Jun 28, 2012

Many Faces of Mexico

More than two million Americans visited Mexico in the first half of the year, 11 percent more than were recorded in the same period of 2011. The fact that Mexico is the top U.S. tourist destination may be one reason for enrolling in the Many Faces of Mexico, a three-credit course at Central Lakes College that explores cultural, historical, and social realities that form contemporary Mexico. If you’re planning to spend any time there and really want to appreciate the culture it makes sense to improve the experience.
North of the border, Hispanics or Latinos constitute 16.3 percent of the total U.S. population, or 50.5 million people.
            Jan Kurtz of Central Lakes College has been a cheerleader for the Spanish culture for more than 25 years. “We offer a great curriculum of very timely material,” said Kurtz, a Spanish and Latin American Studies instructor at CLC, who has enhanced the course by collaboration with the author of the text used to teach the class.
“The feedback we get from those who’ve taken the course is nearly unanimous in that the students find it invaluable.”
            The course has usually filled to its capacity, which this fall is 34. Kurtz was on sabbatical last year and wants it known that she is back teaching the class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 a.m. on the Brainerd campus.
            She describes the course as “interactive, updated…a double dipper that takes you from the Mayan civilization to the Major League.” She notes that 20 percent of Major League Baseball players are Latinos.
            Taught in English, the course involves small-group and paired activities, personal journals, and web searches to explore pre-Spanish Mexico via the Aztecs, Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayas, and other civilizations.
            The historic underpinning moves right into Minnesota in the present, covering topics of art, music, bilingualism, immigration and politics. For degree-track students, the course has transferred credits for history, culture, anthropology, and Spanish majors and minors.
When Kurtz was 15 she went to Mexico and stayed with a Mexican family. It was this trip where she learned so much about the Spanish culture and it became her passion. After high school, Kurtz attended Hamline University and majored in Spanish. She did her junior semester abroad in Seville, Spain.
            Kurtz feels the Many Faces of Mexico class is more relevant now, due to debates over immigration, English-only, voter ID, driver’s licenses, and deportation. “Spanish has unofficially become the second language of the U.S., and Latinos are the largest minority,” she said.
            “We live in a multicultural world,” she said. The goal is a better understanding of today’s economic, political, and sociological interrelationship between the U.S. and Mexico. “What future will we forge between these two neighbors?” Kurtz asked.
Students studying law enforcement, nursing, social services, and education – “pretty much everyone can gain from this class,” Kurtz said.
            For information, e-mail jkurtz@clcmn.edu or register for SPAN2420 via the web site www.clcmn.edu
            The fall term starts Aug. 27.