While public perception of the US-Mexico border centers on militarization and security, the lived experiences of border residents - in panaderias and curio shops, at cantinas and taco stands, in tire shops, classrooms, and quinceañeras – offers a more complex reality. Located 60 miles from the border, the University of Arizona is well positioned to amplify these human experiences and reshape public border narratives. In this effort, UA’s Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry is collaborating with artists, scholars, and communities on the Arizona-Sonora border. These activities are funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation under the two-year Fronteridades program, defined as an intersectional space where borders (fronteras) and humanities (humanidades) collide.
Last month, the Confluencenter team traveled to the border into Nogales, Sonora, to sign an interorganizational partnership agreement with arts and cultural center Instituto Municipal de Fomento a la Cultura y las Artes (IMFOCULTA). The agreement formalizes a partnership that provides microgrants for Sonoran artists whose work depicts the reality of border life. At the signing ceremony, Director of IMFOCULTA, Maricela Moreno Cano, stated, “Es un gran momento para nosotros para nuestra institución, es un gran momento para los artistas, los artistas de aquí de Nogales [It is a great moment for us, for our institution, it is a great moment for artists, the artists from here, from Nogales].” Confluencenter director Javier Duran discussed the importance of strengthening arts and education connections across the border, adding that this binational partnership is established, “para poder crear estos vínculos de manera más estructurada, y también de manera más efectiva [to create these connections in a more structured way, and also a more efficient way].”
In May 2020, Confluencenter will co-host the annual meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), with the meeting theme of Borders, Migrations, and Displacements. For this meeting, Confluencenter staff are working closely with IMFOCULTA staff, as well as Nogales officials and border authorities, to bring humanities scholars across the border for a day of learning, art, and cultural immersion in Sonora, MX, to concretely experience the concept of national borders.
Other initiatives within Fronteridades include the Creative Scholars program, which provides funding for community-based arts and academic practitioners in the border region; and Border Community Storytelling, which supports ethnographic field schools and oral history theater in collaboration with partners Colibrí Center for Human Rights, Southwest Folklife Alliance, and Borderlands Theater Company. Activities of Fronteridades support multiple goals of the Border Lab initiative, as outlined in the University’s 2018 Strategic Plan.