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W. Michael Mathes, a major historian of Baja California who was awarded Mexico's Aguila Azteca medal, has died at 76. Tijuana historian Mario Ortiz Villacorta reported his death in Monday's Frontera newspaper.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that the Plainview, Texas, resident died Aug. 13 in Lubbock.
He formerly taught at the University of San Francisco, and was awarded the Aguila Azteca, Mexico's highest honor for non-natives, in 1985.
He recently wrote a book sponsored by the Tecate historical assocation CAREM. It is called "The Land of Calafia: A Brief History of Baja California."
"He is the guy who knows every rock in Baja California," Lilia Corral de Kellenberger, a co-founder of CAREM, said last year. CAREM's media room at its museum in Tecate is named for Mathes.
He was working with CAREM and the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Baja California Tourism Ministry to apply for UNESCO world heritage status for El Camino Real de las Californias.
Mathes, who also was director of the Biblioteca in Guadalajara, had been scheduled to deliver a talk Oct. 27 at the sixth Early San Diego Regional History Conference on “From Sinaloa & Sonora: the Families of the First Soldiers in Alta California.”
Mathes, who helped lead fund-raising tours for CAREM, also wrote articles for the Jounal of San Diego History. According to a CAREM media release, he successfully lobbied for INAH to have offices in Mexicali so that federal actions involving Baja California's historic sites did not have to go through an INAH office in Sonora.
A memorial may be held for Mathes in Pasadena in the next month.