PandemiDiarios on the Border

PandemiDiarios on the Border

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2021 PandemiDiarios Awardees

Shelter in Place Creative Projects

PandemiDiarios on the Border is a microgrant program to support students, academic professionals, and community-based artists and practitioners based in the Arizona-Sonora border region to produce creative works reflecting on human experience of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The term pandemidiarios comes from blending “pandemic” and “diarios” (diaries). Diarios are where the stories of ourselves are written. They are where we express our frustrations, hopes, and visions for the future. For some it is a therapeutic process, and for others a way to capture the moment or keep a record of day to day life.

The first round of PandemiDiarios microgrant projects, produced over the summer of 2020, reflected and interpreted the human experience of the COVID-19 pandemic from underrepresented perspectives. Descriptions of previous PandemiDiarios projects can be found below, and the digital archive of work can be viewed at the PandemiDiarios digital archive.

In this second round, in alignment with our Fronteridades initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we continue to encourage the creative expression of the day to day human moments, experiences, reflections, and creative responses during the COVID-19 pandemic, with emphasis on the experiential intersection of the pandemic with life on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In partnership with University of Arizona Libraries’ Special Collections, we have the unique opportunity to archive digital versions of all creative work supported by this program in the Family and Community Archives. This “digital museum” will be freely available to the public in perpetuity.

Congratulations 2021 PandemiDiarios awardees:

Adriana De La Torre

Adriana De La Torre Portrait
Adriana De La Torre

De La Torre is a Chicana visual artist living in New York City. In collaboration with Southern Arizona non-profit Colibrí Center for Human Rights, the artist designs the bilingual Revista Hermandad zine, written by and for families of disappeared migrants. Submissions include artwork, personal stories, and mental health coping strategies during times of loss. Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this zine is mailed and sent digitally to hundreds of families across the U.S., offering a sense of community and support.

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Alejandro Macias Portrait
Alejandro Macias

Macias is an artist and Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona School of Art, raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. His work addresses themes of heritage, immigration, ethnicity, which are often contrasted with the theme of “Americanization.” This project involves creating two-dimensional works that navigate the artist’s own Mexican-American identity, physical and sociological divisions along the U.S. / Mexico border, and the ever-shifting contemporary American political landscape within a pandemic. 

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Bianca Valverde Portrait
Bianca Valverde

Valverde is a social scientist, feminist activist, and PhD candidate in the field of research studies in health and society at El Colegio de Sonora in Nogales, Sonora. Through her work with the non-governmental organization Verter, AC, Valverde supports harm reduction with individuals who use drugs through activities such as exchanging new syringes, rapid test for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C, and counseling. Listening to drug users’ experiences inspired Valverde to undertake this creative project, which involves photo and audio documentation of the daily lives of unhoused drug users on the border, with emphasis on their identity, dignity, and human rights. 

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Dolores Rivas Bahti Portrait
Dolores Rivas Bahti

Dr. Bahti is retired faculty at the University of Arizona, where she developed and published new regional frameworks for interpreting Latinx art and photography. Her family history on the U.S.-Mexico border dates from her paternal great-grandfather’s 1901 arrival in Cananea, Sonora and her grandfather’s 1918 transfer to Nogales, Arizona. Through a year of losing friends and family members, Rivas Bahti wrote poetry and painted in watercolor, inspired in part by the work of J.M.W. Turner after the April 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, in present day Indonesia. Her projects weaves together these reflections as a meditation of solitude, grief, hope, and healing. 

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Elena Vega Portrait
Elena Vega

Vega is a multidisciplinary artist, freelance photographer, and mosaic artist from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Her organization Lata Oscura produces creative books, fanzines, and magazines with recycled and inexpensive materials. For this project, Vega will create a coloring book for all ages inspired by the landscapes and daily life in both cities of Nogales, Sonora, and Nogales Arizona. By presenting realistic representations of the border for coloring, new “artists” sheltering at home are invited to experience, imagine, and co-create life and landscape in Ambos Nogales. 

