Photographer and artist Joey Quiroga explores the beauty of the upper Texas coast
Galveston, the Ellis Island of the West, attracted people from all parts of Italy because of the economic opportunities in processing and shipping cotton, sulfur, rice and flour, and in shipbuilding, fishing and port-related activities, said Valentine J. Belfiglio in a 1989 article titled “The Nature and Impact of Italian Culture Upon Galveston Island,” published in the East Texas Historical Journal.
By 1906, Italians owned 50 percent of all retail grocery stores, 25 percent of all confectionary and fruit stores and 25 percent of all shoe shops in Galveston, Belfiglio wrote.
There are two reasons why Italians were successful in commerce in Galveston, Belfiglio said. First, many northern Italians were businessmen who came to Texas for the explicit purpose of establishing capitalistic enterprises, he said.
“Second, most of the immigrants had spent a few years in other parts of Texas or the United States before coming to Galveston and they possessed language and business skills superior to those of newly arrived immigrants,” he said. “Also, they were already partially acculturated and adapted to their new environment in America before coming to Galveston. Their primary purpose for moving to the United States was to improve their lifestyle and make their fortune.”
Many Italian families in Galveston for decades found success in shrimping.