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Museum director speaks about Hispanic heritage and journey to U.S.

Published: Sep. 19, 2021 at 2:25 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - South Mississippi is no stranger to prominent Hispanic figures, but only one person can call themselves a filmmaker, pilot and executive director of the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.

“When people tell you that you will not be able to do something, let that give you more energy to be able to do it,” Francisco Gonzalez said.

It’s the advice he’s lived by since he was a teenager back in Venezuela working in film studios.

“When I did film work, I did good film work. Not mediocre work,” Gonzalez said.

His love of movies blended with his love of planes, as he would often spend time taking trips with his father in the family aircraft.

“I fell in love with the feeling of flying,” he said.

But when he realized his home country wasn’t offering enough opportunities, he moved to Mississippi when he was 19 after falling in love with the beaches along Highway 90.

Gonzales made the most out of his new country by getting a pilot’s license and then his own plane. He then attended USM for film school, eventually landing a job at WLOX-TV to help with camera work.

He branched away from the station to start his own film company, Gonzaflex Productions, shooting thousands of commercials along the coast.

His passions brought him a new life in America and he still flies high as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.

“I’m fully committed to this museum,” he said.

Gonzalez was a part of a group dedicated to honoring the state’s aviation history with a museum in Gulfport. He helps organize the site, volunteers and he even donating some artifacts to the exhibits.

“Anybody that commits to something has to put their own skin and bones into it. And that’s what I did,” he said.

While he credits some of his success in the U.S. to his own talent, he also recognizes the opportunity Mississippians have given to him.

“As an immigrant when I came here, I was in awe of this country,” he said. “People value what I do. People value what I bring to the table.”

Though he has seen many great successes, the filmmaker, pilot and museum director has seen his fair share of hardships and those are experiences he wants other immigrants to take to heart.

“I see other Venezuelans and I tell them this, ‘I work very, very hard for many years,’” he said.

Gonzalez wants people to know that the American Dream is real, if the effort is there too.

“If you work hard, you can achieve and if you achieve, you can help others,” he said.

And with Mississippi seeing an increase in immigrants from across the world, he hopes more families head his advice.

“When there’s an obstacle in front of you, move aside and keep going,” he said.

Right now, Venezuelans in the U.S. are designated for temporary protected status due to the political and economic dangers of living in the country.

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