University Libraries' Mellon Grant Recipients Launch U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Digital Storytelling Projects


This undated photo from UArizona Special Collections' Southwestern and Borderlands Photograph Collection shows the border between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, along International Street.

Courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections

People who live and work on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands will be able to see more perspectives on their history, culture and experiences thanks to a University of Arizona project to support the development of research projects that contribute to a broader understanding of the region. 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded the three-year $750,000 Digital Borderlands project in which University Libraries disburses grants to support the integration of library services into data-intensive, humanities-focused research on the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.

The first cohort of grant recipients was recently announced.

Shan Sutton

Shan Sutton

"The number and the high quality of proposals we received give us great confidence that our vision for the project will be realized," said Shan Sutton, dean of University Libraries and principal investigator for the Mellon grant. "By facilitating new borderlands research through deep collaborations with a variety of library services and providing open access to the resulting research output, we're helping ensure accessibility on a global scale."

The call for proposals was open to all University of Arizona faculty. Four peer-reviewed proposals, which bridge several disciplines and topics, were selected to receive $60,000 grants.

"One important component of our project is to make this research available to the communities they represent," said Verónica Reyes-Escudero, head of UArizona Special Collections and one of the grant project's co-principal investigators. "It's crucial that our library collections and services fully represent the people who we serve, and this effort works to correct the lack of representation historically."

Verónica Reyes-Escudero

Verónica Reyes-Escudero

University Libraries is committed to supporting the significant UArizona research being done in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

"We are working to share these projects with the broadest possible audience," said Megan Finn Senseney, head of University Libraries' Office of Digital Innovation & Stewardship and co-principal investigator on the grant project. "The library is involved at every step, whether it's working with our collections, helping create new resources and knowledge or developing strategies for communicating project outcomes to different groups."

The grant recipients are:

Nicole Antebi, assistant professor, School of Art
Antebi's project, "The Rarámuri Dressmakers of Chihuahua City: A Documentary," features the Indigenous Rarámuri people of northern Mexico. The documentary will narrate the ways in which Rarámuri women uphold their sharing economy and identity through dressmaking during a food crisis caused by prolonged drought and growers taking over their farmland to plant marijuana and poppies, most of which are bound for a U.S. market. Antebi's collaborators include writer Victoria Blanco and filmmaker Irene Baqué.

Anita Huizar-Hernández, associate professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Huizar-Hernández's project, "DETAINED Voices from the Migrant Incarceration System" will document the experiences of former asylum seekers and undocumented migrants who were incarcerated by immigration authorities in Arizona. The multilingual written, visual and audio materials created and collected will create an archive of testimonials. Huizar-Hernández's collaborators include English professor Susan Briante, art professor David Taylor, writer Francisco Cantú, and Daniel Hernandez and Greer Millard of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. 

Megan Finn Senseney

Megan Finn Senseney

Katherine Morrissey, associate professor, Department of History
Celeste González de Bustamante, professor, School of Journalism
"Reporting on Race and Ethnicity in the Borderlands (1882-1924): A Data-Driven Digital Storytelling Hub" will create an online platform of bilingual primary resources that includes historic newspapers representing the central borderlands communities of Tucson and Ambos, Nogales, and the eastern borderlands communities of Douglas and Bisbee in Arizona and Agua Prieta and Naco in Sonora, Mexico. Morrisey and González de Bustamante will work on the project with Huizar-Hernández.

Robin Reineke, assistant research social scientist in the Southwest Center; affiliate faculty, Latin American studies
Reineke's project, "Forensic Citizenship in the Borderlands," is a visual and oral history project that will document, analyze and share the stories of civilian forensic expertise on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border through an interactive website. Reineke will collaborate with two community organizations: Madres Buscadoras and the Colibrí Center for Human Rights. The other project team members are Natalia Mendoza Rockwell of Fordham College and visual artist Miguel Fernández de Castro.

The second call for proposals for the Digital Borderlands project is expected to be in November.

A version of this story originally appeared on the University Libraries website: