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New minor readies students for caliente business opportunities

February 11, 2003

Most of us know next to nothing about Latin America. We may have heard of Rio de Janeiro, but few know it's in Brazil. We've heard about "the Andes survivors," but few of us know the Andes Mountains are in Chile. We've heard of the Galapagos Islands, but few of us could place them as a province of Ecuador.
February 11, 2003

Most of us know next to nothing about Latin America. We may have heard of Rio de Janeiro, but few know it's in Brazil. We've heard about "the Andes survivors," but few of us know the Andes Mountains are in Chile. We've heard of the Galapagos Islands, but few of us could place them as a province of Ecuador.

Twenty years ago, ignorance of our neighbors to the south wasn't viewed as an egregious lacking. But today, when Mexico is our second-largest trading partner, NAFTA (the North America Free Trade Agreement) is opening doors from Argentina to Venezuela and Latin Americans are immigrating into the United States in record numbers, cultural parochialism is not only arrogant, it's costly.

International assignments have become an important step on the career path for today's managers. That means jobs and other opportunities are plentiful for those who understand the Latino culture and speak Spanish.

Preparing Austin Peay students for those opportunities was the driving force behind the creation of the new Latin American Studies minor.

An interdisciplinary effort, the new minor will be hosted by the departments of history and philosophy, languages and literature and political science. It requires 18 credits: six in Latin American history, six in Latin American politics and six in Latin American art, geography and Spanish (which includes studies in Mexico with internship possibilities). Second-year proficiency in Spanish is required.

Career opportunities in the countries collectively known as Latin America can take executives to exotic locales. Central America, which is joined at the hip with Mexico, includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. South America includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Latin America also includes Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the French West Indies and other islands.

"There are 19 Spanish-speaking nations, with more than 300 million people," says Dr. Ramon Magráns, professor of language and literature. "People who, like us, work, spend money and contribute to society."

With the new Latin American Studies minor, Austin Peay graduates will be poised to claim a share of that currencyand expand their horizons.