Port Isabel native approaches 102

By SHELDON MOORE

Its August 1920. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The first commercial radio station in these United States, WWJ in Detroit, begins operations. In Port Isabel, Texas, on August 30 of that year, Pedro and Romana Valent Barrientez welcome a new daughter, Maria Isabel Barrientez, into the world. She becomes a member of a family that will ultimately number 14 children.
Maria Isabel, lovingly known as Chavela to family and friends, grew up in Port Isabel. She went on to wed her childhood sweetheart, Norberto Perez, Jr., upon his return from service in the U S Navy during World War II. Chavela’s brother Manuel was not fortunate enough to survive that war. A street in Port Isabel now bears his name in memorial.
Notable among the many accomplishments of Chavela’s siblings was her brother Justo’s starting and expanding of the Oyster Bar restaurant chain throughout the Valley and as far off as Laredo.
Her older sibling, Sister Stella Barrientez spent most of her 104 years in service to the Lord. As a nun at Incarnate Word, she taught in Brownsville for many years.
Chavela’s sister Esperanza served more than 50 years as a teacher in Port Isabel as well. The Esperanza B. Garza Junior High School Complex in the Point Isabel District was named after her in 1988 and Port Isabel’s Head Start was renamed in her honor in 1989.
Chavela’s brother Lorenzo served in World War II, as did her husband, and the baseball facility at Port Isabel High School now bears Lorenzo’s name.
Chavela’s brother Alfonso operated a ferry between Port Isabel and South Padre Island before the 1950’s bridge was built.
Chavela’s sister and her husband, Lloyd and Viola Guillot, operated a successful shrimping operation and also saw their eldest son found and operate the popular Parrot Eyes Watersports facility on South Padre Island.

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