Hispanic-American surfmen Pablo Valent, Mariano Holland, and Indalecio Lopez were among those serving at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Texas-based Brazos Life-Saving Station (the present-day South Padre Island Station) who undertook a high-risk rescue operation in the Gulf of Mexico during a severe storm in September 1919. (Valent had entered the U.S. Life-Saving Service in 1912 and Holland enlisted in the service in 1915 during the same year in which it became part of the Coast Guard; Lopez joined their ranks earlier in 1919.)
The storm had started out as a tropical disturbance in the Lesser Antilles but grew rapidly into a Category 4 hurricane by the time it slammed into the Gulf. The storm’s many victims in the Gulf included the fishing schooner Cape Horn. On the night of September 13, 1919, the storm pummeled the vessel and caused her to capsize. The Cape Horn’s crew of eight men were able to get the schooner back into an upright position after cutting away her sails and rigging. For the next couple of days, however, the crew had to keep the bilge pump running around the clock to prevent flooding on board the now-crippled Cape Horn.
By the time someone at the Brazos Station saw the mastless Cape Horn foundering in the turbulent Gulf waters on September 16, the schooner was just about ready to sink. Valent, Holland, Lopez, and others at the station soon made their way onto a motor surfboat and braved some of the worst sea conditions ever experienced in that region to reach those on board the Cape Horn and bring them safely to shore.
Valent, Holland, and Lopez were among the members of the Brazos Station crew who received commendations from Coast Guard Commandant William E. Reynolds for the daring rescue. In addition, the men were each given the Coast Guard’s Silver Life-Saving Medal in 1921; it was only the second time that Hispanic-American lifesavers received that award.
Photo: The Brazos Life-Saving Station in 1919 (courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)
For more information on the Hispanic-American rescuers who served heroically at the Brazos Life-Saving Station in Texas, please check out http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2015/12/the-long-blue-line-brazos-stations-hispanic-lifesavers-and-the-florida-keys-hurricane/