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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.

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