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Social Change in Central America & Yucatán: Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement
This program explores the struggles of people in Mesoamerica, a region that stretches from southern Mexico to Costa Rica. You will learn more about the human rights crisis the region currently faces from the perspective of historically marginalized communities (such as Indigenous and Afro-descendant people, peasant communities, women, members of LGTBQ+, and youth). You will explore the historical causes of social, ethnic, racial, and political conflicts that have shaped the region and engage with communities, groups and individuals who are organizing themselves to respond to the challenges they face today. The unique histories and lives of the people you will meet not only inspire, but will also challenge you to think about your role as an agent of change.
- Learn about diverse approaches to environmental conservation, sustainability, economic issues, and social justice.
- Frequent guest speakers, excursions, and hands-on active learning to immerse you in the community and culture.
- Spanish language class with native Spanish speakers in small class sizes. All Spanish levels are welcome, from beginners to native speakers!
- Participate on a program run by an organization dedicated to social justice, which uplifts the voices of underrepresented and marginalized peoples in all programs.
- Host family stays with welcoming and friendly families in each country.
- Travel to three countries in one semester - El Salvador, Mexico, and Costa Rica, with additional travel within each country.
Courses are taken on a block schedule (one course at a time). All students will take the following courses, completing 16 Augsburg University credits during the semester:
- Spanish – up to 12 course choices available from beginning to advanced
- Latin American Liberation Theologies and Social Change (Religion 336)
- Citizen Participation with a Globalized Economy (Political Science 310)
- In the Aftermath of War: History, Memory and Transitional Justice in Central America (History/Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies 355)
Students will spend eight weeks living and learning in the Yucatán region in Southern Mexico, to hear the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples of the region. Small and intimate language classes provide unlimited opportunities to practice Spanish. Students will live with families and take Spanish language courses in Mérida. In addition to Mérida, students will travel and experience other areas of the Yucatán, such as archaeological sites Chichén Itzá, Palenque, and Uxmal, a week-long visit to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, among many other locations. Students will stay in a mixture of lodgings and with families throughout all of these excursions.
Upon departing Southern Mexico, students will travel to El Salvador. Students will travel throughout El Salvador for their Latin America Liberation Theology course, learning from local experts, visiting various churches and other historical sites.
In Costa Rica, students’ center of operation is the Latin American Biblical University, which serves as a space for classes and as a residence hall before moving in with families for the remainder of the semester. Students will stay with local families in the Cedros de Montes de Oca, a diverse middle class neighborhood, located just outside the capital city of San José.
Why This Program
This program is ideal for students whose career goals include working with immigrant populations in the U.S. (especially from Central America); working for Development Organizations and NGOs addressing developing issues and policies in the Global South; or students who imagine a life and career in grassroots organizing and activism in the U.S. While those might not be your career option, the program provides all students the personal and professional growth necessary to be aware and have a broad understanding of the world and their place in it.
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