W. Michael Mathes

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W. Michael Mathes
Michael Mathes.jpg
William Michael Mathes

(1936-04-15)April 15, 1936
DiedAugust 13, 2012(2012-08-13) (aged 76)
Alma materUniversity of New Mexico
OccupationHistorian, academic

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].

The Mathes library is the main source of North West Mexican Colonial history and it was valuated in 12 million dollars. "This donation is the largest repatriation of cultural heritage ever made in the history of Mexico" [3].

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
  • A brief history of the land of Calafia: the Californias, 1533-1795
  • Aportación a la historiografía de California en el siglo XVIII
  • Baja California: textos de su historia
  • Bibliotheca novohispana guadalupana : clave a la bibliografía impresa guadalupana novohispana, 1621-1823 = Bibliotheca novohispana guadalupana : a key to printed bibliography of our lady of Guadalupe in New Spain 1621-1823
  • Californiana 2,1 Documentos para la historia de la explotación comercial de California, 1611 - 1679
  • Californiana: documentos para la historia de la demarcación comercial de California, 1583-1632
  • Cortés en California 1535 : el viaje de Fernando Cortés según los cronistas y manuscritos
  • Cronistas y crónicas jesuitas del noroeste de Nueva España
  • Documentos para la historia de la demarcación comercial de California, 1583-1632
  • Documentos para la historia de la explotación comercial de California, 1611-1679
  • Documentos para la historia de la transformación colonizadora de California, 1679-1686
  • Ethnology of the Baja California Indians
  • Historia de Baja California
  • Importancia de Cabo San Lucas
  • La frontera ruso-mexicana : documentos mexicanos para la historia del establecimiento ruso en California 1808-1842
  • La ilustración en Mexico colonial: el grabado en madera y cobre en Nueva España, 1539-1821 = Illustration in Colonial Mexico
  • La tierra de Calafia: una historia breve de las Californias (1533-1848)
  • Las misiones de Baja California, 1683-1849 = una reseña histórico- fotográfica = The mission of Baja California, 1683-1849 : an historical- photographic survey
  • Memoria por Miguel Ramos Arizpe
  • Mexico on stone: lithography in Mexico, 1826-1900
  • Misiones en el camino real misionero del estado de Baja California = Missions on the royal mission highway in the state of Baja California
  • Obras californianas del padre Miguel Venegas, S.J. Supplement : historical-biographical introduction
  • Piratas en la costa de Nueva Galicia en el siglo XVII
  • Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco: la primera biblioteca académica de las Américas
  • Sebastián Vizcaíno y la expansión española en el Océano Pacifico, 1580-1630
  • The final days of father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, initiator of Mexican Independence, 1811 : testimony and recollections of Mechor Guasp, his jailer por Melchor Guasp
  • Traslado del menologio de varones illustres de la Compañía de Jesús: cuyos elogios aprobados por nuestros PP. generales se leen los días, que corresponden en la Casa Professa de Roma: sacanse estos traslados fielmente traducidos à nuestro idioma para mayor conveniencia de nuestros collegios en su domestico uso y para mayor utilidad, exemplo è imitacion en los nuestros y para privada memoria y veneracion de nuestros mayores
  • Un centro cultural novogalaico
  • Vizcaíno and Spanish expansion in the Pacific Ocean, 1580-1630



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "W. Michael Mathes, a major historian of Baja California, dies at 76". MexicoPerspective.com. August 20, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Andrews, Danny (November 27, 2005). "Cultural Crossroads: Mathes receives medal from Spain". Plainview Daily Herald. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  3. ^ Revista Proceso Consultado el Jueves 25 de Enero de 2018
  4. ^ Masters, Nathan (February 18, 2013). "Cortés' California misadventure". USC News. University of Southern California.

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