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Raquel Hinojosa, an artist, a teacher and gallery owner shares her story of growing up as an artist in the Rio Grande Valley area. Growing up between Mexico and a small border town called Roma, she talks about how her vibrant culture inspires her art. Her current exhibit “Pollinators” is being displayed at the McAllen Heritage Center and describes how an unique encounter with bees inspired her new art collection.

Raquel Hinojosa: Artist, Teacher, and Gallery director

BY: Adrita Tasnim

Nestled in a suburban neighborhood, there’s something different about this white, brick building standing among the rest of the houses. There’s a bright, neon graffiti of La Virgen de la Guadalupe on the wall, the door to the building is painted in rich blues like Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and a giant dinosaur is perched on the lawn.  


This dinosaur is the catalyst which inspired Raquel Hinojosa’s new art collection.

“It’s a funny story, a day before our art program in May, we noticed there was an excessive amount of bees right by our door and the local museum had gifted us a dinosaur which we hadn’t completely set up,” says Hinojosa. 

Hinojosa, currently the owner and director of Hinovations Art Gallery, says inspiration struck her “literally from the belly of the beast.” During transport from the museum to her gallery, some bees had decided to cool off inside the dinosaur’s stomach and created a huge hive.

Lupe Hernandez, her business partner, who also teaches art classes in the gallery, was commissioned along with her to complete a mural for the McAllen Heritage Center. Impressed by their work, the Heritage Center reached out to them about having an exhibit. Her recent encounter with the bees inspired her part of the exhibit called “Pollinators.”


Hinojosa has spent her entire life in the valley.

“I was born here in the valley, in a tiny little town called Roma, but I grew up in the town across in Mexico called Ciudad Miguel Alemán,” she said. “So, my first language was Spanish, and then we moved back to Roma when I was about 9 years old. I am from the Valley. I’ve been here all my life.”

She is deeply passionate about creating and teaching art and when asked about what sparked this passion, she credits it to her father.

“My dad was my number one supporter,” she remembers. “When I was about 11 years old, I started drawing. My aunt, who lived in Mexico, told me to take some art lessons and my dad would just boast about me left and right.”

She laughs fondly as she remembers her father would say, “my daughter’s an artist. She could draw a picture for you, do a painting.” She says she would tell her dad “I’m only 11!” And even though she was young, she thinks back to how her dad always encouraged her and supported her dreams. 

Growing up in Mexico, surrounded by the vibrant culture, also had a huge impact on who she is as a person and an artist.

“We celebrated different holidays like Día de los Muertos, we learned to do a lot of crafts,” she said. “ I performed in a lot of plays and did a lot of musicals. And my culture was just very inspiring to me, and I think that is one of the reasons why I decided on the art path.”

Hinojosa went to Roma High School, studied at South Texas College, and went on to receive her degree in fine arts at The University of Texas at Austin. She first started working at an art gallery at UT and knew from that point on that she wanted to work in museum-based organizations. 

She says she decided to move back to the McAllen area from Austin in ’94 due to some family setbacks.

“I love the Valley and I got a job working as an outreach assistant at the International Museum of Art and Science” she recalls.

Hinojosa mentions that this was her dream job and gave her an opportunity to teach art classes to kids since she worked for the children’s exhibits. 

“Artists want to create artwork, but they very seldom want to teach art,” she said. “Creating art and teaching art is very different. It doesn’t come as easy to an artist as some people might think.”

So, while being employed full-time at the museum she started what she says is her “side hustle” of teaching art to kids. She eventually had to leave the museum because her “side hustle” became her full-time job.

“A lot of people think that being an artist is a hobby,” she said. “It’s not a hobby, it’s a full-time job and a full-time commitment.” 

“I always think of my studio as a seed that I watered to grow,” she noted. “My business started to grow from one child to 10 kids at one point. All of a sudden there were 50 students, and it was just from one parent recommending my classes to another.”

Hinojosa says even though she wanted the normalcy of an 8 to 5 job, she really enjoyed teaching art because it also gave her time to create her own artwork. She started exhibiting her work all throughout the Rio Grande Valley area and says it took her years to build relationships with other artists and people within the community. 

 Her encounter with the bees and her exhibit at the Heritage Center inspired her to focus on building her next art collection. She is hugely inspired by nature and the unique habitat of the Rio Grande Valley area, especially the small pollinator bees, snails and birds that are displayed in most of her current paintings. 

“A beekeeper who rescued the bees told me so much about these little pollinators and why they’re so important to us. In the morning I fill up buckets of water so they can rest and I’m currently planting 100 seeds that are all butterfly and bug friendly” she said. 

An unexpected encounter led Hinojosa to start a new chapter in her artistic journey. Even though there was uncertainty during COVID, she’s teaching her students again who are itching to be back in the studio. She has been struck by inspiration and says she has been painting and creating so many new works in the past three months. 

As parents drop their kids off for their morning art class, Hinojosa walks around her studio setting up the objects that the students will be drawing for a live painting. She herds the giggling kids into her class and greets them with a warm smile as they settle down. All her students clearly admire and respect her and she values and loves them in return.

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