VozFrontera was born out of the recognition that too many negative narratives about the US-Mexico border were obscuring the beauty and culture that has long existed in communities along it. We wanted to shine a light on folklife—the everyday things we say, make, and do—in Nogales, Arizona to remind people of the beauty and value often “hidden in plain view.”
Using the tools of the folklorist—observing, listening, and interviewing—the Southwest Folklife Alliance conducted a needs assessment of the community to learn about pressing local issues, innovative responses, and ideas about how the Castro House might serve the community. We found a community facing real challenges, but also a community already engaged in a process of re-imagining itself. We found business incubation programs already in motion through farmers’ markets and micro-lending. We found dedicated teachers bringing art and music to their students. We found successful efforts underway to bring activity back to downtown, including renovation of an empty hotel into housing for seniors and plans for the ghostly Morley Avenue, once a bustling retail area. We found youth engaged in music making, gardening, and innovative dialogues. We found tortilla makers, boot makers, musicians, muralists, retail store owners, produce brokers and sellers—generations of families involved in many kinds of folklife, from food and foodways to visual culture to music and dance to occupational folklore.
Residents and leaders told us they wanted to see more creative leadership and youth empowerment. They wanted more arts and cultural activities. They wanted older generations and younger generations to connect. They wanted young people to stay in Nogales, or to return once after college and access local economic opportunities. They wanted the rest of the world to know that the story of Nogales is more than what the media reports.
We’re working together with Nogales friends and partners to help do that.