Collie Farley and Winston Caraker grew up in Port Aransas. When Hurricane Harvey hit their home island in 2017, they wanted to send a message that Port A was bigger than Harvey. The couple drew inspiration from the camaraderie and strength of their community, and The Palm Republic of Texas was born.
How did The Palm Republic of Texas get started?
Winston: Hurricane Harvey had hit and we had evacuated with our family. When we returned, we were sitting on a back porch with a generator running watching emergency vehicles come and go. The situation was terrible. At the same time, we wanted to show everyone that our island is bigger than a storm. We felt inspired to create something positive.
Collie: We wanted to focus on our island, not on a storm.
Winston: I was able to get on the island with some first responders. I saw the initial devastation and helped clean up debris and repair damage. I also took a picture of the sunset the first night back. I posted the photograph on Facebook to let people know that Port Aransas was going to be all right.
Collie: I got back into town a few days later and saw the damage. It was then that we decided to design a flag. We wanted to create something that represented the strength of our island community.
How did you decide what to design?
Collie: We had many mockups – but when we finalized the design, our flag, it felt right and it fell into place. It was important for us to include a palm tree that felt like a south Texas palm.
Winston: We wanted the image of the tree to be straight and not leaning over.
Collie: Palms are very hardy; after a storm the roots of a palm tree are actually stronger. We knew that spoke to the undeniable strength of Port Aransas. We took Winston’s sunset picture and pulled the colors from that image. The colors came directly from the beauty of our island.
How did you come up with the name?
Winston: It’s derived from the Republic of Texas. Much like Texas in some ways, we felt like we were on our own. Texans were helping Texans. Before the national crews arrived, Texans had arrived in mass. The Palm Republic of Texas name fits our spirit.
How did you get the word out?
Winston: I posted the palm tree image on Facebook to let people know that Port Aransas isn’t going anywhere.
Collie: People started sharing the image on Facebook; they made it their profile picture. It spoke to people. It was positive. It wasn’t a picture of damage. It brought people together.
Winston: We decided to put the image on t-shirts. I have a friend who printed them for us. He used a generator because he still didn’t have electricity.
Collie: We gave them to aid workers, we gave them to friends. Everything was so dirty and the idea of a clean, white t-shirt was welcomed.
Winston: From there we printed flags, still using a generator for power.
Collie: We began selling the shirts online and at local events, and from that we were able to give back to locals in need immediately – groceries, cash, a new mattress – you name it. It took a while for folks to access funding and resources.
It’s been one year since the storm hit, where are you today?
Winston: We are anchored in the community, in our island’s culture. We see people wearing the shirts, hats and flying the flags. We’ve opened a store and expanded our website. The image has meaning and resonates with people. We have created a local business association to help with openings and re-grand openings, to promote the island as a whole and to welcome tourists back to their island. We are putting a scholarship fund together for our high school and we should have the funding ready for the next graduating class.
Collie: Many people feel a connection to the island. We love that Port Aransas is their happy place, it is our happy place too. We’re proud of how far this little island has come and all the positive things ahead.
What’s one other thing about The Palm Republic of Texas that you want people to know?
Winston: I think about it as the flag that came storming into Texas.
Haven Lindsey resides in Austin. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy and travel and human interest stories.