National Hispanic Heritage Month: Antonio Valent, Entrepreneur

Antonio Valent, the son of a seaman who immigrated to Texas from Spain, was born in 1884 in the town of Point Isabel (now Port Isabel) in the Lone Star State. He launched a fishing business in that region of the Gulf coast in 1902. The market for the fish he caught was initially restricted to just the vicinity of Point Isabel and – at the southernmost point in Texas – the city of Brownsville area. All of that changed, however, when the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railway (StLB&M) officially extended its line to Brownsville on Independence Day in 1904.

Valent focused on using the railroad to help transport his produce to other sections of Texas. The first StLB&M train to leave Brownsville that summer carried several barrels of the Valent Fish Company’s iced fish. Valent’s business soon thrived, with fish houses established in both Point Isabel and Brownsville. (The above photograph of vessels along the coast of Point Isabel was taken in 1905.)

Another milestone for the Valent Fish Company took place in 1934 when Valent moved a portion of his business south of the Texas border to the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The rich fishing waters in that part of Mexico further increased the company’s productivity, with Valent’s fleet of vessels now numbering over 40. He had trucks regularly transport the catch from Mexico to his fish houses in Texas, where the fish were packed and shipped via trucks to such major cities as Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.

Valent’s vigorous use of transportation systems helped make his company a leading contender in the fishing industry in that region of the United States for nearly a half-century until he sold his business in 1951. He died in 1970 at the age of 85.

Antonio Valent’s younger brother Pablo Valent, who worked for the company from 1941 to 1949 (during which time it was known as the Valent Brothers Fish Company), has his own transportation-oriented claim to fame. As a surfman serving at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Texas-based Brazos Life-Saving Station (the present-day South Padre Island Station), he took part in a high-risk operation to rescue the crew of the fishing schooner Cape Horn in the Gulf of Mexico during a severe storm in 1919. Pablo Valent was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Life-Saving Medal for his role in those rescue efforts.

For more information on Antonio Valent, please check out https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/valent-antonio

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