The Aparicio Family in Palacios
The logical place for this story to begin is in the year 1907, in the little village called Barruelo de Santullan, in the northern Spanish province of Palencia. It begins with 23-year-old Isaac Aparicio, anxious to seek a future more promising than that offered by the only employer in town – the coal mine. His mind is filled with stories of the immense wealth that can be gained in the new world. Vera Cruz, Mexico is the first stop – later moving to the Chihuahua desert in the Torreon area. After three years of tranquil prosperity, the Mexican revolution makes it expedient to move to Texas in the United States. A later return to Mexico only serves to verify that life there is forever changed no longer desirable, so the permanent move to Texas is made. The marriage to Manuela Villarreal in 1917 adds motivation and fulfillment to his life. Six children and nine years later, 1926, the family moves to Palacios, Texas where Camp Hulen is being built and good jobs are available. The stay is short and the family moves to Ganado, Texas. In 1930 the family, now including eight siblings, returns to Palacios, Texas; this time to stay. By 1932 the family is now complete – seven girls and three boys; they are:
Isabel ———– born in 1918 in Goliad, Texas
Janie ————- born in 1919 in Goliad, Texas
Mary ————- born in 1920 in Goliad, Texas
Rosie ————- born in 1922 in Goliad, Texas
Homer Isaac —– born in 1924 in Zapata, Texas
Bernard ———–born in 1925 in Zapata, Texas
Antonia (twin) — born in 1928 in Ganado, Texas
Andrea (twin) — born in 1928 in Ganado, Texas
Frances ———– born in 1930 in Palacios, Texas
Pete ————— born in 1932 in Palacios, Texas
The next ten years were the most difficult faced by the family because not only were they facing a brutal economic depression, but also the patriarch of the family has been felled by a crippling illness, which severely limited his ability to function. He’s barely able to walk and constantly suffers from painful arthritis and yet he continued to work wherever work can be found. In the summer, he receives 50 cents a week to water the city park. He plants and harvests cotton and maize on vacant land that is bordered by 12th and Henderson streets. Milk cows provide milk to sell and calves to slaughter for food for the family. Shucking oysters provides badly needed income during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Finally the summer garden provides food for the dinner table. And yet all his efforts fail to meet the needs of the family.
It fell upon the mother and the oldest four, all girls, to pitch in and help. So, Manuela and her girls; Isabel, Janie, Mary and Rosie forego school and go to work so the family can survive. They pick cotton, both their own and that of others. They worked as maids; they also raised and sold chickens. The one job that provides the most income is working in the shrimp houses, heading, peeling and packing shrimp. These shrimp houses employed many people in town. Securing a workplace required arriving early, as these were often fewer than the number of people wishing to occupy them. This meant arriving at the workplace as early as three o’clock in the morning and sometimes working through the day into the early evening. There were several fish houses in those years – perhaps the prominent were the Colter Corporation and the Crawford Packing Company. They had their own fleet boats and it was on one of these that 14-year-old Bernard began a fishing career that was to last half a century. As the rest of the siblings grew they also worked in the fish houses, sometimes after school and during the summer months.
The first in the family to enter the fishery as boat owner was Antonia and her husband Edward Garcia, Sr. in the early 1950’s a decade later, Homer and a cousin, Arnulfo Villareal bought their first boat. IN the 1970s Pete would join Homer in a joint venture that grew to several boats by the time Homer died in 1990. These seeds that were planted in earlier years evolved into businesses that today make up a significant portion of the shrimp industry in Palacios. This includes three shrimp houses, 46 large offshore gulf trawlers, and a shrimp processing plant in Port Lavaca, owned by the offspring of Homer and Antonia. Pete remains involved in the shrimp industry also.
This account of one family’s involvement in the shrimp industry illustrates the fact that through good times and bad times this fishery is a constant in the economy of Palacios providing the means of survival in lean times and tremendous opportunities for those who are willing to work when time improve.
It also confirms something heard long ago that once you drink the water of Palacios, you may move elsewhere but you will always return.
Pete V. Aparicio