José M. Alamillo

Portrait of José M. Alamillo

José M. Alamillo was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and raised in Ventura County, California. His family worked in the year-round lemon industry which allowed him to attend local public schools uninterrupted. At middle school age, he took part in University of California, Santa Barbara's Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and earned B.A. degrees in Sociology and Communication at UCSB. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Cultures (Ethnic Studies) at University of California, Irvine. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at University of California, Los Angeles’ Chicano Studies Research Center, he taught courses in Chicano/a Studies, Ethnic Studies, Sports Studies for nine years in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies at Washington State University. Alamillo’s research focuses on the ways Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans have used culture, leisure, and sports to build community and social networks to advance politically and economically in the United States and Mexico. His family’s experiences in the lemon industry inspired his first book, Making Lemonade out of Lemons: Mexican American Labor and Leisure in a California Town, 1900-1960 (2006). He co-authored Latinos in U.S Sport: A History of Isolation, Cultural Identity, and Acceptance (2011). His most recent book is "Deportes: The Making of a Sporting Mexican Diaspora. He is a consultant to the new exhibition "¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues / En los barrios y las grandes ligas" opening summer 2021 at Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.  Alamillo is currently working on two projects: "Sports and the Chicano/a Movement" and the role of Spanish language newspapers and Mexican Blue Cross during and after the 1928 St. Francis Dam Disaster. 

NEW IN 2020Deportes: The Making of a Sporting Mexican Diaspora (Rutgers University Press)

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture uncovers the hidden experiences of Mexican male and female athletes, teams and leagues and their supporters who fought for a more level playing field on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border during the first half of the twentieth century.
This lecture explores the laboring and leisure experiences of Mexican immigrant and Mexican Americans in the United States from 1900 to 1960. It focuses on commercialized leisure spaces like saloons, pool halls, sports events, and movie theaters that were more than sites of identity and community formation but also political spaces to share grievances and critique social inequities, mobilize social networks, support civil rights and launch political movements.
The presentation focuses on the surviving Mexican families of the 1928 St. Francis Dam Flood disaster. The St. Francis Dam disaster is considered the second worst man-made disaster in California history and one of the worst civil engineering catastrophes in American history. This disaster killed over 450 individuals who lived along the Santa Clara River with many bodies never recovered because they were washed out to the Pacific Ocean. Many stories of survival have been documented in newspapers, article and books, but few have focused on Mexican family survivors. Using Spanish language newspapers and oral history interviews, I will show how Mexican family survival stories have been used as a form of activism to make visible their resilience and demands for environmental justice.