Site Interpretation

The lessons that Baram’s case study has in regard to the potentials and limits of mobilizing the community around archeology are not taking into account power relations and letting information flow freely, clear sense of local politics, and the significance of heritage within the local communities but also attuning to gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality and assessment. There are many factors that could impact an organizers ability to mobilize a community around archeology. One should keep all these factors in mind when networking and who are the stakeholders. Having a common goal and finding the role each group plays like preservation and commemoration of the past.
Baram states in his article that, “Organizing is not merely the act of bringing people together or expanding the rolls of professional organizations.” In his article, he mentions Saul Alinsky, who defines not only community organization in giving people sense of power and being able to sustain social change but also role of the organizer. The role of the organizer is said to be that of the outsider, outside of the community which made me think about how we as students are considered outsiders in the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery.
In Gonzalez case study in Rosewood, Florida where African Americans were driven out of their homes by the 1923 violence. The people that go visit sites such as these are part of dark tourism that is supposed to make people feel profound emotions. The public that Gonzalez-Tennant is trying to reach not only the public but the archeologists and all the others that are involved in these types of research and documentation, how important it is.
Based on the work Gonzalez-Tennant outlines, the lessons that we can identify about the stories can tell about the cemetery are that there is a lot of heritage and there should be social justice as the people we help identify and reconnect with their families and for those that know their loved one is there and visit them, for them to share their stories that the people buried in the Hidalgo Pauper Cemetery are not forgotten.
The formats that we use are document research and some media applications however we could incorporate the oral histories of the family members. There are other cemeteries that are also doing the same, documenting cemeteries individuals and their histories.
With the different groups involved will lead to different interpretations that could shape the project.

Digital Techniques in Public Archeology

The Hidalgo Country Pauper Cemetery Project right now has taken the broadcast approach however if we get more of the community involved with the collection of data it will shift to the participatory approach. The broadcasting approach is one-way which makes it difficult to get feedback and the participatory requires the help of the community. The project is being conducted by university students many who will become professionals in anthropology and archeology but in order for it to be participatory there needs to be participation form the public. With the use of technology rather than having the “professional” or the “amateur” there will be more of an importance on the skills and knowledge in that certain area and use of technology. There may be a barrier that will prevent the use of technology and that is the funds to acquire some of this technology.
In order to move towards a more collaborative, co-creative, or hosted methods of engagement we would have to maybe find other ways to lessen the barrier in the broadcasting of our information. We are using blogs right now but maybe we could expand that and include other forms of media and websites to not only broadcast but create an inclusive interpretation of the data and encourage people to participate. As we get community members to participate with the collection of the data we must take into account what programs we use and how that will change the dynamics between the people involved. There must be other types of technologies that could be incorporated with the project that would allow us to gather more data for interpretation.
The benefits of 3D technology provide to a public archeology project is what we cannot see above the surface, allowing us to see what lies beneath. The 3D technology also is a form of mapping out the individual graves and their proximity to one another. There was a disadvantage in using technology in the case of recording the data using our phones was complicated somewhat when there was no internet connection and the system did not register our input. When recording data whether it be on a machine or paper we must be careful not to lose it. In class, we were taught how the 3D scanner worked but the process was time consuming and slow moving as it required steady hands to operate. The 3D imaging would have made a big difference in how the project would have gone, giving us more information that we would not have been able to gather otherwise. The pitfall of using 3D imaging would be that there will not always be accurate because there might be some interference that will change our perception of the 3D image. There is another downside of using certain technology and that is that not everyone knows how to use it. There are advantages though with a 3D view we would be able to recreate some of the missing parts and get a general idea of what the entirety looks like.


Social Justice and Public Archeology

The Hidalgo Pauper Cemetery is itself a form of marginalization or inequality as the people are separated by social status and economic status. That may have not been the intent or maybe it was but the separation is clear, it is like the separation of the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery with the Hillcrest one, there are white post markers that are easy to miss only the color of the grass and the state of the grave markers gives the indication of another cemetery. The Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery had been neglected over sometime the grass a yellow color unlike the Hillcrest’s green the grave markers easy to identify and neatly placed.
The Hidalgo Pauper Cemetery was overrun by overgrown plants that disrupted the graves but that was not all as the cemetery because a place where people would go do drugs and drink while other people used it as a place to gather energy for their ritual magic. The graves cemetery was seen as a place of self-gain forgetting those buried beneath.
I remember that in Hillcrest there was a retired Border Patrol or Customs agent that was being buried in Hillcrest as men in uniform did the twenty-one-gun salute. This would later shape my thinking about a veteran soldier form World War II who had been buried in the Hidalgo Pauper Cemetery. My classmates and I were curious about when the military had started their own cemeteries for soldiers which seemed to have started in the 1800s. One my classmates asked why hadn’t this veteran been buried among the other veterans? It was a question that we could not answer more research would be needed in order to truly find the reason why. There were several that came to mind though and that was that his family did not have enough money and he was buried there or the military had bypassed him.
There were a lot of children among the individuals that died several of them were still-born, 1-2 years of age or barely going to enter their pre-teen years. Many of them seemed to have died around the same time which made several classmates debate about the environment and socio-economic conditions that occurred during that time that led to so many young deaths.
There is another cemetery along with Hillcrest but this is far out in the corner of the property, the Restlawn Cemetery which is for African American or Blacks who were segregated from the rest. Their cemetery is a prime example of inequality and marginalization. The Hidalgo County Cemetery stopped burying people around the 1990s and individuals who would have been buried there were sent to other private cemeteries but most labeled as John Doe or Jane Doe. The cemetery may have started as a form of marketing burial sites in the new municipal cemetery but it became more than that.
Our project purpose is to make the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery be able to have green grass and find the hidden grave markers. During our time in the cemetery we may inadvertently be producing the same inequalities without knowing and meaning to as we forget to some information or we prioritize a section over another. This is however, different from the other inequalities and marginalization as we seek to make all these individuals equal.


