Martinez, Faustina Porras (1900–1990)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: November 30, 2019

Faustina Porras Martinez, restaurant founder, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, on February 22, 1900, the daughter of Epigmenio and Dominga Porras. Her father was a rural physician who, during the Mexican Revolution in 1914, moved his family of nine from Mexico to Dallas. The Porras family was part of one of the first large migrations from Mexico into Dallas that resulted in an area of settlement near the city's downtown known as Little Mexico. In Texas Faustina worked as a field hand and attended school irregularly. In 1915 she married Miguel (Mike) Martinez, a recent immigrant from Mexico who worked as a hotel dishwasher and at other service jobs. After he began to do some cooking in his jobs, the couple saved enough money to open the Martinez Restaurant on McKinney Street in Dallas in 1918, one of the earliest Mexican restaurants in the city. From this establishment the El Fenix restaurant chain was born; by 1990 this enterprise included fifteen family-owned restaurants in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Houston, and Oklahoma City. Martinez helped her husband run the business while she raised their twelve children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. She also cooked tamales at home to serve in the restaurant. By the time they turned the business over to their children in 1955, the Martinezes had become prosperous entrepreneurs and well-known Texas restaurateurs. Despite being one of the city's earliest Hispanic business success stories, the family had to overcome opposition when they purchased a home on Cole Avenue and moved into a previously nonintegrated neighborhood. The Martinezes never forgot their early struggles and later sponsored many Mexican nationals who wished to migrate to the United States. They also contributed time and money to civic improvements in Miguel's hometown of Hacienda del Potrero. Following the death of her husband in 1956, Faustina Martinez's children encouraged her to pursue dancing as a hobby and means of avoiding loneliness. She became an avid dancer of numerous steps, including the cha-cha, rumba, mambo, tango, waltz, and later, even the disco. While other matriarchs her age pursued more sedentary retirements, Martinez's energy and love of the dance floor earned her the nickname Mama Cha-Cha. She continued dancing into her eighties and also studied ceramics and modeling, volunteered at St. Paul Medical Center, and was an active member of Phi Sigma Alpha social club and the Dallas International Cultural and Social Circle. Martinez became a United States citizen in 1943, while several of her sons were serving in the armed forces during World War II. She later became an honorary member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was also active in Christ the King Catholic Church. Martinez died on June 8, 1990, in Dallas and was buried in that city's Calvary Hill Cemetery. She was survived by three daughters, three sons, and more than forty grandchildren.

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Dallas Morning News, June 1, 1955, September 8, 1977, June 9, 1990. Dallas Times Herald, June 28, 1974, July 24, 1974, June 9, 1990.

  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Business
  • Women
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Martinez, Faustina Porras,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022,

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October 1, 1995
November 30, 2019

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