United States Air Force Academy

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Dr. Peter Villella

Associate Professor of History

Department of History

Contact Information

(719) 333-3634



Peter B. Villella holds a BA in History and Spanish from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from the University of California-Los Angeles. His academic expertise is Latin American History, with a focus on Mexico and its indigenous peoples during and after the Spanish conquest. He is the author of Indigenous Elites and Creole Identity in Colonial Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and co-editor (with Pablo García Loaeza) of The Conquest of Mexico: 500 Years of Reinventions (Oklahoma University Press, 2022). His research has also been published the Hispanic American Historical Review, Ethnohistory, Colonial Latin American Review, and The Americas. Villella is currently a contributing editor with the Library of Congress’s Handbook of Latin American Studies and serves as Executive Director of the American Society for Ethnohistory. His scholarship has received support from the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and several special collection libraries. His current research involves how and why the history of the Aztec Empire and its defeat has been remembered and rewritten over the centuries in Mexico and beyond.

Villella arrived at USAFA in 2020 and teaches in the Core World History program. Born and raised in Albuquerque, NM, before entering academia he taught high school Spanish in California and worked with volunteer organizations in Ecuador and Brazil. He currently lives in Colorado Springs with his family.


Ph.D. in History, University of California, Los Angeles (2009)

BA with Distinction in History and Spanish, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (2001)

Professional Experience

Associate Professor of History, U.S. Air Force Academy (2020-present)

Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Greensboro (2016-19)

Assistant Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Greensboro (2010-16)

Lecturer, Department of History, University of California-Los Angeles (2009)

Honors & Awards

William J. Bouwsma Fellow, National Humanities Center (2018-19)

National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Editions & Translations Grant (2014-17)

Fellow, American Council of Learned Societies (2012-13)

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, Huntington Library (2011)

Helm Research Fellow, Lilly Library, Indiana University (2010)

José Amor y Vázquez Fellow, John Carter Brown Library (2008)

Research and Scholarly Interests

Latin American and Mexican history

Cultural, intellectual, and legal history of Mexico’s indigenous peoples

Latin American nationalisms and national identities


Indigenous Elites and Creole Identity in Colonial Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

The Conquest of Mexico: Five Centuries of Reinventionsco-edited with Pablo García Loaeza (Norman: University of Oklahoma press, forthcoming 2022).

History of the Chichimeca Nation: Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Seventeenth-Century Chronicle of Ancient Mexico (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019)

“Founding Mothers: The Tapias of Early Querétaro, 1578-1663,” in Cacicas: The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492-1825, edited by Margarita Ochoa and Sara Guengerich (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021)

“‘For So Long the Memories of Men Cannot Contradict It’: Nahua Patrimonial Restorationism and the Law in Early New Spain,” Ethnohistory 63, no. 4 (2016): 697-720

“Indian Lords, Hispanic Gentlemen: The Salazars of Colonial Tlaxcala,” The Americas 69, no. 1 (2012): 1-36

“‘Pure and Noble Indians, Untainted by Inferior Idolatrous Races’: Native Elites and Blood Purity in Late-Colonial Mexico,” Hispanic American Historical Review 91, no. 4 (2011): 633-63.