In the mid-’40s two pre-teen boys were in Palacios along with their father, Santos Garcia. The two boys, Edward and Chencho, found work around the water. Some days were spent shucking oysters, and others in the bay in search of shrimp. The work was hard and intimidating. The radios were primitive, a 300 lb. Block of ice and an ice pick were the means of preserving the catch, and the pulling in on the fishing gear was mostly manual labor. However, the boys were much more content working as deckhands in the thriving bay industry than out in the fields picking cotton. As they became a little more experienced, they became even more curious. They heard tales that shrimp had been seen floating around the oil rigs at night. Curiosity got the best of Edward. His first trip to the gulf with an Austrian captain was a disaster. The two were a success concerning the shrimp but their navigation skills and engine trouble put them on the Matagorda peninsula for three days. After this experience, Edward vowed never to go out again. He spent the next few years working in the processing plants. Meanwhile, Chencho was working as a deckhand shrimping in the bay making big money. It was then that Edward had to reconsider the shrimping industry.

By 1950, the brothers were full-time fishermen, the two continued as experienced deckhands and eventually were making trips to the inshore waters of the gulf. Gulf shrimping was a new industry for Texas. As the shrimpers ventured out into the gulf in search of larger white shrimp, they came upon the brown shrimp. At first many believed it was spoiled shrimp until it was sent off and analyzed. At this point, brown shrimp production took off. With this incentive, many more were attempting this adventurous trip. Although the size of the vessels had increased, the voyage into the gulf was incredibly dangerous. The Pasa Cavallo, a natural passage, was the main entrance to the gulf. It had proven to be extremely difficult to navigate with its ever-changing sand bars, the treacherous currents, and inconsistent tides. All which could result in the sinking of a boat. However, trips into the gulf proved to be very profitable.

Within a few years, Edward and his wife, Antonia, bought their first gulf boat, “Texas 18”. Meanwhile, Chencho was serving his country in Germany. A month later, the “Texas 18” blew up. This was a big loss for the pioneers of gulf boat proprietorship. About six months later, they purchased the “Texas 1”.  During the ’60s the brothers were making frequent trips to Mississippi and Alabama, where many wood boats were being built. Chencho and his wife, Julia, bought their first boat in 1962. During this decade the shrimping industry was very profitable. The operating expenses were low, along with the cost of living, therefore, boats could be paid for in a couple of years.

By the ’70s builders were now making steel boats. They were much more efficient but also more costly. In the late ’70s, the price of fuel soared, along with interest rates. This was the first time the shrimping industry suffered. By the early 80’s many were forced out of the business because of hard times. The brothers made smart business decisions and were able to weather the storm, while many others sank. Luckily by the late 80’s the price of fuel and interest rates had gone down.

Today, both brothers are still in the business along with their sons. They account for four fish houses and approximately 35 gulf boats. All Garcia shrimp production is transported to Port Lavaca, where they are partners in a processing plant. Their shrimp is packaged for their marketing partners under the brand names of Penguin and Campeche. Their shrimp is distributed to all fifty states.
Selena Garcia

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