Hundreds of attendees celebrate Reclaiming the Border Narrative Digital Archive launch, March 16

Hundreds of attendees celebrate Reclaiming the Border Narrative Digital Archive launch, March 16

March 28, 2024
Reclaiming the Border Narrative Digital Archive launch party photo/ group activity

Photos by Kathleen Dreier

With funding from the Ford Foundation, and in collaboration with the Center for Cultural PowerUniversity Libraries Special Collections and the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry held the official launch of Reclaiming the Border Narrative Digital Archive during an invitation-only symposium on March 16-17. 

The archive is a free, public, easy-to-access online archive that will change and expand perceptions and narratives about migration and the U.S.-Mexico border region. It includes stories from the affected communities that comprise this region and is a vital step towards offering research, content and perspectives on the border region. The archive represents projects created by U.S.-Mexico borderlands artists, advocates, journalists and cultural practitioners aimed at preserving and uplifting a range of authentic borderlands stories. 

The University of Arizona received a $1.18 million grant in 2022 for the archive project.  

“This is important work because it allows us to share the responsibility of capturing important stories from the people who live and work along the border and contributing to the historical record,” said Verónica Reyes-Escudero, the Katheryne B. Willock Head of Special Collections and Co-Principal Investigator of the project. “This documentation–which could be oral histories, photographs, art, and other materials–allows us to provide more content for research with the aim to further the understanding of the region and inform policy.”

The archive will house a collection of narratives, stories, and other content that capture the rich tapestry and multidimensionality of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. This collection will serve as a bridge, facilitating greater knowledge and understanding for borderlands and immigrant communities to those who may not be familiar with these regions, and it will ensure border communities’ cultural resources, expressions, and contributions have the opportunity to be told and shared as part of U.S. history. 

During the symposium, more than 200 participants discussed and celebrated the power of art in narrative shifts. The gathering provided a platform to examine the historical, cultural, and socio-political dimensions that make up the U.S.-Mexico border region and its communities. 

The symposium and archive are continuations of the larger Reclaiming the Border Narrative Project, a partnership of the Ford Foundation with The Center for Cultural Power, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, that aims to expand perceptions and enable impacted communities to share narratives about the border. Many of the artists who participated are part of the Center for Cultural Power’s program cohorts to build the cultural and power-building capacity of artists and pro-migrant organizations to create and amplify multi-dimensional, nuanced stories about the border.

“As an organization that is deeply rooted in artistry and the cultural shifts it can yield, we are thrilled to partner with the University of Arizona and the Ford Foundation for this groundbreaking digital archive,” said Favianna Rodriguez, Co-Founder and President of the Center for Cultural Power. “Together we’ll showcase and celebrate the power of art to inspire, inform and amplify the vibrant voices and authentic stories of these artists that transcend borders.”

"The dominant narrative around the U.S.-Mexico border not only fails to capture the beauty and humanity of the cultures and people in this community, but it perpetuates dangerous tropes and stokes fear of great consequence," said Ford Foundation's Anita Khashu, director, gender, racial, and ethnic justice-U.S. and Lane Harwell, senior program officer, creativity and free expression. "We are proud to support the Reclaiming the Border Narrative Digital Archive, which will serve as a key resource for the authentic voices and stories of people who call the borderlands home."

Program highlights included the symposium keynote address presented by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa and the archive launch celebration keynote address presented by prolific poet and novelist Luis Alberto Urrea.