The son of Cubans living in exile in Puerto Rico, Javier Corrales was involved in conversations about politics at an early age.

"You often hear the idea that in polite conversation you avoid politics and religion,” he says. In his family, the opposite was true: "We never avoided the subject of politics.  There was not a single day in my life that we did not talk about Cuba, Communism, the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy, human rights. ” For Corrales, conversations about politics were a fundamental part of his formative years. 

Perhaps unremarkably, Corrales today addresses questions in his teaching and writing that were common topics of conversations he had at home as a child: 

  • Why are some countries democratic and others less so, or not at all?
  • What is the connection between politics and economics, between freedoms and markets?
  • How can markets and the state reinforce rather than impair each other?

His research on Latin America has focused on the quality of democracy, regime type, presidential powers, political parties, education reforms, economic policy-making, energy security and international relations.

More recently Corrales has branched off into the subject of LGBT rights and how they are spreading unevenly throughout Latin America.  Together with a team of faculty, students and staff from the library and Information Technology, he is developing the “LGBT Rights in the Americas Timeline,” a digital humanities and history project that will be based at Amherst.

“I’ve been out for a very long time, but until the mid 2000s, I’d never studied issues of sexuality professionally,” he says. “It’s an example of how someone at Amherst College, by talking to other people and being experimental, by teaching in a much more flexible environment, starts to introduce new  topics into the classroom and into one’s research.”

His courses at Amherst include:

  • Political Economy of Development
  • Political Economy of Petro-States:  Venezuela Compared
  • Cuba:  The Politics of Extremism
  • U.S.-Latin American Relations
  • The State
  • Markets and Democracy in Latin America

Corrales also has also taught, as an add-on course, a Mellon seminar for six students, “Advanced Topics in the Political Economy of Latin America.” These are Mellon-funded, experimental seminars intended to foster faculty-undergraduate research collaboration.  

Outside of Amherst

He has taught at the Center for Latin American Research at the University of Amsterdam and at the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University.  He has offered short courses at the Institute of Higher Studies in Administration in Caracas, the School of Government at the University of the Andes in Bogotá and the Universidad de Salamanca.   

Corrales was a visiting scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard in 2008.  In 2005 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2000 he became one of the youngest scholars ever to be selected as a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He has also been a consultant for the World Bank, the United Nations, the Center for Global Development, Freedom House and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Corrales serves on the editorial board of Latin American Politics and Society, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Americas Quarterly. In 2010 then-Gov. Deval Patrick appointed him to the executive board of Mass Humanities, a grant-making organization affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Corrales has visited almost every Spanish-speaking country in the Americas, as well as Brazil.  He has taken Amherst alums on educational trips to Cuba, Argentina and Chile.  In fall 2016, he will be a Fulbright Scholar in Bogotá, Colombia.


  • Dragon in the Tropics:  The Legacy of Hugo Chávez (with Michael Penfold), 2nd edition, Brookings Institution Press, 2015
  • The Promise of Participation: Experiments in Participatory Governance in Honduras and Guatemala (with Daniel Altschuler), Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013
  • U.S.- Venezuela Relations since the 1990s:  Coping with Midlevel Security Threats (with Carlos A. Romero), Routledge, 2013
  • The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America:  A Reader on GLBT Rights (co-editor with Mario Pecheny, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010
  • Presidents Without Parties: the Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s, Penn State University Press,  2002 

His research has been published in academic journals such as Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, World Development, Political Science Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, World Policy Journal, Latin American Politics and Society, Journal of Democracy, Latin American Research Review, Studies in Comparative International Studies, Current History and Foreign Policy.  Corrales is also a frequent op-ed contributor to a number media outlets in the United States and abroad.  Two of his books and several of his articles have been translated into Spanish.  He is now working on a book manuscript on the origins of constitutional assemblies and presidential powers in contemporary Latin America.