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Gloria Flores and André Saucedo Portraits
Gloria Flores and André Saucedo

Flores is a PhD Candidate in Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Arizona, whose scholarship centers movement as an epistemology and production of knowledge challenging the politics of race and identity in Latin America. Saucedo is a dancer and artistic director, who founded the Texas-based dance company Kúos. Faced with social distancing necessities during the pandemic, Flores and Saucedo dedicated themselves to mastering virtual tools to be able to continue dancing with others from their homes. In this project, they will be producing a manual for virtual dance instruction for dance instructors, dancers, and directors with technical methods to approach the screen and create a sense of community while still being physically distant. In culmination of the project, they will produce a virtual dance performance in a Webinar setting that emphasizes a theater-like experience for spectators and dancers.

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JD Aragon Portrait
JD Aragon

Aragon is an indigenous Hopi 2Spirit artist, middle school teacher, YouTube creator, musician, and advocate living with albinism. In his work as a teacher on the Tohono O’odham reservation, he observed firsthand the effects of the pandemic when so many systems of support, from seasonal ceremony to child- and elder-care systems, came to a halt. In this project, Aragon uses photographs, video, and audio interviews to produce a video communicating the stories of O’odham reservation residents during the pandemic. 

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Jhonatan Henao-Muñoz Portrait
Jhonatan Henao-Muñoz

Henao-Muñoz is a graduate student at University of Arizona, in French Linguistics and Second Language Learning & Teaching. His experience and training in digital humanities inspired the idea to use the podcast medium to create space for diverse underrepresented voices, and to connect different voices with similar experiences. The Podcasteando project will be a set of five episodes, which illustrate diverse realities during the pandemic in the borderlands. 

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Laurie McKenna Portrait
Laurie McKenna

Laurie McKenna is a cross disciplinary artist in Double Adobe, Arizona, whose work examines and engages socio-economic, political, and cultural issues. Her work is deeply attached to labor, place, the border, and American social margins. Coping through a brutal year of loss and stress in 2020, McKenna turned to photography, writing, and drawing for grounding. In this project, these disparate creative moments will be “aggregated” into a cohesive story of this surreal and difficult time. 

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Monica Martinez
Monica Martinez

Born and raised in the US-Mexico border area, Martínez-Díaz is a visual artist who uses photography, video, design, and installation to create conceptually based work focused on the hyper normalization of violence in Northern Mexican society. This photobook project uses a series of images to narrate the artist’s experience at her own home and at family member’s homes in the respective border towns of Ciudad Juarez, El Paso, and Nogales. The project aims to understand past and present realities living in a border city the intersecting crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drug cartel war. 

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Monique Garcia
Monique Garcia

Currently working as a nurse, Garcia has observed the unique physical and emotional challenges that the border poses to many of her patients. Combined with the layered challenge of the pandemic, this dance film project involves original choreography, set in the desert, which communicates the felt sense of disconnection, repetition, and hopelessness. 

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Rachel Espinoza Portrait
Rachel Espinoza

Espinoza is an Akimel O'odham and Chicana artist from the border region of Big Bend, TX, now living in Tucson, Arizona. Her art, primarily acrylic painting, is influenced by the west Texas landscapes of her youth, as well as the Arizona landscapes of her patrilineal ancestors. This painting project aims to draw inspiration from the style of “Victory Gardens” propaganda of the 1940s, while commenting on the resilience of indigenous foods and the ability of plants to transcend national borders. 

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Ruxandra Guidi Portrait
Ruxandra Guidi

Guidi is a journalist born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, with 20 years of experience reporting across the U.S., Carribean, South and Central America, and Mexico. During the pandemic, Guidi found sewing and quilting as an effective medicine for anxiety. For this project, Guidi uses quilting as the medium to stitch a new vision for the U.S.-Mexico border region. This quilt asks questions, such as, “What would the line between Ambos Nogales look like if there was no border wall, if animals and humans were free to roam back and forth as needed, if new infrastructure didn’t snake its way along mountainous, rich and complex communities and ecosystems?” 

