GULFPORT, Mississippi (WLOX) – Southern Mississippi is no stranger to prominent Hispanic figures, but one person can call themselves a filmmaker, pilot, and executive director of the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.
“When people tell you that you won’t be able to do something, let that give you more energy to be able to do it,” said Francisco Gonzalez.
This is the advice he has followed since his teenage years in Venezuela, working in film studios.
“When I did cinema, I did a good job of cinema. It’s not mediocre work, ”Gonzalez said.
His love of cinema merged with his love of airplanes, as he often spent time taking trips with his father on the family plane.
“I fell in love with the feeling of flying,” he said.
But when he realized his home country didn’t offer enough opportunities, he moved to Mississippi at the age of 19 after falling in love with the beaches along Highway 90. .
Gonzales made the most of his new country by earning a pilot’s license and then his own plane. He then attended USM for film school, before landing a job at WLOX-TV to help with camera work.
He moved away from the station to start his own film company, Gonzaflex Productions, shooting thousands of commercials along the coast.
His passions brought him new life in America and he still flies high as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.
“I am fully committed to this museum,” he said.
Gonzalez was part of a group dedicated to honoring the state’s aviation history with a museum in Gulfport. He helps organize the site, does volunteer work, and even donates artifacts to exhibits.
“Anyone who engages in something has to put their own skin and bones in it. And that’s what I did,” he said.
While he attributes part of his success in the United States to his own talent, he also recognizes the opportunity the Mississippians have given him.
“As an immigrant, when I came here, I was in awe of this country,” he said. “People appreciate what I do. People appreciate what I bring to the table.
Although he has enjoyed many successes, the filmmaker, pilot and museum director has had his share of challenges and these 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 the American Dream is real, if the effort is there, too.
“If you work hard you can be successful and if you are successful you can help others,” he said.
And with Mississippi seeing an increase in the number of immigrants from around the world, he hopes more families will lead his councils.
“When there is an obstacle in front of you, step aside and continue,” he said.
Currently, Venezuelans in the United States are designated for temporary protected status due to the political and economic dangers of life in the country.
Copyright 2021 WLOX. All rights reserved.