Faces and Places: La Posada and the American Dream

La Posada Restaurant located in the heart of Old Town Clovis was a local favorite for authentic Mexican food. (Contributed by Jose Flores)

When translated to English, the Spanish term “La Posada” simply means “The Inn.” But in the plural sense, it takes on a new meaning.

La Posadas refer to Catholic festivals that take place in Mexico between Dec. 16 and Dec. 24. The festivities celebrate the biblical story of Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter so Mary could give birth to baby Jesus.

Clovis City Councilmember Jose Flores, who at the time was only 19 years old, took inspiration from the celebrations to come up with the name for his family’s restaurant, La Posada, which opened in November 1978.

Clovis City Councilmember Jose Flores with parents, Celia and Jose “Lupe” Flores. (Contributed by Jose Flores)

Located at 311 Pollasky Ave., La Posada was an Old Town Clovis icon, serving authentic, home-style Mexican food to the community until it closed in 2015.

In many ways, the story of La Posada and the family behind it exemplifies the American Dream. Like any story regarding the American Dream, it starts from humble beginnings.

Flores’ parents immigrated to Clovis from Texas and Mexico in the 1950s.

His dad, Jose Guadalupe “Lupe” Flores, was a farm worker who lived in the small border town of La Feria, Texas. He was uneducated, but what he lacked in education he made up for in resilience, drive and independence.

“Dad was a very hard working man, never was fearful of work, he was very independent, very self reliant,” Jose Flores said. “What I learned from dad is that you never give up, and that you are self reliant.”

His mom, Celia B. Flores, belonged to a lower middle class family from the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. She was an ambitious schoolteacher with dreams of moving to the United States to open her own business.

“Her family encouraged education, but they still struggled in Mexico. They had businesses. The family had a grocery store and grandmother had a restaurant,” Jose Flores said. “Mom had been a schoolteacher so she was fairly educated in Mexico. She was the brains of the family… She was a very bold, fearless woman. I always say she was my mom.”

On one of her trips to Texas, Celia Flores was exposed to a wealthy family, who hired her as a nanny in 1954. It was there that she met Lupe Flores, who worked on the family’s farm. The pair fell in love, exchanging love letters after Celia Flores went back to Mexico.

In 1955 Lupe Flores heard from friends of a small town with ample job opportunity nestled in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The name of that town was Clovis. The next year, he and several other Mexican families from the area loaded up their trucks to make the move.

“It was 1956 when everyone loaded up their jalopies and trucks. They described it like a scene from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,’ but they had trucks and they loaded all that they had. Dad brought over his brother, his mom and dad, and other siblings that still were not married. All those people fit in one truck, a flatbed,” Jose Flores said.

Lupe Flores established himself on a ranch near the modern day intersection of Minnewawa and Shepherd Avenue. He married Celia Flores soon after and brought her back to Clovis.

“Together they made a formidable team,” Jose Flores said.

The family lived in poverty when they first moved to Clovis. They shared a small, rectangular farm labor-housing cabin with another family until they saved up the money to buy their own home on Fourth Street in the 1600 block of Clovis.

Celia Flores became a community organizer in Clovis’ developing Latino immigrant community. She was an active member of the Catholic group known Los Guadalupanos (The Guadalupe Society) and a leader in the local chapter of La Progressiva (The Progressive Society).

She would often take her oldest son, Jose Flores, to the meetings she attended. That was where the future city councilmember’s passion for service began, he said.

“From the time I was 6 to 8, I was her little chaperone. She exposed me to her activist work and her leadership work and I guess I caught the bug there because as far as I can remember, from my high school years, I started to be a leader in whatever groups I joined. I was always part of a club and sought leadership in those clubs.”

Jose Flores was sent to Guadalajara, Mexico, to attend high school. It was there that he was exposed to La Posadas, and a restaurant that shared the same name, “La Posada.” He would later adopt that name for his family’s own restaurant.

A year after graduating and returning to Clovis, Celia Flores began looking for a larger house to accommodate their children, who by that time had all returned from Mexico. But instead of a house, they found a restaurant.

“Mom is looking for a bigger house because everyone is back. She has a friend that is a real estate agent and they look for a house. They come back and they say, ‘Well, we couldn’t find a house, but we found a business,’ and that was the day that they came back telling us that they found this little place on Old Town Clovis,” Jose Flores said.

Celia Flores was a dreamer and a go-getter. Jose Flores said that when his mom set out to accomplish something, nothing stood in her way. Opening a restaurant in America was one of her many dreams.

But even with her strong drive, opening a restaurant as a Spanish-speaking immigrant in America wasn’t easy. It took hard work to get La Posada off the ground, Jose Flores said.

“They bought it and it was kind of scary. No one knew how to do the paperwork and the red tape,” he said. “There was no real kitchen so now we had to get all the permitting for the kitchen, make sure the city would allow it, make sure the county would allow it. The only one that could really work with her in the family was me. So she and I took it upon ourselves to do everything, she and I were the spearhead of La Posada.”

With their family’s help, Celia and Jose Flores turned La Posada into a successful restaurant.

“It was well received. It was another one of her dreams, that she started a business, that she contributed to the community. Every one of us, every sibling, worked there. At first I was its manager,” Jose Flores said.

Jose Flores eventually moved on to begin his career in law enforcement, serving in the field for more than 20 years. Some of his assignments included narcotics detective, homicide detective, patrol lieutenant and sheriff’s captain.

Similar to his mom, Jose Flores also became an active member in the community. He participated in organizations such as the Clovis Rotary, Latino Water Coalition, North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency and CSUF Criminology Advisory Committee.

He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Organizational Development from CSU Fresno in 1997 and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the National University in 2004.

In 1999, he became the second Mexican-American elected to the Clovis City Council. He said La Posada helped him win the seat.

“When I decided to run, I had a lot of help, I had a great coalition here in Clovis and people knew me, they knew me not only because of who I was but because of my parents and all that goodwill that they had established because of the restaurant,” Jose Flores said.

He continued, “Clovis law enforcement, my friends, mom and dad’s goodwill because of the restaurant – and people knew that I was part of the restaurant – and my parents’ ties to the Latino community here, that got me elected.”

Jose Flores said his family’s story is proof that the American dream still lives.

“I think my parents personify that American Dream. They came to this country with literally nothing and they pursued their dreams and achieved most of them. One of the goals was to leave their children with more than they ever had, and they did that,” he said.

He hopes that future generations of Latinos never forget the sacrifices their grandparents and great grandparents made to give them opportunity for a better future.

“Now it is up to their children, their grandchildren, to honor that hard work, that dedication, that drive,” Jose Flores said. “Especially the Hispanic, Latino, Mexican population of California… We are the face of this state.

“We are the legacy of this state. We are the new leaders. We have to have that drive to be those that govern and govern fairly. Everything our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents wanted, we should be able to deliver because they gave us the example of how it can happen.”

Ron Camacho was born and raised in Clovis. He attended Clovis High School and graduated from CSU Fresno in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and Journalism. Before joining the Roundup, Ron wrote for Pollstar Magazine and the Sanger Herald. He has a deep appreciation for the arts and is a lover of music, cinema and storytelling. When he’s not busy looking for his next story, Ron enjoys taking weekend expeditions to the beach or mountains to practice landscape photography.