One of the best known Latina artists in the country lives and works in the Coastal Bend.

Santa Barraza is a professor of art at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and loves her students.

"Actually I was influenced by the folk art in Mexico," Barraza said.

Barraza is internationally recognized and is an honored artist. Her paintings are loud and proud and include family portraits, watercolor dream scenes and murals.

Barraza said her inspiration stretches back to the pre-Columbus days.

"I think in our culture, the Mexican culture, it's very matriarchal and I think it goes back to the meso-Americans because meso-Americans believed in the goddesses and everything was matriarchal until we were conquered and colonized and we became patriarchal," Barraza said.

Barraza was born and raised in Kingsville and has taught in places like Penn State and the Art Institute of Chicago.

"My mother said don't go into art because you're not going to make a living," Barraza said.

Barraza is considered one of the most important Latina artists in the country.

"I want to empower women, and so my work is about the empowerment of women and decolonization," Barraza said.

Barraza has been featured in many books, and there is even a book on her work as well.

"This is a book that was published by Texas A&M University Press. This was actually published in 2001, and the book actually started when I taught at the Art Institute of Chicago, so this one is different essays based on my work," Barraza said.

In the classroom, Barraza works to make a difference in the lives of the young students.

"I tell students they should do what they really want, that makes them happy, because you don't want to do something that you're not going to be happy doing," Barraza said.

The students seem to be understanding Barraza message.

"Women and artists are kind of put down and women don't make a lot of money, artists don't make a lot of money, so to be able to put those together and to be able to become a famous role model is very inspiring," Bianca Barrera said.

"I'm very happy that she portrays women because I don't see that around. I've been to the Corpus Christi Museum, that museum, and I didn't really see that. When I see her's, I can see she wants to show more women and how empowering they are and stuff," Cassie Garcia said.

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