Coastal Bend History


Just call me 'Zip'

Mexican immigrant Cipriano Ramirez Gonzalez came to America for the American dream and became part of a movement that changed the Corpus Christi Hispanic community forever.
C.R. “Zip” Gonzalez
Posted at 3:17 PM, May 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-11 16:49:09-04

Cipriano Ramirez Gonzalez was born on September 26, 1894, in Monterrey, Mexico. He attended Laurens Institute, a private bilingual school that included students from the U.S.

Since his American friends had trouble pronouncing "Cipriano", they gave him the nickname "Zip" and it stuck with him for the remainder of his life.

In 1906, his family moved to Laredo.

Zip moved to Corpus Christi in 1912 and took a job as an interpreter at a cotton gin. When they switched him to picking cotton, it only took him two weeks to realize that this was a dead-end and not for him.

He then got a job with Corpus Christi Rubber Tire Co., where he first became acquainted with automobile batteries.

In those days, cars were still quite primitive, and an auto battery was used only for lighting.

Zip was a quick study and learned enough about the business to open his own company at age 25.

Zip's "City Vulcanizing Co." opened in June, 1919 in a lot across the street from where the Ritz Theatre now stands.

Unfortunately, just 3 months after opening, the Great Hurricane of 1919 struck the city. The tidal wave that swept across downtown Corpus Christi also swept away Zip's new business.

He was forced to return to work at his old company, which had changed its name to C.C. Battery Service.

In 1921, he moved over to the "Auto Electric Service Co." as foreman of its battery department.

After five years there, Zip Gonzalez probably knew more about automobile batteries than anyone in the city.

It was time for him to make his move. On April 5, 1926 he took over ownership of Auto Electric and changed its name to "Zip Battery Service".

C.R. “Zip” Gonzalez
December 1927 (Zip on the far left)
Zip’s Battery on Leopard (just to the left of the Grande Theater) in the early 1930’s.

The company was located downtown at 318 Mesquite, where it would operate for the next 24 years. In 1950, the property was sold and Zip was forced to move his business to 324 S. Staples (Staples at Agnes).

C.R. “Zip” Gonzalez (far right) in his shop….1934

Here, the company thrived for another 10 plus years.

It appears to have remained open until at least 1963, three years after the death of Zip Gonzalez himself.

Gonzalez and his wife, Marina, raised 4 children in Corpus Christi and both became prominent members of the Hispanic community.

Zip was a charter member and a Director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (known in its early days as the Mexican Chamber of Commerce), which had been formed in 1938.

Meeting of the CC Mexican Chamber of Commerce with the Mexican Consul, January 16, 1940 (Zip Gonzalez on the far right)

In 1940, he was elected Treasurer of the Chamber and would later serve as Secretary and as President of the organization.

In 1947, when District Judge Paul Martineau needed a new Grand Jury, Zip Gonzalez was appointed as one of three Corpus Christi citizens to make the selections.

Zip Gonzalez also served his church as a long time member of the Knights of Columbus.

When Cipriano "Zip" Gonzalez died in April of 1960, his passing was reported on the front page of the Caller-Times.


The city had lost an immigrant who had achieved the American Dream of success in his adopted country and a man who had made major contributions to the development of Corpus Christi.

Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.