Community Stakeholders in Public Archeology

The public is the general public that is to say the people that are not professionally working but volunteer. They have an interest in the public archaeology or the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project. As students, we are not part of the public but set apart. We are doing this work for several people those in the county, cemetery, community, families and for the deceased themselves.
Changing our conceptions or that of others on what a community is will change not only those that we work with but also the people that we are identifying. From what I understood some of the people were visiting and happen to die here which led them to be buried in the cemetery. Usually they would not be considered part of the community but now that they are dead and are buried among the people that were connected to the community the relationship changes. We as students may be considered outsiders as we do not have family members in the Hidalgo Pauper Cemetery however we are working for the community making us part of it if only for a moment. The are other communities that could get involved such as those that do the same type of work (recording the information on the graves) or those that have done similar work. On the other side, there could be others from the side of the families who could partake in the project.
The stakeholders for the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project is anyone that become involved like Hidalgo County, the cemetery workers, the University and its staff and students, the families of the dead and those that decide to join and contribute to the project.
There are several communities in the Valley and taking into consideration that defining what a community is can be somewhat obscure. There are several organizations within the community that specialized in helping promote awareness of topics such as these. There are also multiple people that are involved and are part of multiple communities as they intersect with various others.
The communities that include the cemetery and the individuals as members depends on which perspective one is looking from, if the person is including the HCPCP then the number of communities involved increases.
We are a part of the UTRGV community, part of the student community, although we may not be part of the other communities such as the general public or county related people.
The cemetery has a lot of history behind it but I would not be sure if there would be a need of cultural affiliation. What I mean by that is that is the cemetery has a lot of cultural influences that are plain as day but there are also a lot of thigs to consider when applying a cultural affiliation because we do not just want to assume and make a misinterpretation however is there is culture affiliation we show respect that. Culture is important and burial is usually always a big part of it which means that graves just as important.
There may be certain communities that we are forgetting or neglecting although this is not done with intentional purpose. There are communities that we are not aware of and taking into account that we are not part of all these communities involved there is a limit on the information and background we can accrue in order to involve more communities. Although the other communities that are already involved in the project may be able to close the gap and offer a clearer picture
There are several power dynamics involved that have gained interest in the cemetery like the county and the university who are the ones that made it possible to create the project in the first place.

Ethics and Public Archeology

The public archaeology described by Jameson differs from the PAR approach described in McGhee, Jameson writes about how to allow equal interpretation, educating people, realizing it is a public resource and what archeology has to offer. The Participatory Action Research or PAR, McGehee writes how it is the community that has all the power and they show be the ones that lead the social change. Although both talk about the individual and the collective whole, what role archeologist play in the community and how all this is organized.
These different approaches suggest that there is an importance placed on ethics that public archeology must follow which create rules that are applied to the projects. There are ethical boundaries that archeologist follow because there is always the debate of who owns it, controls it and its interpretation.
These are some of the question found in the McGhee article that play into the criticisms and what both sides need affecting collaboration and response.
The following questions are from the communities/organizations perspectives:
• Is the researcher willing to follow the community/organization’s lead?
A researcher is not part of the community or organization but both should find common ground to work on because it is important to work together, especially since it is public archeology. However, the researcher depending on the project may not be able to follow the community/organization’s lead just due to the fact that there are so many factors involved one primarily is that the researcher is technically an outsider with an insider’s view.
• How good is the researcher at meeting deadlines?
In our case our project may not be completed because we are working on a semester time’s which means that our time is limited. The deadlines are always important especially when there is a lot of data collection and organization preparation that needs to be done.
• Can the researcher communicate in a community context?
A researcher should be able to communicate within a community context there would be not point if the people involved cannot communicate together. Misunderstanding are bound to happen and could potentially increase the inability to communicate effectively.
• What experience does the researcher have?
In our case, HCPCP, we as students have limited experience however we do have certain skills that allow us to participate in this project in the first place, we have studied and researched, gaining experience as we work.

