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Event shines light on mysteries of American Southwest

Eduardo Pagán
October 24, 2012

ASU professor Eduardo Pagán hosts behind-the-scenes look at PBS ‘History Detectives’

Does a centuries-old inscription on a rock wall in South Mountain Park prove Marcos de Niza was the first European in Phoenix? Did a Navajo artist violate tribal taboos and risk mystical retribution by weaving powerful sacred symbols into a unique rug? These are two of the mysteries probed by ASU professor and public TV “History Detective” Eduardo Pagán to be revealed from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 14, at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center. Pagán will present the results of these investigations and others he has explored for the hit PBS series.

The event is a presentation of Presidential Engagement Programs (PEP), a community engagement program of the ASU Foundation for A New American University. Registration is $25 per person.

Fans of the program will be doubly interested, as Pagán promises a behind-the-cameras look inside “History Detectives,” including film clips and production stories documenting the challenges of creating an investigative history series.

“I always enjoy the chance to share these stories and the behind-the-scenes aspects of ‘History Detectives,’” says Pagán. “And the chance to bring ASU and the subject of history to the community in this type of discussion is especially enjoyable.

“History has allowed me to study broadly questions about human experiences. Folklore, sacred narratives – they provide a window into the mind of those who came before us. One of my true joys is coming across ancient sites and exploring them without disturbing anything. It is fascinating to think that people lived where we now travel.”

“History Detectives” explores the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out facts and myths connecting local folklore, family legends and interesting objects. Traditional investigative techniques, modern technology and plenty of legwork are the tools the history detectives use to give new – sometimes shocking – insights into our national history.

One of those detectives is Pagán, the ASU Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History, and an associate professor at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU’s West campus. In 2009 PBS recruited Pagán for the “History Detectives” team as an expert in mysteries of the American Southwest.

Pagán is ideally suited for the role. A Phoenix native, he graduated from ASU and went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and a master's and doctorate in U.S. history from Princeton University. His book “Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race and Riot in Wartime L.A.” was the basis for an episode of another PBS series, “American Experience,” for which he was lead historical consultant. Pagán is currently working on two book-length projects: an exploration of racial constructions and violence in territorial Arizona, and a history of Latino terrorism in the U.S. In addition to his numerous scholarly publications, Pagán authored “Remembering Phoenix,” and “Historic Photos of Phoenix,” an Arizona Book Publishing Association award winner. Pagán’s New College course offerings include "Constitutional History of the U.S.," "The Hispanic Southwest," "American Indians," and "Historical Methods."

Two episodes of the show, which airs on Eight, Arizona PBS, remain for this season. To find out when they will air visit and sign up for “Eight Insider” e-newsletter. Viewers also can watch past History Detectives episodes online at

Erik Ketcherside,
communications manager, Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University