For a writer, a research grant not only makes our work financially possible. Grants also restore our faith–in our subjects, in our industry, in our art, in ourselves. And so, in 2024, the year I turned 50, I founded TESTIMONIOS FRONTERIZOS, a new research grant at the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin (my alma mater). It enables students from the Texas counties and Mexican states that share our border to apply for funding to support their own reporting, including travel expenses, equipment, and language training.

The first task was to gather $25,000 to officially endow the grant (meaning, make it permanent). I chipped in the first $8,000, which got matched by an incredibly generous foundation that has requested not to be named. I then asked some writer friends to contribute books to Lotería Literaria, a raffle held both online and at my 50th birthday party in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Authors Norma Cantu, Ana Castillo, Lillian Diaz Imbelli, Patricia Engel, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Reyna Grande, Ito Romo, Natalia Sylvester, and Sergio Troncoso donated autographed copies, while Suketu Mehta and Darshana Narayanan offered up a home-cooked meal to our live auction. Thanks to the generosity of these authors and 88 friends, colleagues and family, we raised an additional $11,200 in just one month—more than enough to endow the grant.

Looking ahead: the more money we raise, the higher the annual payouts will be for future recipients. That is why, in addition to offering mentorship to recipients, I pledge to continue fundraising for the rest of my days. Here are two ways you can be involved, too::

First: by making a tax-free donation, using the link below.

Second: by hosting a fundraiser. Several writer-colleagues have offered to join me in conversation about reporting from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. We are available for readings, panels, dinners, or parties! Lend us your venues…


I like to imagine Testimonios Fronterizos as a buoy for the next generation of border reporters who brave the seas of media and publishing. Gratitude to infinity for your generosity!