Women Who Inspire Me: Gabriela Reyes Jusino

For my “Women Who Inspire Me,” series, I interviewed four different women who were dedicated to making change and challenging the status quo. These women came from all walks of life -- they had different majors, interests, political beliefs, and backgrounds. 

 

The first of my interviews was that of Gabriela Reyes Jusino, a fourth-year Art History and Archaeology student at the University of Maine.  Reyes Jusino, who hails from Puerto Rico (P.R), is an incredibly passionate and hard-working person. Some of her passions include but are not limited to, her major and minor, museum work, politics, activism, and chihuahuas. 

As one of the only art history and archaeology students at the University of Maine, Reyes Jusino finds herself extremely dedicated to her studies. Reyes Jusino is currently toiling away at her senior thesis, which focuses on the lack of diversity in museums. In addition to this, Reyes Jusino worked at the Hudson Museum on the University of Maine campus for several years. Reyes Jusino notes that she enjoyed her current work-study position at the museum, but she still wants to move up the ladder and go beyond entry-level work. She hopes to one day become a curator for a museum so that she can open doors and blaze trails for women of color in the museum sector. 

“I get to move exhibits and help create exhibits, [but] I want to be more in the process...I think I would love to be the head curator of a Mesoamerican or Latin American art gallery because I think it’s important for Latinx Americans to be their own gatekeepers of their own patrimony. And yeah, most of the higher up positions [in museums] are filled by women, but not necessarily women of color. And so, when you intersect privilege and what is considered gatekeeping, per se...it just doesn’t privilege a lot of minority groups or folks of color,” Reyes Jusino comments. 

Of course, social justice, racial justice, pro-Puerto Rican activism, and intersectional feminism are very important to Reyes Jusino -- and not just in museums. Reyes Jusino believes very strongly in working towards equality, and she orients the majority of her political activism towards achieving this goal. For example, Reyes Jusino does a lot of work for Caribbean and Latinx students and individuals. 

Some of Reyes Jusino’s recent work includes merging the Caribbean Club and Latinx Student Organization into the Caribbean and Latinx Student Alliance (C.A.L.S.A), of which she is currently the President. Reyes Jusino is also involved in UMaine’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (UMaine Y.D.S.A), has worked for the Intersectional Feminist Resource Center (I.F.R.C),  and is serves on the General Student Senate. Reyes Jusino has also spoken on the “Experiencing Racism On Campus Panel,” as part of the University of Maine’s Socialist and Marxist series. 

Even though Reyes Jusino remains a staunch advocate against injustice, she still occasionally finds it difficult to explain certain injustices to people who will never experience it. After speaking on the University of Maine’s “Experiencing Racism On Campus Panel,” recently, Reyes Jusino experienced some exhaustion associated with the emotional labor of the panel. 

 

“I was just exhausted. Even though I probably didn’t speak as much to the African American experience on campus, because I am Latina, but trying to explain, ‘Here’s why Peter doesn’t have the right to vote,’ and ‘Here’s why my friends and I can’t go around jumping through fences at O.T. (Orchard Trails), walking around drunk,’ because automatically, we’re going to get profiled, because of our skin color,” Reyes Jusino says. 

However, just because Reyes Jusino occasionally tires of explaining things such as racism and white privilege, this doesn’t make her any less engaged in anti-racist activism and social justice work. Reyes Jusino makes it a priority to discuss and engage in anti-racist politics, especially when they relate to her home country, Puerto Rico. Reyes Jusino notes that she finds pro-Puerto Rican politics and activism very significant and that she tries to discuss such matters as often as possible in an educational, yet conversational manner. 

“In any conversation, I try to bring up P.R. as much as I can, because it’s not just...where I’m from, or where Jennifer Lopez is from, or where Bad Bunny is from. No, there are 3 million Americans...over half of them are living under the poverty line. [Puerto Rico] is still not recovered from a devastating hurricane, and it’s not ready for another one...there are 4,645 of us that aren’t here today. 4,645 Puerto Ricans died during and after Hurricane Maria,” Reyes Jusino explains. 

Reyes Jusino has witnessed a lot of ignorance about Puerto Rican issues and anti-Puerto Rican racism throughout her life. Reyes Jusino has also been personally affected by such matters, even in educational environments. This is why she finds it so important to educate others about Puerto Rico and deconstruct common misconceptions surrounding the nation and its people. 

When Reyes Jusino isn’t talking about Puerto Rican politics or fighting the good fight for political equality, she is probably talking to her friends, planning her future, studying, or arguing for the superiority of chihuahuas. 

Gabriela Reyes Jusino is an incredible woman. She is not afraid to be honest and speak the truth, even when people may not want to hear it. She is upfront about different injustices, and she knows how to confront them. She truly does care about equity. A powerhouse full of energy and fire, she is a force to be reckoned with.