summed up the essence of that complex, dual cultural heritage known as “mestizaje” that was born out of the violent clash between the Spaniards and the Amerindians during the Conquest. “Mestizaje” is a foundational concept that has been broached by Latin American intellectuals as distinguished as Octavio Paz, and it still informs the discourse of national identity and self-representation of many of the Latin American nations. In this course, we’ll begin by looking at some first-person accounts of the Conquest, such as Columbus’ “Letter of Discovery” (1493) in order to understand how the first Europeans to set foot in the New World constructed the idea of the Amerindian as the “Other.” Then, we will study early critiques of empire such as Bartolomé de las Casas’ A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552), as well as Garcilaso de la Vega’s The Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru (1609-1617) –itself a product of “mestizaje”–, which sings the praises of a New World empire that was decimated by the Spaniards. We will end this course by looking at contemporary Latin American intellectuals who have tried to re-write the Conquest as well as others who have seen the fecund potentialities of Latin American “mestizaje.” Bearing this in mind, we may ask ourselves: Is “mestizaje” a cultural heritage that holds the key to the creation of the “Cosmic Race,” as José Vasconcelos has argued? Or, on the contrary, is “mestizaje” a cultural and spiritual burden that Latin America must continually endure? 


  • Participation/Attendance 10%
  • Oral Report 15%
  • In-Class Essay 20%
  • Final Research Paper 25%
  • Final Exam 30%



Bartolomé de las Casas. A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies  

Garcilaso de la Vega. The Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru (Abridged)  

Octavio Paz. “The Sons of La Malinche” and “The Conquest and Colonialism” (available as a custom courseware package)  

Christopher Columbus. “Letter of Discovery” (available online) 

José Vasconcelos. The Cosmic Race  

Juan José Saer. The Witness 


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


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