I never expected to be a history major. After high school, I expected never to take a history course again. My first year in college, I studied philosophy, drama, politics, sociology, and Greek, but not history. Eventually, I found out that history in college is not like history in high school. History included more subjects and a wider range of questions and concerns than I had known before. I found that history helped explain the people (particularly family members) that I thought I knew, and introduced me to people and places I didn't know anything about.
My interest in Latin America began when I was required to take a course about somewhere other than Europe and the United States. In a few short years, I found myself studying nineteenth-century Mexican history in graduate school at the University of Chicago. I received a grant from the Doherty Foundation and moved to Mexico City in 1978 to begin research for my dissertation. I remained in Mexico through the end of 1981, when I returned to Chicago to finish my dissertation.
I received my PhD in 1984 and started teaching at Drexel University three months later. I revised my dissertation, which was published as Origins of Instability in Early Republican Mexico by Duke University Press. My next book was an edited collection of essays written by scholars across the country on films we found to be useful in teaching history. Based on a True Story: Latin American History at the Movies looks at the historical documents behind such films as Aguirre, Wrath of God; The Mission; Camila; and The Official Story.
As one thing leads to another, I was invited to join the editorial board of one of the principal journals of Latin American history, The Americas. I served as senior assistant editor, associate editor, editor, and (since 2009) as managing editor. To see what's in our most recent issue, click here: Cambridge Journals Online: The Americas.
Most historians have ongoing research projects underway. My latest project focuses on trying to gauge the piety of populations in four Mexican parishes about the time of the cholera epidemic of 1833. I have been fortunate to enjoy the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Joint Committee on Latin America of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies.