Julian Nava

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Julian Nava
United States Ambassador to Mexico
In office
May 7, 1980 – April 3, 1981
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byPatrick Joseph Lucey
Succeeded byJohn Gavin
Personal details
Born (1927-06-19) June 19, 1927 (age 92)
Los Angeles, California
Political partyDemocratic
EducationPomona College;
Harvard University

Julian Nava (born June 19, 1927) is an American educator and diplomat.


Julian Nava was born in Los Angeles, California, to Mexican immigrants in 1927, and was one of eight siblings. Nava grew up in the barrio of East L.A. In 1945, he volunteered for the Air Corps of the United States Navy. Nava, along with other "Rough Riders" who had volunteered for the Armed Forces, was allowed to wear his Navy uniform for the Roosevelt High School graduation ceremony in 1945. Upon his return to Los Angeles, Nava studied at East Los Angeles Community College before transferring to Pomona College, one of the prestigious Claremont Colleges. After earning his undergraduate degree in history in 1951, Nava earned a Ph.D in Latin American history from Harvard University in 1955. He taught in Venezuela, Spain, Puerto Rico, and Colombia, where he founded Centro de Estudios Universitarios in Bogota. From 1957-2000, Nava was Professor of History at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). He is now Professor Emeritus of History.

In 1967, the Congress of Mexican American Unity (ninety-two community groups) nominated him to run for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Nava became the first Mexican-American to serve on the county-wide board (composed of thirteen cities including Los Angeles). He was elected to three consecutive terms, from 1967-1979.

In 1980, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico by President Jimmy Carter. He was the first Mexican-American to hold the position.

In 1992, he ran for mayor of Los Angeles.[1] In 1993, Nava was a pallbearer at the funeral of the labor leader Cesar Chavez. Nava had worked with Chavez since his time with the Community Service Organization in Los Angeles immediately after the Second World War.

In the 2006 HBO film Walkout, the role of Dr. Julian Nava was played by director Edward James Olmos. Independently, Nava has produced several documentary films. He explores the history of the Basque people in “Song of the Basque,” funded by the Basque government. He then produced and co-directed “Voices of Cuba” with Todd Mattox. More recently, Nava produced a documentary on cross-border migration to and from the United States in two languages, “Zacatecanos de ida y vuelta” (Roundtrip Zacatecanos). Nava greatly enjoys travel and has visited Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Great Britain, Russia, China, and Tibet.

Nava lectures widely about multicultural education and serves on the board of directors of Encuentros, which promotes education among young Latino males. In 2011, a LAUSD school was named after him—the Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy .[2] In 2014 another LAUSD school was named after him—the Nava College Preparatory Academy. In 2015, Nava published an historical novel, Taming the Chinese Dragon: Young Love in Changing Tibet.

Personal Life[edit]

Today, he is retired and lives San Diego County with his wife, Patricia.


Nava's archives are held in the Special Collections and Archives section of CSUN's Oviatt Library.[3]


  • Mexican Americans: A Brief Look at Their History, 1970. New York City: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
  • The Mexican American in American History, 1973. New York City: American Book Co. ISBN 0-278-47381-4
  • Mexican American Profiles: Bilingual Biographies for Today, 1974 (with Michelle Hall). Walnut Creek, California: Aardvark Media.
  • California: Five Centuries of Cultural Contrasts, 1976 (with Bob Barger). Beverly Hills: Glencoe Press.
  • Julian Nava: My Mexican-American Journey, 2002. Houston: Arte Público Press. ISBN 1-55885-364-2
  • The Latino Guide to Creating Family Histories: A Handbook for Students, Parents & Teachers, 2012 (WPR Books) ISBN 978-1-889379-49-4
  • Taming the Chinese Dragon: Young Love in Changing Tibet, 2015. (WPR Book) ISBN 978-1-889379-55-5


  1. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1992-11-05/news/ti-1212_1_julian-nava
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-02-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Julian Nava Collection, 1804-1993". Retrieved December 27, 2018.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Patrick J. Lucey
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
1980 – 1981
Succeeded by
John Gavin