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History Department

Anna Alexander

After learning about John and Annie Bidwell in the third grade I became interested in history, which made becoming a history major in college an easy choice. During my first two years at Chico State I only took courses in American military history, mainly because I watched the History Channel. Yet in my junior year I was forced to branch out and take a so-called non-Western course, and I decided on History of Modern Latin America with Dr. Lewis, not because I was interested, but because it fit my schedule. I was immediately enthralled. How had I gone so long without knowing anything about this immensely important region of the world? Inspired by Dr. Lewis, I enrolled in History of Mexico and introductory Spanish. It seems my career path had been cemented after only one day of class. 

After I finished my B.A. in 2006, I continued to study Latin America and earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies and a Ph.D. in Latin American History from the University of Arizona. Over the years I have traveled throughout Mexico taking graduate courses and researching in archives. I became especially fond of Mexico City, where I learned to embrace the chaos and find the beauty in one of the biggest urban centers in the world. During my time in Mexico City, I conducted the research for my first book about the history of fire in Mexico called City on Fire: Technology, Social Change, and the Hazards of Progress in Mexico City, 1860-1910 (Pittsburg, 2016). This is an environmental history of how urban residents coped with the increased risk of fire hazards.

Once I finished my Ph.D., I taught Latin American history in British Columbia, Alabama, and Georgia, which made me grow to love both poutine and grits. Today I’m fortunate enough to be back in Northern California where I teach Latin American history and the history of sustainability at Cal State East Bay. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the History Department at Chico State for helping me become a historian, and more importantly for forcing me to branch out of my comfort zone and take a class about something other than U.S. history.    

Anna Alexander portrait