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James Mestaz

Assistant Professor

James Mestaz
James Mestaz



Stevenson Hall 3707

Office Hours

Mon: 2:15 pm-2:45 pm
Wed: 4:45 pm-5:15 pm

Advising Area

  • General


Coming to SSU in Fall 2022!

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Assistant Professor James Mestaz was born in Long Beach and raised in the Central San Joaquin Valley. He received his B.A. from UCLA, M.A. from the University of Miami, and PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His first book Strength from the Waters: A History of Indigenous Mobilization in Northwest Mexico is an Environmental and Ethnohistory that interrogates the historic connection between humans and water through the lens of the Mayo Indians of Sinaloa, Mexico and their changing interaction with their river system from the 1920s to 1970. Professor Mestaz previously taught at the University of Iowa, Claremont McKenna College, Harvard University, and Central State University. Dr. Mestaz’s courses—which have included Environmental History, Latin American Revolutions, Latinx Immigration, Mexican History, and Modern Latin American History—focus largely on the histories of marginalized groups, allowing students to draw connections between past and current social and environmental justice struggles. This approach fits into his commitment to linking students to grassroots and community organizations in both the U.S. and Latin America.


Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago

Academic Interests

Latin American History, Environmental History, Ethnohistory, Borderlands, Latinx Studies, Race and Ethnicity, Gender, Indigenous Knowledge, Oral Histories, Global Studies


Latin American History, Latinx Studies, World History

Selected Publications & Presentations

Strength from the Waters: A History of Indigenous Mobilization in Northwest Mexico (Manuscript): To Be Published in October 2022 by University of Nebraska Press

"Yoremes, Commodities, and Contentious Notions of Natural Resources in Northwest Mexico" (Chapter in Progress) to be Published in Edited Volume, Indigeneity, Shatter Zones and Unruly Spaces: Mapping Statelessness in the Americas’ Transnational Pacific

“Sweetness and Water Power: El SICAE Sugar Cooperative and Mayo Struggles for Water, 1943-1955,” Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 52, Issue 1, February 2020: pp. 1–25

Review of Agrarian Revolt in the Sierra of Chihuahua 1959 - 1965 by Elizabeth Henson Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 89, No. 1, Winter 2020: pp. 156-158

Review of Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the US-Mexico Divide by C. J. Alvarez, The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, Nov. 2020: pp. 736–738

Conference Presentations

2022 “Our Water, Our Identity: Indigenous Combatants in the CNC and CTM Water War” Conference on Latin American History, New Orleans, LA, January 6-8.

2021 “The Rise of Bachomo the Cat: An Environmental History of an Indigenous Mexican Revolt” Conference on Latin American History, Remote Conference, January 7-9.

2020 “Old Water Woman and other Latin American Indigenous Stories tied to Environmental Change” Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies, Austin, TX, March 5-7.

2019 “Stay off of my Irrigated Land! SICAE Member Land Seizures and its Impact on Mayo Ejidos, 1946-1957” Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies, Oaxaca, Mexico, March 26-31.

2019 “From Our River to Theirs: The Effects of Hydraulic Development on Mayo Villages, 1955-1970” Conference on Latin American History, Chicago, IL, Jan. 3-6. (Also Served as Panel Chair)

2018 “Two Negatives are Not Positive: Changing Mayo Hydraulic Social Strategies, 1944-1957” Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies Conf., Univ. of NV Reno, April 5-8.

2016 “Sweetness and Water Power: El SICAE Sugar Cooperative and the Fracturing of Mayo Communities, 1938-1955,” Conference on Latin American History, Atlanta, GA, Jan. 7-10.

2015 “Their Technology, Our Way: Mayo Uses of Fuerte River Infrastructure, 1926-1942,” Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies Conf., Univ. of AZ, Tucson, AZ, April 8-12.                                               

2014 “Mayo Oral Histories on the Fuerte River, 1930-1970,” 12th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid, Spain, June 11-13.            

2013 “Fuerte River Histories and Ambivalent Mayo Modernity,” Global Water Conference, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, April 12-13.

2013 “River Histories: Mayo Cultural Change and the Fuerte River,” Midwest Latin American History Conference, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, January 26. 2012 “Our Truth is Our Struggle Yaqui and Mayo Utilization of the Mexican Revolution,” Southwest Council of Latin American Studies Conference, Miami, FL, March 8-10.