Born and raised on Milwaukee's north side, 28-year-old Diego Heredia grew up with an abundance of what he calls "brown pride." The source of that pride was his Mexican-American heritage, mixed with some Mexican Indian blood inherited from his great-grandparents.
"For a long time, I had a 'false pride' in my culture," he said. "It was 'false' because I felt pride in my heritage, but I didn't really know and fully understand where my people came from."
After finishing his GED in MATC's Pre-College Division, he enrolled in the college's Liberal Arts and Sciences Division, taking numerous Spanish classes to learn "proper Spanish" and to learn more about his culture.
Heredia puts finishing touches on
the mural in the Foreign Language Lab.
Heredia already had been to Mexico seven or eight times, but nothing prepared him for what he experienced in the summer of 2008, when he participated in MATC's monthlong Mexico Study Abroad Program, taking courses at the Cuauhnahuac Spanish Language Institute and living with a Mexican family.
A highlight of that trip included excursions to Xochicalco, an archaeological site located near Cuernavaca, Mexico. The site includes temples, pyramids, painted images of gods, and stone and wood walls with carvings -- all dating from 650 to 900 AD.
Heredia became intrigued with the site as well as other forms of ancient art he saw. "It is my culture. My family came from those people. I really embraced my culture and wanted to mimic the style."
He collected books about the images and made his own sketches of what he saw. When MATC Spanish instructor Debbie Hoem-Esparza saw his sketches, she had a brainstorm. "You know how fast her mind works," Heredia said. "She took one look at my sketches and asked me to paint a mural for the MATC Foreign Language Lab."
Heredia spent most of the summer of 2009 painting murals of Aztec, Mayan and Toltec images in the Foreign Language Lab, with some assistance from his sister. The college held an open house in the lab in November to showcase Heredia's work and offer the MATC community a chance to meet him. The Foreign Language Lab is located in Room M392 in the Main Building on the Milwaukee Campus, 1015 N. 6th St.
Commissioned to Paint More Murals
He's now been commissioned to paint murals for the Liberal Arts and Sciences Division and is currently researching different styles of painting for that project.
The father of two children, Heredia's days are filled with parenting, coursework and a part-time job at Pizza Hut. His family helps with childcare.
Heredia loves to paint and would like to find a gallery that would mass-produce some of his paintings. But he knows it's hard to earn a living as an artist and sees painting as his avocation. Heredia wants a satisfying career that will also guarantee financial stability.
"It is my culture. My family came from those people.
I really embraced my culture and wanted to mimic the style."
Left to right: MATC Spanish instructor Debbie Hoem-Esparza; Diego Heredia;
and Pamela Carlson, an educational assistant in the Foreign Language Lab.
Plans to Become a Registered Nurse
Heredia's career goal is to become a registered nurse. He has finished nearly all his general education classes, and will apply for the registered nursing programs at MATC and at Cardinal Stritch University.
"I find the medical field interesting and am fascinated with science," he said. Heredia experienced working in the health field by earning his Certified Nursing Assistant designation at Alexian Village, a nursing home and senior center in Milwaukee. "I worked in the dementia ward," he said. "I really enjoyed helping the people. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of work. But I want to help people and change their lives in a positive way."
For information on MATC's Pre-College Division, see:
Additional information on MATC's Liberal Arts and Sciences Division can be found at:
For additional information on MATC's Registered Nursing Program, see: