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Teaching Artist: Patricia A. Barrera

Assistants: James Dunn, Santiago Galeas, Carolina Gomez, Monica Mathieu, Zeke Jenei

Site: Esperanza Academy Charter School (Middle School)


About the Project

Defining and representing identity, whether one’s individuality or as part of a group, community, or nation, is integral to human experience. Few people would claim that their identities were defined by allegiance to one single community. For most of us, what makes us unique is the complex of different identities that we embody - political, religious, linguistic, national, local, social and so on.


For this project I worked with students at Esperanza Academy Charter School to explore their ancestry and origins through the flowers and animals of their home countries, which include Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Perú, El Salvador, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, and the United States. We also chose to include a Hummingbird, a Motmot, El Coqui, a Cuban Land Snail, and Monarch Butterflies, each one of them representing qualities and attributes of the Esperanza student. The roots of our tree are a symbol of growth and represent the teachers at Esperanza. In the center the roots form a heart, a symbol of how love can conquer all.  In the back of our Tree of Our Identity is a rising sun, the Esperanza Sun, a symbol representing faith, integrity, and excellence. In the background are maps created by students. The maps created are based solely on memory and emotions experienced through their journeys in their community.

These images were incorporated into the final design for Arbol de Nuestra Identidad (Tree of Our Identity), a mural that brightens the school’s lobby.

The students we worked with were deeply invested in their mural. 

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