The eight week program consists of lectures, group work, field trips, and village stays. A typical class day includes lectures and discussions in class meetings from 11:30 am to approximately 2:00 pm. Local and statewide field trips, ranging in length from an afternoon to four days, are also scheduled. Students will learn about the history of Mexico and the state of Oaxaca, and will focus on the cultural and environmental diversity of the state. Special emphasis will be given to problems of development in the region – cultural, social, political, economic, and environmental – with particular attention given to the efforts of local peoples to address these problems.
These classes will consist of lectures by the faculty member and visits by local guest speakers from different non-governmental organizations working in Oaxaca. We will take full advantage of the small class size, so there will be ample room for discussions. We will reinforce the issues discussed in class through field visits and village stays. As such, even though a typical day will involve class meetings, students will also travel to various sites in the state to meet with different people and organizations. Weekends will of course be free, and there is variety of entertainment options available. For more information, consult the preliminary syllabus.
The program is supplemented by an intensive language class with local teachers, tailored to the student’s Spanish proficiency. While this class is optional, it is highly encouraged for all participants. Students will be assigned a level according to their language skills. These classes will meet in the morning from Monday-Friday for 2 hours every day for the first 6 weeks of the program, to give the students ample background and time to brush up on their language skills. There will be some interruption in the schedule for the full day field visits. Upon return to Tucson, the students will have the opportunity to test out of the equivalent of the language classes they have taken in Oaxaca.
GEOG 455/555: Advanced Regional Study (9 credits)
This international field class provides nine hours of geography credit in the University of Arizona’s Department of Geography and Regional Development. GEOG 455 is the undergraduate version; GEOG 555 is intended for graduate students. Both courses convene at the same time, with additional research expectations for graduate students.
SPAN 299: Independent Study (3 credits)
The program is supplemented by three credit hour intensive language class with local teachers, tailored to the student’s Spanish proficiency. While this class is optional, it is highly encouraged for all participants. Students will be assigned a level according to their language skills. These classes will meet in the morning from Monday-Friday for 2 hours every day for the first 6 weeks of the program, to give the students ample background and time to brush up on their language skills.
The final grade for the undergraduate students will be based on a weekly reaction paper in which students relate the readings and issues in class with their own observations and experiences from field trips, combined with a final essay. Graduate students will supplement these requirements with a preliminary research paper of 10 pages.
The program is based in the City of Oaxaca, in the southeastern part of Mexico. Oaxaca's city center with its outdoor cafes and its historic buildings offer a glimpse of Mexico's colonial past, while the new settlements spreading up the hillsides and the ongoing protests in the Zocalo, the main plaza, point to some of the more problematic issues facing this area.
The program also includes several fieldtrips into the countryside. The state of Oaxaca is in itself a world of many worlds. The state's ecosystems range from deserts and high mountain cloud forests to tropical rainforests and coastal regions, yielding the greatest geographical range and biodiversity in Mexico.
Oaxaca’s human geography is equally diverse. Sixteen indigenous groups, each with its own distinct language, culture and tradition, comprise two thirds of the state's population. The indigenous communities base themselves in their communal life and provide a different perspective on life experience in the contemporary world. These communities are on the forefront of political change in Mexico and are transforming the political landscape with their demands for autonomy and respect for their culture.
Students will be housed by middle class families in the city of Oaxaca, enabling them to experience firsthand the lifestyles and cultures of local residents.
Faculty Director John Paul Jones III is a Professor in the School of Geography and Development and Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.
The local Faculty Director is Oliver Frohling; he is also the director of the program's educational partner in Oaxaca, the Universidad de la Tierra. He is an accomplished scholar/activist with extensive experience in the politics and development of Oaxaca. The Spanish classes will be given by local experienced language teachers. In addition, we count on the support and guest lectures by Gustavo Esteva, a renowned writer and intellectual from Oaxaca who has written a number of books on economics and development and is now heavily involved in the movement for indigenous rights in Oaxaca, as well as experienced guest speakers from a variety of NGOs. Prerequisites: The prerequisites are one year of college level Spanish, minimum sophomore standing, and approval of the instructor.
During the field visits students will have the chance to appreciate the many facets of the state and will have a chance to directly observe the issues discussed in class. The current plans for site visits are:
- Archaeological sites Monte Alban and Mitla: A short way out of the city, these ruins offer a glimpse of the splendor of prehispanic civilization.
- Ecotourism project in the Sierra Juárez: Located in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, and offers a view of the rapidly changing mountain ecology, ranging from cloud forests at about 10,000 ft altitude to humid tropical forests, all within a days walk. It is also an example of a community that took over a state owned logging company and is now trying to use their forests in a different way.
- Coastal trip (4 days): In this trip to the coast of Oaxaca, we will see the reconstruction efforts after the disastrous hurricanes of 1997, as well as a variety of community projects concerned with environmental issues and rights of indigenous people, as for example in the Lagoon of Manialtepec. We will also visit a finca in the coffee growing area in the mountains that rise up from the coast. This trip will take place before a weekend, so students who decide to do so, are free to stay over the weekend at the beach.
There will be several meetings with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) located in Oaxaca, to get their view on the issues discussed in class. Among them are ecological groups, indigenous organizations, and women's organizations. In addition, the program includes a one week village stay, where students will be dropped off at different villages in order to experience first hand the living conditions in rural Oaxaca. This means to participate for one week in the lives of people and to gain an insight into the rhythm of community life. Through this participation, one can gain a much better insight into the meaning of development, and gain an appreciation and respect for the different viewpoints of people.