English professor Kathryn Vomero Santos, Ph.D., and her collaborators, Katherine Gillen, Ph.D., and Adrianna M. Santos, Ph.D., from Texas A&M University-San Antonio, have been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to further their ongoing research on the reception and remaking of Shakespeare in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.
The Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder of the arts, culture, and humanities, awarded more than $12 million in funding to research projects across the nation this January. As part of their mission to support social justice-related research, $500,000 of these dollars supported the Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva.
"We are absolutely thrilled that the Mellon Foundation has invested so generously in the future of the Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva," says Santos. "It is especially exciting to be part of their Social Justice and the Literary Imagination initiative because we believe in the world-making power of Borderlands art to lay the foundation for more socially just futures in our scholarly fields and in our society."
Kathryn Vomero Santos, Adrianna Santos, and Katherine Gillen have been working to build the BSC since 2018. The goal of this initiative is to use Shakespeare’s well-known works to reimagine colonial histories and to envision socially just futures in La Frontera. Part of this collaborative work is a collection of 12 plays that adapt Shakespeare in the context of the US-Mexico Borderlands. This publication, The Bard in the Borderlands: An Anthology of Shakespeare Appropriations en La Frontera, will be the beginning of a larger project of generating scholarship, programming, and resources about multilingual Borderlands Shakespeare appropriations. The unique work of the BSC centers the languages, traditions, and cultures of the Borderlands while dismantling historically colonial ways of reading literature and fostering culturally sustaining approaches to teaching canonical literary texts.
One of the unique strengths of this project is its foundation in a collaboration between two universities in San Antonio with a strong history of fostering humanistic research and teaching. "Dr. Adrianna Santos and I are excited about our cross-institutional partnership with Trinity, and we are glad to be connected with the Humanities Collective in particular because of their wonderful public programming," Gillen says. "Our collaboration has already led to many fruitful community events, publications, and classroom innovations. We are looking forward to expanding our networks and supporting local Chicanx and Indigenous artists through this work," added Adrianna Santos.
The BSC’s recently awarded Mellon grant exemplifies the kind of integrative scholarly projects in the humanities that Trinity aims to support. "The BSC’s grant from the Mellon Foundation is a testament to the innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration that becomes possible when humanities research is seeded and nourished internally," Santos says.
Santos and her colleagues have been able to create programming and edit their anthology of Borderlands Shakespeare plays with the support of several internal grants and funding sources currently available to humanities faculty at Trinity, including the Humanities Collective’s Public Humanities Fellowship, the Mellon Initiative Regional Research Grant, and the Mellon Initiative Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program.
The SURF Program has been particularly generative, as Santos has involved four Trinity students in the research process for The Bard in the Borderlands. This past summer, she worked with Paloma Díaz-Minshew ’24, a global Latinx studies and English double major, and Eva Buergler ’22, an English major who recently graduated, to transcribe, study, and annotate these unique border plays. This new grant will allow Santos to engage other students in this important research.
Ultimately, this grant will help the BSC in achieving its goal of bringing works of Borderlands Shakespeare to a wide variety of people, bridging the gap between scholarship and the broader community. From building relationships with people locally in San Antonio and in the Borderlands region to spotlighting creators and scholars, the Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva is committed to connection.
"We live and learn in such a vibrant city with a rich history of activism, artmaking, and humanistic inquiry," Santos says, "and we are looking forward to continuing that legacy by grounding our work here as we strengthen our connections and partnerships with artists, activists, scholars, and teachers throughout the Borderlands region."