Boca Chica: The People’s Beach Outings to the seashore in the 1950s


Special to the NEWS/PRESS

With the widespread development of Padre Island and the most recent visitor to the area, Space X, Boca Chica Beach has lost its luster, for many.
For many years, Boca Chica Beach afforded Valley folks the nearest and most accessible beach before the building of the Queen Isabella Causeway at Port Isabel. The causeway was completed in February of 1954.
Allow me to take you on a journey to Boca Chica Beach that will rekindle the spirit of yesteryear.
Waves of fun…
Located at the end of Highway 4 out of Brownsville, it extended from the Rio Grande on one side to the Brazos Pass on the other, about eight miles in distance.
It was on weekends that my dad would take us to the beach, which brought instant smiles, as we knew that playing on the beach was a mood changing experience.
From my vantage point, it was a brush with nature that left lasting impressions, and the ride then, seemed longer then today—but it was all worth it. You knew you were close to the beach when you could smell the fragrance of the sea breeze.
Once we got close to Brownsville’s four corners, you could see the exodus of cars heading to the beach on Highway 4. The highway was completely paved by the summer of 1930.
For those families that did not own a car—hitching a ride with a neighbor was always a possibility. We all got along!
Once you arrived, it was a common rule to park side by side, and that was strictly followed, but there was always some that decided differently.
We had the freedom to run as far as the eye could see and enjoyed a game of hide and seek on the giant sand dunes—with peals of laughter, I might add.

Rene Torres

We were there until the face of the sun disappeared. But sometimes, on a moon lit night, we stayed in place to enjoy the splendor of sleeping under the stars.
Going back in time…
In those yonder years, Boca Chica Beach went unnoticed to the rest of the Valley—it was Brownsville’s beach—the people of Brownsville owned it. Today, piece by piece, we are losing our connection with nature, and our most popular recreational sanctuary.

Elon Musk, who is clueless about our history, along with local government officials, are redefining the rules and boundaries as to when we can visit our beach. Up to this point, all we have received from Space X are explosions—and the most recent one, according Musk, was successful. How do you figure that? At this juncture, we all should be expressing glances of concern.
And do not be surprised that one day, our billion-dollar friend will own Highway 4 and develop Boca Chica Beach to his liking. At which time, we the people, will have no access to an area which once served as our natural playground.

Today’s digital kids will not have the opportunity to smell the scent of the ocean breeze but will instead be exposed to “rocket fuel.” The future will reveal how much return we will earn from this investment— but for now, we must put up with the obvious. The truth is that this region is among the poorest in the country, and it continues to embrace the concept of taking from the poor, through tax abatements, to give to the rich. Does that make any sense to you?
There is one thing, however, that Musk cannot take away from us and that’s our priceless souvenirs — the memories of our outings to Boca Chica Beach.
See you at the beach…The other one!

Editor’s Note: Certain illustrations and photos were originally published as advertisements and in the “Brownsville Herald.” The photo of the beachgoers is from the late 1940s or early 1950s. Rene Torres is a retired assistant professor from the University of Texas at Brownsville, and Texas Southmost College. He has a long history in the Rio Grande Valley as an educator, sports historian, and humanitarian with a wealth of community service to his credit. His involvement in his community was acknowledged in 2008 when he was awarded the “Jefferson Award for Public Service” in Washington D.C. His work on numerous civic organizations made him a focal point in the community for those who desired to make a difference.


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