Heritage and Hope: Vanessa Martinez Soltero
Heritage is not just where you come from; it’s how you carry that history forward. Sojourners highlights ministers, artists, and activists putting their faith into action fueled by their heritage and hope. Vanessa Martinez Soltero is an activist bridging her Christian faith and Indigenous traditions to sustain herself and community.
My name is Vanessa Marinez Soltero. My pronouns are she / ella, and I co-founded Puentas Collective for faith and activist leaders to decolonize both our faith and our activism.
Puentes Collective came from the struggle of brown people
We started in Southern California in 2019. I was taking people over to the border, back and forth from San Diego to Tijuana, and then I realized a number of us were "puentes." "Puente" means a bridge, right? We were these bridges that was trying to be defined by white Christian churches in the United States, coming in and imposing, you know, their help — also by Latin American folks on the other side. Those of us who are migrants or children of migrants, we kept getting rejected that we weren't, like, fully Mexican, and they thought I was born here. No, I was actually born and raised, like, 30 minutes from the Tijuana border because I was born in Ensenada, and I was raised there until I was 12.
I just figured that there had to be a better way. Right? And then the church couldn't hold that space, wholly, fully. And activism couldn't hold it fully. But we have not really tapped into parts of ourselves. And that includes knowing our history, or Indigenous spiritual practices that may have been demonized by colonized Christianity — the very parts that we need for our resilience and our sustainability — if we want to continue being in this faith and activist spaces.
There's a lot to be celebrated. There's a lot of decolonizing that needs to happen, but also the indigenizing part. What does it mean to step on our ancestors’ shoulders? What does it mean to honor the parts that were dishonored? And, then, what does it mean for us to have a new earth, to have a new community?
My Esperanza for this work is that we become fearless and that we dismantle the systems that were created, you know, without, you know, communities of color in mind.