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Fronteras: Diversifying Shakespeare to reflect the experiences of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands

From “Romeo and Juliet” to a “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” William Shakespeare’s plays are a mainstay in schools across the world.

While Shakespeare’s themes may be universal, it may be hard for audiences to relate to the 16th and 17th century English settings.

The Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva(BSC) is a multi-institutional research initiative that engages with Shakespeare’s works to portray the experiences of la Frontera, or the borderlands.

Kathryn Vomero Santos, assistant professor of English and co-director of the Humanities Collective at Trinity University in San Antonio, is one of the initiative’s co-founders.

She said students have resonated with the reimagining of Shakespeare’s themes to reflect the modern-day realities of life on the border.

“It brings students to the text in this new way in which they get to bring their cultures, their histories, to Shakespeare,” she said.

Texas A&M University San Antonio received a $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation grant to support the BSC.

Katherine Gillen and Adrianna Santos, both associate professors of English at TAMU San Antonio, are also co-founders of the BSC.

They have gathered 12 previously unpublished plays and published them in an anthology, “The Bard in the Borderlands: An Anthology of Shakespeare Appropriations en La Fronteras.”

Adrianna Santos spoke about the impact of the anthology.

“When it comes to the genealogies of Chicana/o/x or Mexican American studies and Shakespeare, I think that this is pretty new in terms of bringing it together,” she said.

Click here to view an open-access view of the anthology.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1