LAREDO, Texas (Border Report) — A South Texas nonprofit that has mobilized members since 2019 to oppose the construction of a border wall around its border city in Laredo, has won a two-year grant to continue that mission and storytelling via art. They are among two dozen entities north and south of the U.S.-Mexico border to receive grants.

The Rio Grande International Study Center (RISC) has been awarded a $75,000 grant by the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the organization announced recently.

“It’s an incredibly and impressive and distinguished grant we received partially because of our work on the border wall issue and our desire to share our truth and how safe this community is and counter the destructive narrative from the previous administration,” RISC Board President Melissa Cigarroa told Border Report.

RISC has helped to spearhead an anti-border wall campaign in Laredo that included the painting of a street outside the federal courthouse in August 2020 that read “DEFUND THE WALL.”

And earlier this year, volunteers painted another mural in Laredo depicting the history of people who crossed the Rio Grande into this South Texas region.

Tricia Cortez, president of the Rio Grande International Study Center, center, is joined by volunteers who helped on Aug. 15, 2020, to paint a 30-foot tall anti-border wall mural on the street in front of the federal courthouse in Laredo, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

A total of $1.42 million in grants are being awarded to 27 entities, including RISC, along the Southwest border through a project called “Reclaiming the Border Narrative,” NALAC announced. Eight grants were given to California entities; four in Arizona; two in New Mexico; nine in Texas and three to entities in Mexico.

Reclaiming the Border Narrative aims to harness national attention about migration and the border by supporting authentic storytelling by impacted communities on the cultures and socio-political dynamics that comprise the region, the organization said.

“We work to uplift the most marginalized voices within our communities because we know that art and culture is our most powerful conduit for transformative change,” NALAC President and CEO María López De León said. “Using their artistic and cultural practice strategically to advance 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 histories.”

The stories will include those of U.S. citizens, immigrants, refugees, indigenous peoples, and asylum-seekers. And Southwest Folklife Alliance will document the project and create an accessible digital archive, NALAC said.

RISC President Tricia Cortez told Border Report that the grant will enable them to tell the dignity and truth of the Laredo border community and create their own narrative and in their own voices.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at