Filipino Texans

Biography of the First Filipino in Texas

A one-page biography of the life and legacy of Francisco Flores, the first recorded Filipino immigrant in Texas. Written by his great-granddaughter, Conrad S. Campnest.

In the early nineteenth century, a thirteen year-old Cebuano named Francisco Flores began his career as a fishing schooner, a few items of clothing and a self-made smoking pipe his only possessions. After working for several years on cargo ships traveling to and from Africa, he earned enough money to purchase two commercial fishing schooners, which he then used to travel along the coast of Port Isabel, Texas. There, at the age of forty, he met and married Augustina Gonzalez, who was fourteen years-old at the time. Despite their significant age gap, Flores and Gonzalez gave birth to three children: Agapito, Josefina, and Antonio. Their close-knit family lived in several Texas cities over the course of Flores's life, including present-day Corpus Christi and Rockport. Flores passed away in 1917 at the age of 108, having never encountered another Filipino after leaving Cebu as a child. He is the first recorded Filipino immigrant in Texas history.

Since Flores's arrival, several native Filipinos have followed in his footsteps and immigrated to Texas, where they have integrated thoroughly with other communities. For instance, many Filipino men married into Mexican families in the early years of Filipino immigration to Texas; this phenomenon makes sense due to Spain's cultural influence upon both The Philippines and Mexico during the colonial period. And during the United States' internment of Asian-American citizens, many Filipinos were mistaken for Japanese, further contributing to prejudice against the Asian-American population.

Evidently, Filipino immigrants have fought to establish their identity along the intersections of Hispanic and East Asian communities in Texas. While this experience creates unique opportunities for connection with different cultures, it also contributes to Filipino Texans being continually mistaken for and overlooked among other culture groups. Drawing upon materials from the Irwin A. Tang Papers and Austin History Center, this portion of the exhibit seeks to record the intersectionality of Filipino Texan history and share the experiences that define Filipino Texans today including their influenial community organizations, contributions to healthcare, and distinct cultural practices.