Lesson Plan

Dictators and Civil Wars: The Cold War in Latin America


This 6-minute video explores how the Cold War was an ideological, and sometimes military, struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. In general, the Soviet Union supported the expansion of communist governments around the globe, and the United States supported anti-communist regimes, including both democracies and dictatorships. By the 1950s, these tensions were seen in Latin America, and revolutions, coups, and uprisings became commonplace throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century.


Students will:

  • Examine primary and secondary sources related to the Cold War in Latin America.
  • Summarize key events from the time period and contextualize the role of those events in the larger Cold War conflict.
  • Compare and contrast the effects of Cold War tensions on various parts of Latin America.
  • Analyze U.S. involvement in Latin America during this time period.
  • Social Studies
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • AP U.S. History
  • Cold War
  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Ronald Reagan
  • America as a World Power
  • 1980s America
  • The Modern Era (1980-Present)
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • What key Cold War events took place in Latin America?
  • How were the events across the region similar and different during this time period?
  • How was U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America influenced by the global Cold War?

Additional Resources

The Cold War in Latin America Interactive MapRetro Report 
Transcript for "Dictators and Civil Wars: The Cold War in Latin America"Retro Report 
Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Photographs & PrintsLibrary of Congress 

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com