In Search of an "Authentic" Border Narrative
NALAC and the Ford Foundation have awarded grants to 27 artists and organizations whose work focuses on amplifying the stories of U.S.-Mexico border communities.
Our view of reality is culturally conditioned by hegemonic narratives of the world. But an art that prides itself on opening windows where others see walls must also do the exercise of joining pieces of a truth that is the sum of voices, looks, experiences and testimonies beyond prejudice and the story so often told.
In an effort to change the narratives of the border, the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, has awarded 27 grants to artists, cultural workers and organizations to bring to life these other stories and perspectives on a territory that has been fertilized by prejudice, such as the U.S.-Mexico border.
Among the grantees are projects that amplify these other realities, such as the Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona, which tries through its theatrical programs to reflect the diversity of voices in the border region, including musicals such as Anita, which focuses on the story of a young Salvadoran migrant, and implementing digital tools in the theatrical experience.
Also San Diego artist Evan Apodaca and his project Secret City, where he challenges border narratives and explores those other dissident narratives by analyzing the effects of the military industrial complex in the San Diego region.
From music and in New Mexico, artist Amalia Teresa Castro Mondragón proposes FronterizXperience, a conceptual and musical album to uplift the cross-border queer community and the imbalances of power, discrimination and violence they suffer on both sides of the border.
Both of the above artists and the remaining 24 - you can check them out HERE - will receive grants valued at $1.4 million for work they will undertake over the next two years as part of the Reclaiming the Border Narrative program.
"We work to elevate the most marginalized voices within our communities because we know that arts and culture is our most powerful conduit for transformative change," said Maria Lopez De Leon, president and CEO of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.
"Using their artistic and cultural practice strategically to promote justice, artists and culture makers along the southern border will create works that reflect the dignity, resilience and beauty inherent in border communities and our stories," she added in a statement.
Likewise, and given that the stories of border communities, which include U.S. citizens, migrants, refugees, indigenous communities and asylum seekers are also part of the history and present of the United States, Ford Foundation Vice President of Country Programs Maria Torres-Springer noted:
"Harmful narratives about border communities have for too long dominated national attitudes toward immigrants. We are proud to support these communities in reclaiming their truth, telling their stories and crafting new anthems for America that ring with the dignity, demands and dreams of border communities."
The awards are part of a larger initiative by NALAC, in which it also joins other associations such as Borealis Philanthropy, the Center for Cultural Empowerment and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists that will document these experiences and learnings by creating a digital archive.
We come from a dark time where border communities have been demonized by different administrations and projects like this make the border not a place of division, but a bridge and a source of endless true stories and life histories.