It's 'active tool' that I especially want to explore, both in the hands of instructors (who could use GIS to make maps to emphasize, illustrate, etc) and students (who could make maps as documents, both supportive to papers and analytical on their own).
Presentation of data, and especially comparison over time: these are the things for which maps are an especially efficient medium. Getting historical data into formats such that they can be displayed by GIS is a considerable hurdle, but not impossible.
Establishing and maintaining databases is something that comes along with GIS mapping, so it would be worthwhile to figure out what kinds of data one would wish to have in, say, a Latin American studies database. If one could imagine a database of basic stuff for provinces/states, what would it include? And ARE such data available, reliable, worthwhile accumulating historically? (the answer might be negative...) Surely there have been censuses of Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador... though it's hazardous to speculate on their accuracy...
I did find an International Census Collection at U. Texas --but it's evidently a catalog of censuses done, not a collection of lots of online data;And I happened upon Statistical Abstract of Latin America, which we have (HA935 .S8 Leyburn Library LIB. HAS: 11- (Latest edition in Reference))
and items like61:40037 Bolivia. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (La Paz, Bolivia). Statistical yearboo k of Bolivia, 1993. [Anuario estadistico de la Republica de Bolivia, 1993.] [1994?]. 523 pp. La Paz, Bolivia. In Spa. General statistical data are presented for Bolivia, the most recent of which are for 1992. There is a section on population (pp. 67-83) with data on total population by department, sex and age distribution, rural and urban population, internal migration, population growth, population projections to the year 2050, and population density. Other sections have data on housing and households, education, health, employment and income, nutrition, poverty, and social class. Correspondence: Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Ministerio de Desarrollo Sostenible y Medio Ambiente, La Paz, Bolivia. Location: Princeton University Library (FST).are probably published for each nation. And a site on the Bolivian census of 1992 suggests that there's a lot out there... and Institutio Nacional Estadística produces data tables (at pretty local levels) and even Excel files for '95-'96.