CASA SOL Planning Committee Bios (2018-2019)

Lisa Sass Zaragoza

¡Hola Solerxs-bienvenidos!  My name is Lisa Sass Zaragoza. I was born and raised in Chicago, though I've been in MN for  30+ years, so am pretty grounded here as well. I live in south MPLS with my three children.  I love reading and most anything to do outdoors--biking, gardening, hiking, camping, canoeing, to name a few.  If I'm not doing those activities, then I'm trying to plan when will be the next time I can :-). Here at the University of MN,  I coordinate Programs and Outreach for the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies and teach the spring CASA SOL class. Feel free to stop by anytime, particularly if you are interested in working with schools, groups or organizations in the Latino community(ies) as part of your efforts here at the U of MN. ¡I'm super excited to meet and get to know you--the 2018-2019 Solerxs cohort!


Juan Telles

I work full-time as an Academic Advisor for the College of Liberal Art in the President's Emerging Scholars program at the University of Minnesota. I enjoy learning and reading about US history, specifically about Chicano/Latino history in the US, which complements my U of M undergraduate degree in history. I also got my Masters in the Multicultural College Teaching and Learning program. I am an active member Minnesota Alumni Network of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc. (Latino-based Fraternity here at the U of MN) and enjoy working with the students in the Living Learning Community CASA SOL. I also collaborate with fellow Latinos across campus in Latino/a/x Faculty and Staff Association. In my spare time I enjoy hanging out with my family and fraternity brothers, watching movies, playing games and video games, listening to music, reading, and trying new things.

Gabriela Spears-Rico

The formerly-undocumented daughter of a single campesina, Dr. Gabriela Spears-Rico grew up along the American West Coast learning to call migrant labor camps and trailer parks "home."  She is a graduate of Stanford University and received her Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. An Assistant Professor of Chicanx and Latinx Studies and of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota, Gabriela Spears-Rico’s research is primarily invested in exploring how representations of indigeneity in Mexican popular culture inform understandings of race and ethnicity among people of Mexican heritage. She completed her fieldwork on the touristic consumption of P’urhepecha cultural and spiritual performances as a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Anthropological Studies in El Colegio de Michoacan.

Spears-Rico is currently working on her first book, Mestizx Melancholia and the Legacy of Rape and Conquest in MeXico. This work engages performance theory, critical race theory and feminist theory to examine how "going native" functions in Mexico and how the dynamics of cultural appropriation inform the production of mestizaje and indigeneity among Mexicanxs and Chicanxs. She has two forthcoming chapters, “Decolonial Maternalista Motherwork as Pedagogy,” in the Chicana Motherwork anthology and “In the Time of War and Hashtags: Rehumanizing Indigeneity in the Digital Landscape” in Indigenous Interfaces: Spaces, Social Networks and Indigenous Identities in Latin America, both to be published by University of Arizona Press.

Dr. Spears-Rico is also a cultural worker and poet. Cherrie Moraga directed and staged her anti-war play, "G.I. Jose,” at Stanford University’s Piggot Theater in 2003. She toured the United States as a performer with INCITE's Sisterfire! Cultural Arts Tour for Radical Women of Color as well as Mexico with Mujeres Poetas en el Pais de las Nubes. She has been a featured poet at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City numerous times and was awarded the Xochiquetzalli Award for Native/Chicana Women’s Poetry in 2008.  Her poetry has been internationally anthologized and featured in the documentary film, “Let: an Act of Reverse Incorporation.” Locally, her creative work was exhibited at Intermedia Arts, the Ordway Theater and the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts.

In addition to teaching, researching and writing, Dr. Spears-Rico enjoys exploring Minnesota’s lakes with her partner and three-year old daughter and their shih tzhu- Britney Spears. She loves cooking her grandmother’s Mexican food recipes, watching documentary crime shows and encouraging her child’s interest in jingle dress dancing. Although her partner’s Ojibwe roots keep her in Minnesota, she fantasizes about returning to Michoacan where decoloniality is currently overtaking the P’urhepecha landscape. She also enjoys dancing cumbias and corridos.


Lorena Muñoz

I am an Assistant Professor in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and American Studies. My research is focused on (im)migrants communities in the global south, particularly in the areas the informal economy, food, gender, sexuality, race and health. Growing up in Mexico, street vending was simply a tapestry of everyday life. On Sundays after church I bought my food, and every day my breakfast or my lunch was bought outside of school from street vendors. When I moved to Los Angeles for graduate work, I found that the community and public landscape incredibly similar to the one where I grew up in Mexico. Street vendors would set up outside my apartment like clockwork, offering the predominantly Latino community traditional food and goods. This has influenced my interests in street vending, urban community food production and food justice activisms. 

Raul Aguilar Jr.


My name is Raul Aguilar Jr., and I am originally from Hayward, WI. Though, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities brought me to the Twin Cities over 10 years ago, and now it is home :). Here at the university I earned my bachelor's degree in communication studies, and now I am planning my route to my masters program. I work for the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) & The Circle of Indigenous Nations as the Community Engagement Coordinator/Multicultural Associate. This is my first year with the CASA SOL Planning Committee and really looking forward to working with all the incoming students! Oh, and there are a lot of activities I enjoy to do in my spare time. Anything from relaxing at home watching movies, go hiking, kayaking, or to arts & crafts with music playing all the time. Can't wait to hear your stories, and working with you!

Amy Barton

Hi! I am the Assistant Director for Student Engagement in the College of Biological Sciences. I was born in Guatemala but grew up on the East Side of St. Paul, MN. I was adopted as a baby and have communication with my birth family, so I consider both Minnesota and Guatemala to be home. I earned my Bachelor’s in Family Social Science and Master’s in Multicultural College Teaching and Learning both from the University of Minnesota. I am part of the Latino/a/x Faculty and Staff Association on campus where I lead outreach initiatives. I live in Richfield with my husband Charlie and our two little boys Luis (4) and Javi (2). In my free time I enjoy traveling, listening to the Code Switch podcast, dancing (I am mildly obsessed with Selena!), watching movies, dabbling in photography and laughing with friends.

Domingo Coto

Bienvenidos a CASA SOL! My name is Domingo A. Coto (pronouns: he/him/his) and I am the Residence Director for Sanford & Wilkins Halls. I was born in Compton, California, but have lived in Minnesota since the lovely age of 4. I went to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for my undergraduate career, where I got my Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and to the University of St. Thomas for my graduate career, where I got my Master's degree in Leadership in Student Affairs. I have worked at the U since November 2015 and can honestly say it feels nice to be home again. Beside my work in Housing & Residential Life, I am a co-chair of Pride@Work, the LGBTQIA+ affinity group on campus, as well as the President of the Minnesota College Professionals Association (MCPA). When not working, I enjoy reading, going to concerts, watching movies, playing video games, hiking, spending time with family and friends, and playing with my chinchilla, Beylor.


Carolina Mendez

Saludos! My preferred pronouns: She/her/hers. I am a freshman admissions counselor and the Chicanx/Latinx recruitment coordinator for admissions. I was born in the center of the world, Ecuador and moved to Minnesota at the age of 8 to reunite with my parents after 6 years. I was undocumented/DACAmented up until March of 2017. Therefore, being an immigrant is a central part of my identity. I graduated from Augsburg University with a Marketing major and Spanish minor. I am hoping to continue my education and pursue a master’s degree in Higher Education or Public Policy.

I love to stay active active in the summer, go out dancing with my friends and spending time with my family.