These questions are from the researcher’s perspective:
• Does the community/organization have the capacity to participate?
The community does have the capacity to participate in this project and contribute in various aspects of it. There are things that we as “outsiders” cannot do which is gather information we as students are not privy to or organizing without the connections.
• What are the established community-based organizations, do they exist?
There are several established community-based organizations that could be of potential help such as LUPE among others that could be interested in the project, who want to understand how this will impact the community.
• What resources can the community organization contribute?
Like I had mentioned above the community can offer information that we do not have access to or did not think of. They can offer what we cannot like the families who are connected to the cemetery, their stories and involvement.
• Does the community/organization have research needs you can fulfill?
This question links to the others above as the community learns about what we are doing in the cemetery, collecting and recording information.
There will always be that debate involving the dead, although we are not digging anyone up we are entering a space (not as family or cemetery workers) that we do not belong. However, we are trying to bring the community together in another way by reidentifying or contacting families so that the history of the people buried there is not forgotten, hidden or ignored. We cannot do this without the help of the community. The community is the one that decides how far we can go with this project and how important it will become in it.


Final Reflection

The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (or formally known as the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project) may not seem like something grand to some people but to others it does not only tell history of the community but holds the memories of their loved ones. The project taught me many things such as: how important all the people we identify are, the ethics applied, different types of technology used and how this impacts the community.
The people located in the cemetery were strangers to me when I first arrived and the cemetery but as I worked with my classmates I got to meet several of them, some I do not know much about but the fact that they are there was clear. The cemetery was not in good shape and that was partly the reason for us being there but people still cared and visited the cemetery that had been overcome by time and nature. It seemed like a lonely place compared to Hillcrest cemetery at its side but it was just as important.
I learned that the people buried in the cemetery were either those whose families could not afford to pay or people who died while visiting the Rio Grande Valley. There is a variety of people buried in the cemetery from children to adults, those that lived long and those that did not get to start it, all these people who have their own individual histories that connect to this one place. When the project began and that first day out there I felt overwhelm with several feelings and emotions because I did not know what direction this project would take us. Would the families be angry at us as we intruded upon this sacred place? Is it insensitive to record the data, as we take measurements of the grave markers or we read the inscriptions upon them? Is what we are doing truly going to benefit the community? I had all these other questions swirling around in my mind but the answers were not those I had expected and changed the questions entirely. The families were not angry, in fact they were happy as we helped identify their loved ones and sometimes learn more about them. Collecting the data caused a misinterpretation with visitors as they believed we were inspecting the cemetery but fear was something I felt too. I was afraid because I did not want to offend any of them as we measured, took pictures, set down flags trying our best not to disturb the graves around us as we walked among the them. The last question about the project benefiting the community, changed. At first it was how would this benefit the community but after we got approval form not only the county but several of the families it was: How to we keep the project going and improve it? I realized that the work we were doing was more important because yes this was for the living but it was also for the dead, giving them back their identities that had been obscured by time and nature.
I was usually in charge of measuring the grave markers, but it did not matter if you were the one taking the picture of the marker and offerings, taking measurements, converting those measurements, recording the names, date of death and birth and any other information. All of these required us to get close to the graves and made sure that we did our best to collect any information we could in order to identify who was buried there. I did not get to use all the technology that was present for the project but based on the experiences of my classmates and Dr. Rowe it was a time-consuming process that will be worth it in the end because it will allow us to create a map of not only the cemetery but of each individual grave. There were times that there was nothing other than a homemade grave marker that indicated there was someone buried there but there was no name, dates or anything but the maker and sometimes some offerings. This meant we had to do more research and find the peoples’ records. As the class came to an end we discussed how to improve the project using different resources to broaden our pools of information and connect it back to the community.
After the Day of the Dead everyone noticed the cleaned graves and the new offerings making the place seem brighter, making us happy and excited as we revisited the graves. This showed that the people we were working to identify were still being celebrated but also reminded us that there were some graves that still needed to be recorded and by the end hopefully have enough to find family members that have been searching form them or do not know about them because of the passage of time. I think that those involved wanted the cemetery to look like those around it (like Hillcrest), with vibrant green grass to match the brightly colored flower offerings.
There are many questions surrounding the relationship between the different cemeteries given their proximity to one another and whether boundaries were crossed. The Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery is supposed to be free but there are some people that say otherwise, all these things tie back into the history of the place and the communities that lived during those times. As we uncover more than just identities of the people buried there but the history of the cemeteries as well as they intertwine with the lives and death of different people.
The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery project still has a lot of room to improve and is still growing. My class was the first to experience this project but it will not be the last and it was just the beginning as more of the community gets involved and information is uncovered. The cemetery is slowly changing as graves are rediscovered, identities reestablished and families are reconnected.

Public Archaeology to Me

Public archaeology involves professionals and non-professionals (archaeologists, community members that show interest, local and state governments) come together for the preservation and excavation of archaeological sites. The archaeology must be of importance to the community because even though it may be of importance to the professionals, if the public does not share that view of the site it loses some of its meaning if not all. Public archaeology is for the people and is only possible with their involvement.
Out project, Public Archeology and Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project, will also involve all different types of people from professionals, students, community members among others. Although we will not be excavating in this project it does involve recording grave locations and identifying the people buried there. Identifying the buried may lead to the inclusion of the family members who could share some of the history of their deceased.
I hope that our work will allow us to help identify those buried and investigate some of deceased with the permission of the families (to record/collect their history) giving us a glimpse of the past, connecting it to the present and the community.