UArizona center awarded $1.5M for borderlands research and education
The new funding will go toward activities that bolster the stories and experiences of underrepresented groups in the borderlands.

By Angela Martinez, Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry
Feb. 15, 2022


View of the U.S.-Mexico border from Nogales, Sonora
View of the U.S.-Mexico border from Nogales, Sonora. Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry

The University of Arizona Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue a borderlands research, education and storytelling program.

The "Fronteridades: Nurturing Collaborative Intersections in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands" program aims to broaden understanding and inclusivity in portrayals of the border by engaging border communities and people. Since 2018, the Fronteridades program has invested $800,000 in nearly 60 projects involving several borderlands community partners and organizations. "Fronteridad" is the Spanish word for "border."

"The continuation of this project will not only build on the success and insights gained in the past three years, but it will also continue to broaden its efforts to promote a more accurate and truthful border narrative of underrepresented groups in the borderlands," said Javier Duran, professor of Latin American and border studies and director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.

Part of the UArizona Office of Research, Innovation and Impact, the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry is a university research institute that connects the humanities, arts, social sciences and other disciplines to address grand challenges facing society. 

The new funding will go toward activities that bolster the stories and experiences of underrepresented groups in the borderlands. The Confluencenter will work to expand its existing partnerships with grassroots organizations, local artists and scholars, and will seek new partners whose work embodies the values of the program.   

"We are very thankful for this funding, which allows us to engage directly with border community leaders while advancing the goals of collaboration and community building at the heart of Fronteridades," Duran said.

Some of the achievements of the Fronteridades program include:

  • Development of the Artist Microgrant Program, which awarded $30,000 to 20 artists for their artwork on the border.
  • Development of the Mellon-Fronteridades Graduate Fellowship program, which awarded a total of $95,000 to 13 diverse projects led by graduate students.
  • Support for three community-engaged border artist teams – from the Arizona cities of Nogales and Douglas and the Mexican cities of Nogales and Agua Prieta – in the Confluencenter's Creative Scholars program, which focuses on strengthening the border narrative through community art, engagement and opportunity.   

With the U.S.-Mexico border just 60 miles from Tucson and with the border continuing to be a major topic in news and politics today, Duran believes Fronteridades is a natural fit for the university's Border Lab initiative, a strategic plan initiative that seeks to galvanize existing UArizona efforts to understand the borderlands.

"This generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation advances our position as a leader in border studies," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "A strategic priority for our university's future is to strengthen our existing partnerships with Mexico and collaborate with other regional institutions so that new insights can be translated into positive benefits for the people of our state and world. I am proud of the work our faculty, staff and students continue to do, and I look forward to strengthening the Border Lab, an important initiative developed to understand, include and collect stories from the borderlands."

The Border Lab initiative convenes more than 70 UArizona scholars engaged in border-related research and projects to not only provide external funding opportunities but also to create a space for scholarly exchange and community engagement. Fronteridades programs have been instrumental in developing the humanities branch of the Border Lab.

"The work of the Confluencenter has been instrumental in the incorporation of diverse perspectives in these disciplines through collaborative and impactful projects rooted in our region's cultural heritage," said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, university senior vice president for Research, Innovation and Impact.


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Angela Martinez

Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry