W. Michael Mathes

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William Michael Mathes (April 15, 1936 – August 13, 2012) was an American historian and academic, who focused on the histories of Mexico and Spain. Mathes was a leading expert on the history of Baja California.[1] His articles can be found in the Journal of San Diego History and other publications.[1]


Mathes, an alumnus of the University of New Mexico,[2] was a former professor of history at the University of San Francisco.[1] In 1985, the Mexican government awarded him the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest decoration bestowed on foreign citizens.[1] The government of Spain also awarded Mathes the Order of Isabella the Catholic in November 2005.[2] Mathes received the Order of Isabella the Catholic at the "International Colloquium of El Camino Real -- Mexico Norte y Texas" conference at the University of Texas campus in San Antonio, Texas.[2]

Mathes was also the director of Biblioteca Mathes near Guadalajara, Jalisco.[1] He donated an extensive collection of manuscripts and books to the El Colegio de Jalisco in Zapopan and the collection is now called the Biblioteca Mathes.[2]

Mathes spearheaded fundraising efforts for CAREM, a non-profit historical society based in Tecate, Baja California, which promotes the history of Baja California.[1] Mathes efforts supported CAREM's led to the construction of its museum in Tecate; the organization named the museum's media room in honor of CAREM.[1] CAREM supported Mathes' work, including his most recent The Land of Calafia: A Brief History of Baja California.[1] He is also credited with persuading the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), the Mexican government bureau charged with preservation and research, to open a new regional office in Mexicali, so the historical sites and artifacts from Baja California would not have to be sent to an existing INAH office in Sonora.[1]

As of 2012, Mathes was working jointly with the INAH, CAREM and the Ministry of Tourism of Baja California to potentially obtain UNESCO World Heritage status for the El Camino Real de las Californias, a Spanish mission trail spanning Baja California and California.[1]

Mathes died in Lubbock, Texas, on August 13, 2012, at the age of 76.[1] His death was reported in the Tijuana-based Frontera newspaper by historian Mario Ortiz Villacorta.[1] At the time of his death, Mathes was scheduled to deliver a presentation called "From Sinaloa and Sonora: the Families of the First Soldiers in Alta California" at the sixth meeting of the Early San Diego Regional History Conference on October 27, 2012.[1] He is survived by one child, a daughter, Ann M. Mathes (Annie). She currently resides in California and is pursuing her A.S. Degree in Veterinary Technology.

Partial works authored[edit]

  • The Land of Calafia: A Brief History of Baja California



External links[edit]