The story of French in Texas starts in 1685 when René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, mistakenly established a French colony in Texas while searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River by sea. The colony was named Fort Saint Louis, but it soon reached a tragic end. Since La Salle thought that he had reached the Mississippi River, he ordered for his ship the Amicable to be brought ashore. The ship ran aground and her precious cargo was lost at sea, foreshadowing the doomed colony through the loss of her resources for survival. His last ship, La Salle, ran aground at the Matagorda Bay and destroyed any chance of the colony surviving. Half of the colony was dead within the first six months due to famine and overwork, and the colony soon perished. La Salle abandoned Fort Saint Louis and went on three explorations for the Mississippi River before being killed by Pierre Duhaut.
La Salle’s failed mission represents the starting block for French presence in Texas that has evolved and grown over the centuries. My research aims to explore the American French bicultural identity of French immigrants in Texas in the 20th century and piece together a picture how it feels to start calling a foreign country your permanent home. I conducted this research by using the French in Texas Oral History Collection, which consists of interviews of French immigrants who live primarily in Austin. I also used French in Texas History, Migration, and Culture, which was written by François Lagarde and includes the previously mentioned interviews as well as analysis and conclusions on the data. Furthermore, I explore the idea of modern French identity in Texas through French architecture and cuisine to relate it to modern day times. There is not a lot of information on French immigrants to Texas today because they are not considered to be a major immigrant population. I chose this subject to bring light to this minority group in order to explore their bicultural identity as both French and Texan-Americans. My research found that most of these immigrants identify with their American identity in their everyday life and interactions and treat their French identity as a relic of the past, especially when it comes to the future generation of their children. However, it is important to understand that each individual has a unique experience and story to tell. French immigrants to Texas must use their American identity in their daily life living in the United States, and they hold onto their French identity to remind them of their past and where they came from.This research is important because the number of immigrants to Texas today is expanding, and it is necessary to explore unique viewpoints to understand their sense of identity and their place in our nation. Both identities are equally valid, but they have different uses for an immigrant’s everyday life and interactions depending on situation and context.