More than 100 people attended the annual Blessing of the Fleet at the Brownsville Shrimp Basin located at the Port of Brownsville Tuesday.
The blessing is a yearly tradition where Father Mark Watters gives an hour long sermon and blesses the water and workers who will be leaving for the shrimp season. Watters has been attending the ceremony for 14 years.
“It is always important to recognize the author and the creator of the ocean and the creator of the shrimp and to come before him as a community to give thanks,” Watters said. “This is the 14th year, seven in terms of kingdom language represents completeness, there were seven days of creation … so, the fact that you have 14 is a double seven, so, it is double of completeness.”
Jesus Treviño, who has been a crew member on several different boats throughout his 30 years working at the Shrimp Basin, said he leaves for the season and then comes back and sometimes stops working for as long as one year, spending his time in Mexico with his family, before he has to go back again.
“When we leave, we are gone for about three months and we go as far as Florida,” Treviño said. “We have a big icebox where we take a lot of food for the trip, we have chocolates, ice cream, sandwiches, you name it.”
When asked how dangerous it is, he said it gets a little scary when it starts to pour and that he was bitten by a water snake on his last trip.
Treviño works for Carlton Reyes, who owns six boats. Reyes started working in Honduras 50 years ago before he migrated to the United States.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 17 and now I am 67, so, how long is that?” Reyes said while he was driving “Miss Ivy,” one of his boats. “After I bought more boats, I don’t go out anymore. When I used to go out I used to leave (my daughters) here on this same dock crying when I go out, then I would go crying all the way out.”
Reyes stopped going out on trips in 1992 but he is still at the Brownsville Shrimp Basin on a regular basis to check on his boats and see what may be needed for his workers. He said a few years ago he had a small number of workers because the U.S. was not issuing enough H-2B visas to fill the need for workers.
“This year we do have enough workers because I was one of the lucky few to get the visa guys, so, my guys, 14 of them, got their visas,” Reyes said.
Verna Reyes Sanchez, a daughter of Carlton Reyes, said she remembers when her dad would leave on the boat and that she would be crying at the dock waiting for him to come back. She said she, her mother and sisters tried to go out with her dad on one of the trips but they were so sea sick that they had to come back.
“Your mom was the sickest of all of you,” Reyes said laughing.
The shrimp season starts July 15 but some of the boats leave a day before to make the most of their time.
“It is always good to have blessings from the Lord,” Reyes said.