Southwest Folklore

Mission & Research

Southwest Center faculty document, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the representations and practices of everyday life in the Southwest and US-Mexico borderlands in order to foster appreciation for place and being, a critical reflection on our expressive history, and enhanced opportunities for cultural equity and respect throughout the transborder region. This work is inspired by the legacy of Jim Griffith and sustained by the Jim and Loma Griffith Endowment for Public Folklore. The Griffith Endowment for Public Folklore has been held since 2004 by Dr. Maribel Álvarez. 

The endowment supports a broad array of activities, allowing Álvarez and colleagues to amplify the important work of Big Jim across the US Southwest and northern Mexico, and also to develop novel ways of engaging diverse publics around contemporary expressions of cultural heritage. Several such activities have pivoted around the Center’s role as the convener and organizer of one of the nation’s longest running and most highly attended folklife festivals, Tucson Meet Yourself (TMY), which began in 1974 as a collaboration between Big Jim and local non-profit organizations. The Center’s support for public folklore research and public programming led in 2015 to the founding of the non-profit Southwest Folklife Alliance, which now directly organizes and runs Tucson Meet Yourself.  The SFA has become one of the region’s (and certainly the city’s) most important organizations working to preserve and promote cultural heritage. 

Apache Sunrise Dance Ceremony

Apache Sunrise Dance Ceremony

Photo by Kimi Eisele



Other current projects include J.C. Mutchler, associate research historian at the Southwest Center and Art professor Jackson Boelts'  work on Border Cowboys and Cowgirls, a cross-disciplinary examination of ranches and ranchers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Working with Sonoran photographer Alejandra Platt, the team is creating and documenting cultural narratives of our unique borderlands ranching heritage through oral histories, photography, and public history.

David Burckhalter, photographer and research associate in the Southwest Center, is engaged in a long-range documentary study of Seri Indians of the northwest coast of Sonora.

Gary Nabhan, Kellogg Professor in the Southwest Center, continues to document and interpret regional foodways through his sustainable agriculture efforts and his Sabores Sin Fronteras project. And the effort of David Yetman and Dan Duncan in their documentary television work is, at its heart, an exploration of comparative regional folkways and folklife.

2018 Master-Apprentice Artist Awardees

2018 Master-Apprentice Artist Awardees

Photos by Steven Meckler