Both Sides Now: Philanthropy along the U.S.-Mexico Border

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

An indication of the Mexican diaspora's cultural influence, Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) is a day of Mexican cultural pride acknowledged and spread by mainstream America. What is mainstream America recognizing when donning Mexican colors, listening to Mexican sounds, or tasting Mexican flavors? A common misunderstanding is that Cinco de Mayo functions as Mexico's "Fourth of July", however, Mexican Independence Day is actually the 16th of September to commemorate the opening grito (cry) of Mexico's successful 11-year war against Spain. Cinco de Mayo, in contrast, commemorates a mostly symbolic victory against French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Today, outside the state of Puebla, Mexicans do not widely celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Philanthropic giving is also practiced differently on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border, and Border Philanthropy Partnership (BPP) sees this as a positive opportunity. After all, they argue, organizations and donors on both sides of la frontera should be able to share divergent ideas of how best to address the needs of this intensely bi-national, bi-cultural region.

The border region, were it America's 51st state, would be dead last in every index measuring human wellbeing. With a population now at 15 million—half under the age of 18—and projected to grow to 25 million by 2025, the border region must be thought of holistically, asserts BPP, which centers its operations in San Diego, California and Juárez, Chihuahua (as Alianza Fronteriza de Filantropía). BPP helps build organizational capacity among its 220 member organizations on both sides of the border and encourages philanthropic investment in projects that benefit both nations.

Border Philanthropy Partnership is currently raising funds for its most innovative project to date, the Border Data Portal. With support from Foundation Center and its Foundation Maps database, the Border Data Portal will be the "first ever portal documenting philanthropy in a shared region where a developed country and a developing one meet." It will show bi-national data sets for the ten border states (six in Mexico, four in the U.S.) and use visual displays to highlight philanthropic impact and opportunities to fill critical needs. Grant makers will be able to find funding partners in a particular issue area or assess where funding is most needed; grant seekers will be able to gather intelligence to help craft compelling grant proposals. Most importantly, the Border Data Portal will more easily connect donors to border-centric causes they care about.

If you work in the U.S.-Mexico border region or are interested in border issues, consider becoming a member of BPP today.