Carlos Yescas is currently finishing his PhD in Politics at the New School for Social Research, in New York City. He holds an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Ireland, Galway. And he is also the director of the Oldways Cheese Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in Boston.
Yescas’ research examines the ways in which food regulation structures the sensory and affective experiences of a nation, producing collective identities. He has published both academic and popular books and articles on food production and traditional practices, migration, transnationalism, race and ethnicity, indigeneity, and public policy.
As a practicing advocate for rural producers and responsible business practices, Yescas is frequently invited to speak on food and politics at international forums, including Slow Food in Italy, Mesamerica, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and Culinary Action at the Basque Culinary Center. He is a member of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, the Confrerie de Gruyere, and he is one of fourteen supreme judges of the World Cheese Awards in Britain.
Carlos is originally from Mexico, where he grew up between the municipality of Atlatlahuacan and Mexico City. He moved to Ann Arbor with his husband, William Thomson, who is a postdoctoral fellow at UM’s Department of Anthropology and the Taubman School of Architecture.
Before coming to Michigan, Carlos and Will lived in Boston. There, Carlos continues to direct the Oldways Cheese Coalition, a program of the Oldways food nonprofit, which promotes artisanal cheese and protects traditional cheese-making practices around the world. Carlos and Will previous also lived in New York City for graduate school, as well as Mexico City and China for work and fieldwork research.
Carlos began his professional life working at international agencies: As the Political Affairs Director at the Mexican Consulate in Boston, he worked to support and defend migrant communities in New England. Then, after moving to New York, he worked for the United Nations—first, at the International Organization for Migration and, later, at the UN Development Program.
As a researcher and academic, Carlos continues to apply the same political goals and passions as he did working for international agencies, around issues of migration, development, and indigenous rights to sustainable food systems, availability and livelihood for small producers.
Carlos’s current research investigates how post-NAFTA policies implemented in Mexico, such as Geographical Indications for traditional foods, have failed as a mechanism for protecting and recognizing communal rights for local producers. He looks specifically at cases of cheese production, such as the campaign led by producers of queso cotija in the Mexican state of Michoacán, and efforts by the state government of Chiapas to protect local artisanal cheese producers.
Beyond academic circles, Carlos has extended his passion for cheese and his research through public outreach and engagement. He is the founder of the Instituto Mexicano del Queso, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting and supporting small dairy producers. In 2013 Carlos’ book, Quesos Mexicanos, was published by Larousse, and it received second place for best cheese book at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2014.
During his residence in Ann Arbor, Carlos looks forward to collaborating with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, as well as with others working on sustainable food systems and food studies at the University of Michigan.
Regarding his future plans and goals, after his stay in Ann Arbor, Carlos intends to use his doctoral degree to continue researching and promoting issues of sustainability and cultural empowerment for small producers.
You can learn more about Carlos and his projects by following him on his website and social media: