SPAN-396: Oaxaca and Oaxacalifornia: Responsible Tourism, Traditional Culture and Migration

Department: The Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures

Director: For more information contact Professor Sarah Portnoy at

Dates: May 15 – June 9, 2023

(Students will spend 4 days in Los Angeles learning about L.A.’s Oaxacan communities and 3 weeks in Mexico (4 days in Mexico city exploring the Templo Mayor, museums, the city center and 16 days in Oaxaca visiting mountains, markets, indigenous towns, and waterfalls).

Location: Mexico City/Oaxaca

Course Description:

This course explores Oaxaca, Mexico, its cuisine, biodiversity, indigenous cultures, traditional healing practices, and street art. Oaxaca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most culturally and biologically diverse Mexican state with sixteen different languages spoken.

Since Los Angeles is home to 100,000 Oaxacans, the course begins in L.A. introducing students to Oaxacan culture through guest speakers and restaurant visits.

We spend 3 weeks in Oaxaca state, exploring the city’s markets and restaurants, indigenous villages, mountains, and the beaches. Students participate in a full-day market shopping and cooking class.

Students stay with families to practice their Spanish. In addition, we will spend several nights in mountain towns, hiking, doing a ritual cleansing, and learning about the medicinal herbs and plants in the region.

The final days we travel to the coast to learn about marine life, visit a turtle sanctuary, swim in the bioluminescence and enjoy the waves!


CLICK HERE to access the flyer.

Course credit:

This course is a 4 unit course. It is taught mostly in English, but an intermediate level of Spanish is strongly encouraged since many of the speakers do not speak any English.

CLICK HERE to view the 2022 syllabus.

 Application Deadline: Friday, November 11, 2022 at 11:59 pm

 *Please note: You need to fill out both, the LAIC Department Application Google Form and the USC Dornsife Maymester Application (Terra Dotta) in order to complete the application process. Please access both of the links below

1. CLICK HERE to access the LAIC Department Application Google Form for 2023.

2. CLICK HERE to access the USC Dornsife Maymester Application (Terra Dotta).

Estimated Costs (Excluding Spring Tuition) (if on a mobile device, scroll left to right to see the costs)

Airfare ~ $300-$400
Housing and other expenses ~ $500

*Housing and breakfast with a local family. Most meals included.

Note: Students should wait to purchase airline tickets until instructed to do so, as courses may be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

PLEASE NOTE: A $500 non-refundable deposit is due upon student acceptance of a Maymester course. This deposit will be charged to the student’s account on or just after 1/24 and applied to the housing/program fee or refunded to student account on or just after 4/15.  While most spring courses allow for an add/drop period, Maymester courses require immediate commitment due to travel arrangements and budgeting.