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Growing Inequalities Central American Odysseys Final Reflection Paper

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Central American Odysseys Instructions and Prompts for final reflection essay This essay (a maximum of 5 pages, double spaced) will give you the opportunity to reflect on one or more of the following: a) something you learned about the topic, “Central American Odysseys” from the course readings and discussions; b) what you learned about the topic from the projects, both your own and those of your classmates; c) what you learned about yourself in relation to the topic. Below are some prompts to guide you. You do not need to answer all these questions. Choose one or two, or just follow your own inclinations. My purpose is for you to share your reflections on the course, by telling me about something noteworthy that you have learned. No new research is required; at most a review of texts that you already read. 1) A 12-year-old Central American child dies in custody of the US border patrol. The cause of death is not a serious illness, but rather, an infectious disease that attacked a young body weakened by the previous month’s northward trek. The child had turned himself in at the border, and was seeking political asylum due to threats from gangs that were forcing him to join. Your roommate reads this story, and asks you: who is responsible for this kid’s death? What do you respond? (This is my riff on Paige’s question.) 2) You are an 18-year-old Honduran, living in an impoverished neighborhood in San Pedro Sula (Honduras’ largest city). After much thought and reflection on your life there, you have decided to make the northward trek, joining a caravan that soon will be leaving. Your grandmother wants you to stay. Stage this dialogue. 3) There are two basic US government stances toward the immigration policy challenge. The first group is the realists or traditionalists: they say US interests are best served by doing whatever possible to reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants across our borders. The second group, the liberals or progressives, say that the only way to address pressure for immigration from Central America is to improve standards of living there. They advocate increases in economic development aid, and other policies toward this end. These two groups are at loggerheads, and neither policy approach seems to have worked very well. Elaborate on each position, explaining the logic of each, and also, why and in what sense both have failed. Offer your own thoughts toward a “third way,” which might move us beyond this impasse. (This is my riff on Sage’s question.) 4) What is your own, personal, prioritized list of things that worry you most about our world today? How do the “root causes of the Central American crisis relate to that that list? Asked differently: if your twin living in an urban area of Central America were asked to make the same list, would there be some overlap, or would you be “worlds apart”? 5) Drawing on the poem, the readings and classroom discussions, reflect on why many Central American-Americans feel the need to forge a distinct identity (through “self-making”) that distinguishes them from the broader identity categories in which they are placed: “Hispanics” or Chicano/as, or Latinx. What are the barriers or risks in this self-making, and what resources might they draw on to be successful? Are there any noteworthy similarities or differences between this Central American-American identity self-making, and the process of identity self-making that you have undergone as a young adult? 6) According to Manbiot, the word “neoliberalism” refers to social conditions, processes and consequences that have been with us for a long time, even though the word itself has only recently been in wide circulation. How does this word help us achieve a deeper understanding of the Central American crisis? Does this word help you better understand something important about your own world (experiences, life conditions, etc.)? 7) Sometimes, the best sign of having gained a deeper understanding of a given topic is not that we have fuller answers to the original questions, but rather, that we have come to ask better questions. Think about the questions you had about Central American Odysseys on the first day of class (when we showed the Postville, lowa film) versus now. What do these new questions tell us about what you have learned? 8) For the projects I asked you to present the material you have gathered through some creative medium other than straight writing (e.g. text on a power point). The idea also was for the process to be collaborative, at least talking with, and perhaps working together with others. What reflections do you have on this approach to learning for a topic like this one; what are its strong and weak points?
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