Meet Our Faculty: Assistant Professor Gabriela Spears-Rico

Illustration of Gabriela Spears-Rico

Assistant Professor Gabriela Spears-Rico is an anthropologist and a poet, a researcher, and a writer. At the University of Minnesota, she has a joint appointment with the American Indian Studies and the Chicano & Latino Studies departments. She’s been awarded a litany of recognitions – she recently won the prestigious McKnight Land-Grant Professorship (2021-2023). She was also awarded the competitive 2021-2022 Institute for Advanced Studies Faculty Fellowship in the College of Liberal Arts and the 2019 Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship. These fellowships are given to scholars with promising scholarly interventions in their fields and rigorous research agendas who are also committed to diversity, inclusion, and leadership. And with these recognitions, coupled with her position at the University, Assistant Professor Spears-Rico has continued work on her book, Mestizo Melancholia and the Legacy of Conquest, which analyzes how models of indigeneity and mestizaje are considered and mobilized in Mexico. It is centered on her research in Michoacán, Mexico. 

In 2013 Spears-Rico moved with her family to Minnesota. She applied for an academic advisory role as a part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program. Within three years she was promoted into the role of Assistant Professor in her joint appointment of Chicano and Latino Studies and American Indian Studies. She also works as an Affiliated Faculty member in Gender Women and Sexuality Studies and American Studies. Today, she teaches and continues to write non-fiction as well as poetry and creative writing. She travels often, pre-COVID, lecturing and sharing her expertise on Dia de los Muertos, Indigeneity in Michoacán, women of color, Latinidad and racialization, and much more. She also continues to write and perform poetry, staying connected and involved in numerous Indigenous non-profits and organizations while finding time to advise a myriad of Indigenous and Latinx students.

What does it mean for you to be a scholar of color at the University of Minnesota? 

“One primary issue I would name is that it’s easy for faculty of color to become invisible labor, not just in doing Equity and Diversity work for the University and retention labor but also the heavy lifting that I'm doing right now with teaching and advising primarily first-generation students of color in the midst of the pandemic. I think teaching in this crisis accentuates what I had already been experiencing as a scholar of color on the campus, which is a high demand for my time and for my attention, particularly in the areas of advising, managing crises for students, and mentoring. I love my job and I love the place that I'm at. I love my department, and I would love to see more attention paid to the multiple hats we wear as faculty of color and the increased demand on our time.”

Because she was mentored throughout her academic career, especially at the University of Minnesota, Spears-Rico knows how important it is for Latinx and other students of color to be able to come to her for guidance, support, and advice. She works hard to be that role model that so many students of color need, those students from underserved communities, those struggling to get by through these difficult times. With this role comes a lot of emotional labor, extra time, commitment, and invested energy. 

“I love, I love teaching in these departments and I particularly enjoy guiding and mentoring students interested in this career and in other careers that serve our communities. That's why I do what I do.”  

She plans for her book, Mestiza Melancholia and the Legacy of Conquest to be finished by 2022.

In the Fall of 2021 Assistant Professor Spears-Rico will be teaching CHIC 1102 “Latinos in the United States” and CHIC 3452/AMIN 3452 “Comparative Indigenous Feminisms of the Americas.”