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Ramón Méndez Portrait
Ramón Méndez

Ramón César Méndez is a scholar and poet originally from El Paso-Ciudad Juárez borderlands, which informs his intellectual endeavors have through a “fronterizo” lens. Set up in three short sections (“I as others”, “Others as I”, “I as my Others to me”) this poetry project is a multi-disciplinary attempt involving bilingual verse complemented by photography and music that bear witness to the complexity of experience in Sonora-Arizona borderland communities during the pandemic. Méndez is a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Arizona. 

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Ruben Moreno Portrait
Ruben Moreno

A self-taught Mexican-American artist born and raised in Tucson, AZ, Moreno has exhibited work in El Paso, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Mexico and on the International border itself. Moreno’s project illustrates a source of hope for him during the pandemic- the proliferation of Sonoran Desert animals inhabiting new spaces while people stay home. This image will take the form of a portable large scale mural using a recycled billboard banner, for display in multiple locations in the Sonoran region. 

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Sara Hubbs Portrait
Sara Hubbs

Sara Hubbs is a multi-disciplinary artist with family ties to the Sonoran Desert for more than eight generations. Her project was inspired by the family story that her Great-Great-Grandmother emigrated from Altar, Sonora, MX, to Phoenix during the “Russian Flu” pandemic (1889-95). A paper-based story map will visually locate experiences of the women in Hubbs’ ancestral line across five generations, their movement through the Sonoran Desert, and the occurrence of three global pandemics spanning 131 years. 

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Susana Sedgwick Portrait
Harmony Hazard Susana Sedgwick

Sedgwick is a filmmaker, writer, and performance artist, with a background in cultural anthropology. Inspired by conversations over the past year with friends and family members in Ambos Nogales, this project comprises a series of interviews across perspectives of border residents. These interviews will inform a personal essay to authentically communicate the experiential themes of Nogales residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Thomasa Rivas Portrait
Thomasa Rivas

Rivas is a Tohono O’odham mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, whose family has lived at Ali Chugk Community (Menegers Dam) “forever;” since before the Tohono O’odham Nation and reservation, Mexico, or the United States were created. Rivas’ family continues to follow the O’odham him:dag (traditional worldview), including participation in summer ceremonies which require travel into Mexico, which has become more difficult with recent restrictions. For this project, Rivas will make traditional Tohono O’odham (hu’uli) grandmother dolls, which offer remembrance, comfort, security, spiritual protection, and love. These dolls serve to remind us that we are not alone- as the artist states, “Our grandmothers create a never-ending circle around us, which encompasses our spirituality, our power, and our physical being.”


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Verónica Hirsch Portrait
Verónica Hirsch

Founded in 2019, the HONOR (Healing Our Nations, Offering Resiliency) Collective is an Indigenous-led network within Southern Arizona designed to strengthen relationships, resiliency and healing practices among Indigenous communities. HONOR members represent Tohono O’odham, Hopi, Kickapoo, Macehual, Mississippi Band of Choctaw, Yaqui, Zuni, Navajo, and Chiricahua Apache Native Nations, as well as various Mexican Indigenous lineages. Members provide mutual aid; conduct community outreach; support Indigenous economy; and convene support circles. HONOR cites countless epidemics witnessed and weathered by Indigenous people living within Tohono O’odham traditional homelands and current Pascua Yaqui tribal lands, including settler colonial genocide and introduction of foreign diseases, continued incidents of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP), and now the COVID-19 pandemic. For this project, HONOR Collective members will document and celebrate their efforts by creating a short film that highlights their Indigenous methods of caretaking and ceremony for resilience. 

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Yanely Rivas Portrait
Yanely Rivas

Yanely Rivas is a Xicana printmaker, visual artist, and organizer with ancestral roots in Michoacán, Mexico, whose art and life are deeply influenced by themes of migration, restriction of movement, colonization, indigeneity, spirituality, and healing. This illustration project will focus on specific Sonoran Desert mountains near the international border, exploring reciprocal relationship with land, traditional O’odham stewardship practices, and navigating the desert as a migration route.