March 5, 2024

Identity: We Not Me (Part 1)

What is our identity? How do we discover it? What would it look like to define our identity through the communities we participate in?

An invitation to risky love 


“¡Si se puede!”  “Yes we can.” Every language has its own way of communicating encouragement. For the Hispanic community, the phrase “Si Se Puede” arose during the civil rights movement when Cesar Chavez advocated publicly for the rights and protections of hundreds of thousands of farm workers. The phrase is now the motto of the United Farm Workers of America, and although the phrase has become popularized through various movies and TV shows, the phrase captures an important truth about the hispanic community: identity is sought in the context of community. There is an important truth communicated through the diction choice of “we” instead of “I.” For the hispanic community, I am okay when we are okay.

This phrase of encouragement isn’t just about living a life of survival–it is about living a life where all have the ability to thrive. In Dr. Alexia Salvatierra’s conversation with Dr. Pamela King, she shares that the Spanish word for thriving is “banta.” Banta is the word closest to the English word for thriving. The Reyna-Valera is a common Spanish translation of the Bible that is closest to the King James Version in English. In the Valera, Banta is translated as shalom. Shalom carries with it a connotation of communal well-being. In Hispanic communities, identity is deeply communal. An individual’s well-being is not sought in isolation. One’s well-being is tied to the well-being of others. 


In her book, Buried Seeds: Learning from the Vibrant Resilience of Marginalized Christian Communities, Alexia Salvatierra draws our attention to the forgotten traditions of the early Christian church. This church did not take place under a steeple. There was no stained glass. There were no aesthetic luxuries. One of the earliest forms of American Christianity was not a white man’s religion. Rather it was “a practice that emerged from the underside of America in the Antebellum South.” The practices embraced by the African American community in response to slavery were practices that enabled them to “love their bodies and their heritage” amidst a society that deprived them of their most fundamental human needs. 

These communities, known as Hush Harbors, were rooted in the concept of Ubuntu, a South African phrase meaning “I am because we are.” For the African community, Ubuntu was the practice of tending to one another’s needs in the community. This was done by embracing their bodies as being fully reflective of the image of God. Author Toni Morrison writes that in Hush Harbors woman had to “in this here place, we flesh: flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.” This is risky love. To choose to love not just your own body, but the bodies of those you do life with, because you know that societally this kind of wholehearted love is hard to come by.

Hush Harbors, as Alexia Salvatierra, powerfully points out, harken to our desperate need to re-shape our communities on the shared pursuit of risky love. Hush harbors served as a space of reprieve from the dehumanizing nature of the plantation economy: a social economy that placed the white man at the top of the hierarchical pyramid of human worthiness. Poet Barbara Holmes writes that “joy unspeakable is practicing freedom while chains still chafe.” In a time when the beauty of the black body was blotted out by the sting of slavery, unspeakable violence and abhorrent abuse, to practice joy meant a radical re-embrace of identity as a body made whole, a body made for freedom, and a body made for joy.

Questions to Consider

  1. As you consider your community of origin, what relationships were formative to your understanding of individual identity?
  2. Do you see yourself more as a unique individual or an individual part of a whole? 
  3. How does your experience in the community shape how you understand yourself today?


Salvatierra, A., & Wrencher, B. (2022). Buried Seeds: Learning from the Vibrant Resilience of Marginalized Christian Communities. Baker Publishing Group.

Shaya Aguilar Writer


Continue Exploring


Identity: We Not Me (Part 2)


Identity: We Not Me (Part 3)


The Divine Individuality of a Thriving Life

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