Introducing Alexander Aviña

Please welcome our newest Foreign Exchanges contributor!

Hello everybody, it’s Derek. I’m very pleased to announce that Alexander Aviña is joining the Foreign Exchanges team as our newest contributor. Alex is Associate Professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University (ASU) and is the author of Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside (Oxford University Press, 2014). He has taught previously at Florida State University and the University of Southern California. He holds a B.A. in History magna cum laude from Saint Mary’s College of California and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern California. Here at Foreign Exchanges he’ll be writing about US empire in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing in his first couple of pieces on the history of the US-Mexico border.

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Hello, Foreign Exchanges! I’m delighted that Derek invited me to participate in this important project. I’m honored to join a group of brilliant and talented folks here at FX!

I’m an Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University, where I teach courses on Latin American revolutions, Mexico, Settler Colonialism, Immigration, and the Cold War in Latin America. My research focuses on twentieth-century Mexico, thanks in large part to my parents who migrated to the United States from rural Michoacán in the late 1970s. Growing up in a migrant home characterized by story-telling—along with the tales that I learned from my campesino grandfather whenever we visited Michoacán—made me into a historian interested in everyday people like my family; people who try to effect profound change under circumstances not of their making.

After writing a book on rural communist schoolteachers who led peasant guerrilla movements in the 1960s and 70s, my research has shifted to exploring the historical origins of the so-called War on Drugs ravaging Mexico today. My interest in this topic led me to join an international group of scholars and writers at the Noria Research collective committed to analyzing the deeper causes and dynamics of violence in Mexico and Central America. Collaborating with fellow historian Jayson Maurice Porter, we have co-edited a series that historically analyzes different forms of violence from local, communal perspectives.

For Foreign Exchanges, I plan to write on contemporary practices and policies of US empire in Latin America and the Caribbean—the ol’ “backyard” as John Kerry quipped in 2013. When Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz lamented that “poor Mexico” was “so far from God and so close to the United States,” he might as well have been talking about the entire region. I hope to explore how US foreign policy manifests itself in the region today—along with resistance to it—using a historically-minded approach. For my first two columns, I plan to start closer to home by thinking about the US-Mexico border as a lasting, productive site of US empire as embodied in the history of Fort Huachuca—a US Army base in southeastern Arizona initially created in the late 19th century to wage war against the Apaches. Future topics will include drug wars, migration, fútbol (if Derek lets me!), and exploring alternatives to a relationship for too long characterized by US domination, coercion, and lack of understanding. 

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to write me. And thank you to Derek for giving me the opportunity to write for you, the readers and subscribers of Foreign Exchanges.