McALLEN – Colorful images of La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Llorona, indigenous groups and even Selena grace the walls of STC's Pecan Campus Library, all paying homage to the thoughts and ideas that make up the vision of what it means to be a Chicana woman. The images weren't chosen randomly; they are part of artist Santa Barraza's exhibit and lecture "Four Decades of Chicana Art and Culture in Texas and Beyond," which kicked off South Texas College's Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

Barraza, a Kingsville native, made an early afternoon and evening appearance on Sept. 15 before close to 400 STC students, faculty, staff and community members. She explained several of her works, including murals, retablos and canvas paintings. In her art, she integrates Mayan and Aztec cultures and mixes religion and feminism, and transmits a message of empowerment for women.

However, one of the ironies Barraza has observed from her experience in the art world is the interest her work has generated outside of her own culture.

"We are not very interested in our own culture, but other people are," she said. "They (other cultures) are buying our art and investing in us. It's important for students to see that they can succeed in art."

Barraza arrived four days before her scheduled talk to prepare a piece specifically to kick off the festivities. With the assistance of two of her students from Texas A&M-Kingsville and a group of STC students, the South Texas artist created an original sand sculpture titled, "Day of the Dead Altar for Los Tios," in honor of her aunt and uncle that passed away earlier this year.

"The students worked really hard on it," Barraza explained. "I couldn't do it all by myself in such a short amount of time. We got it done in three days, thanks to the students."

Barraza's next exhibit will be at La Piña Gallery in Austin. Afterward, she expects to have a showing in Austria and Spain.

"We're very happy that Santa Barraza accepted our invitation to participate in the lecture series and we're honored by the sand sculpture she took the time to prepare for us," said STC Library Specialist Esther Garcia. "It was very exciting. We had a great turnout by our students and the community."

STC's Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the college's Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Library Services, continues on Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Pecan Campus Library with the presentation of author Ignacio García, who will give a talk titled, "What Would Dr. Hector P. Garcia Have Thought of Today's Politics?"

For more information contact Victor Gomez at 956-872-2070 or at vgomez@southtexascollege.edu.