Special to the PRESS
Longtime Port Isabel resident Isabel Barrientez Perez celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, with her children, grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren.
Barrientez was born to Romana Valent and Pedro Barrientez in Port Isabel, one of 14 children of 14 children, including 3 sets of twins. Barrientez is the fifth of her 14 siblings to live to be 100 years old. Her mother Romana came close, too, living to be 99 yrs old and 8 months.
Of her brothers, Justo Barrientez Sr., lived to be 102 years old, and Alfonzo Barrrientez Sr., lived for 101 years and 8 months. Barrientez’s sister, Esperanza Barrientez Garza, lived to 101 years and was one of the 3 sets of twins. Barrientez’s other sister, Sister Mary Stella (Sister of the Incarnate Word), passed away two years ago at the age of 104 and 4 months.
Barrientez has one remaining sister, Viola Barrientez Guillot, who is 94 years old and the youngest of the Barrientez siblings. Guillot is also one part of the Barrientez’s 3 sets of twins.
Barrientez, at 14 years old, moved to Port Isabel with her aunts, Maggie Valent and Delores Valent.
Barrientez remembers helping Maggie make homemade wreaths and flowers for funerals and to decorate the Catholic Church for weddings and other events. Barrientez and her aunts would walk to the bay near what is now Pelican Station, a few blocks away from their home on Adams Street, to gather seaweed, drying it on the porch and then stuffing the wreaths with the seaweed. They would drag sacks of oysters and shuck them on the porch, eating them raw from the shell.
Barrientez graduated from Port Isabel High School and worked as a secretary for the Point Isabel Independent School District, the City of Port Isabel and the Port Isabel branch of the Cameron County tax office. Barrientez remembers mailing the Port Isabel newspapers to Port Isabel residents who were in WWII, including five of her brothers.
Barrientez married Norberto Perez Jr. from Port Isabel in 1947, raising six daughters and one son. She and Perez moved to Brownsville after raising her family and became a member of the VFW, Ladies Auxiliary and became president and did volunteer work, which included fundraisers to raise money for scholarships to help young Chicanx students to attend college.
The Valent and Barrientez families were and are very devoted Catholics.
Barrientez credits her longevity to drinking a glass of wine every day, (“the blood of Christ”), her faith and dancing. She loves music, especially Mariachi’s.
Editor’s note: The authors of this article are Barrientez’s daughter, Margarita Uresti, Barrientez’s niece, Anna Melina.