Social Justice

The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery is located next door to the HillCrest Cemetery. As soon as you enter you can see major differences. I was not a part of the project the first semester it started, but I was told it was unattended. The grass was tall, and the graves were not kept up with. Now that it has been cleaned up you can still see the differences. The Public Cemetery was called “Pauper Cemetery” before, as most of the individuals who were buried there were not of  high income. Many graves do not even possess a headstone, one would not be able to know that an individual was buried there. Some have as much as a single brick. Most of the graves consist of Mexican names, and there was maybe one or two Caucasian names.

It truly is sad to see how the cemetery was left before, and how it had not been attended to. Besides the families that still visit their loved ones and tend to their graves. This cemetery is a part of our community and history. We have to preserve our history. It feels good knowing that not only will I be learning with this course, but I will also be helping those who have loved ones buried and the county.

There is an immediate difference between cemeteries as you can see the HillCrest Cemetery is tended to, and most of the headstones are kept up with. They are made up of granite or marble, some even have benches placed, and fresh flowers. While at the Public Cemetery some names have been eroded away and are ineligible. It gives us a glance into the past to see how the individuals who lived here were treated. In a way it gives us a sense of bringing social justice to those who are buried, and for us as well as this is our community.


The stakeholders in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project is the Hidalgo County and the community itself. The project assists the county by collecting data for records that were lost or damaged. We are also being able to make the information collected accessible for the community to obtain.

We need to understand that there have been instances where communities have felt archaeologists have disrespected their history or culture by conducting their research. That is why it is necessary to communicate with the community and hear them out. A bonus is that us students working on the project are from this community, and we care for our community and their concerns. Like what most archaeologists do is excavate, and we are not doing this at all. We are simply collecting data from what we can see on head stones, and so forth. Advanced equipment also assists us by mapping graves. I can understand from an outsiders view who has no idea what we are doing out in the cemetery and assume wrongly. That is why we welcome those to question our project, so we can introduce it and that way the community can help us as well. This semester we were able to identify a few unmarked graves because their family members questioned us and assisted us in that way.

Some might think we do not care as much for the graves just because we do not know these people. As being a part of the community I like to think we share similar beliefs, and I found that me and my classmates respected each grave as they were family. We find ourselves caring for those who are buried. We are saddened to see those who lived short lives, and are touched when we see children’s toys placed at the graves. We are not just “workers” or simply just students trying to do what we are told. We want to be a part of this, and are passionate about what we are trying to do for the community while learning for ourselves through hands on experience. Even though everyone involved benefits, I believe the families of the deceased benefit the most. Those who have not been able to locate their loved ones will be able to access this information easily and be reunited.

Final Reflection Spring 2018

Being able to be a part of the Hidalgo Count Public Cemetery Project was more than what I expected. I first heard about the project through Dr. Rowe as I had her for Introduction to Archaeology in the Fall semester of 2017. That semester was also my first at the Edinburg campus since the merging of UTB and UTPA. Even though the merge has made it harder for me to take the classes I need here in Brownsville, I am also very grateful for it. Without the merge I would not have had  the oppurtunity to be able to have a diverse selection of professors and courses. When I first decided I wanted to major in Anthropology I was leaning onto more of a linguistic, and cultural aspect of it. Being introduced to Archaeology definitely made me want to lean towards that path as well. I believe many do not have a clear view of anthropology or archaeology and with this project, it allows us to engage with the community and be able to give back.

When I first started the course I was not sure what to expect exactly. However, on the first day at the cemetery I knew it was a class I could actually look forward to going to every Friday morning. The first day, many of the new students to the project (including myself) were getting the gist of how everything works such as; what information exactly we needed to collect, how to record it, how the equipment works, and how to interpret what we see.

The cemetery is not just our ‘workspace’ or ‘just a course’, because it is so much more than that. It allows us as students to engage with our own community and be able to learn from it as well. We have used equipment archaeologists use on the field thanks to UTRGV. The equipment we use are; tablets, structure scanner, total station, drones, and cellphones. Other sources for our project have been human remains detection dogs, information from family members who loved ones are buried at the cemetery, and in the future we hope to be able to use a ground-penetrating radar. I personally have been able to access the total station which maps graves. The total station scans fixed points in the cemetery, and records image data points at individual grave markers. The only issue we have faced using the total station is when trees or branches are in the way, but luckily we are able to adjust heights, and sometimes we are able to move the branches slightly out of the way. We take turns using the total station as there are so many of us involved in the course, and the rest partake in data collection. For the data collecting aspect, we use a site known as KoboToolBox. This file allows us to insert information regarding the grave such as; images of the grave, describing offerings placed, measurements of the head stones, the information regarding the individuals name, birthday, death date, direction of the grave, and indicating whether there have been repairs to the head stone. Even though we are not connected to wifi, the file still saves to the folder on the app, and once we are connected to wifi we can manually upload each file. After this semester most of the graves have been recorded, there might be a few left to record. 

I have registered for the class next semester, and I hope to further help the project along with my colleagues. We hope to make the data we collected accessible to the public by arranging it accordingly. We also hope to be able to use the drone more to get arial photos of the cemetery, and the ground-penetrating radar. With the ground-penetrating radar we hope to be able to discover more unmarked graves if any left. Something Dr. Rowe brought to our attention was we could possibly have a Día de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, event at the cemetery. Día de los Muertos is a famous holiday particularly throughout Mexico, and anywhere there are individuals of Mexican descent. It is where family members gather by their loved ones grave and honor their deceased loved ones and ancestors. I believe this is an amazing idea for the community, and hopefully we will be able to hear first hand the history of the individuals buried there through their families. Families will be able to understand what we are doing with the project as well!

Some of the students in the course including myself submitted our project to the Engaged Scholar Symposium 2018 thanks to Dr. Rowe who introduced the event to us and helped us. Together we were able to learn more of the history of the cemetery, and showed an overall view of what the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery consists of. We won first place in the Service-Learning Poster category! It was an awesome experience, and hopefully we can add more results and data next time there is an Engaged Scholar Symposium. Our project was able to be publicized due to this, and we hope to get more people involved with it.

Something I personally learned from being a part of this amazing project is that even in a cemetery, there is still so much life. Being able to see family members visit their loved ones, leaving offerings for them, and seeing nature continue to grow from the wild flowers and beautiful trees. It really is such a peaceful place, and being able to give identification back to those who could have lost it due to time or due to weather feels nice to do for others. We are not just some students doing this because we have to for a course, we are doing this because we want to and we feel a connection with this project. By being able to learn, and to give back to the community make its that much more aspiring for us. We hope to shed more light on this project so that as a community we can come together and take this even further.

Communicating Archaeology

Communicating archaeology is key when it comes to dealing with archaeology over all. Archaeology, even more so Public Archaeology is not possible without the people/community. In Mitch Allen’s article “In Public Benefits of Archaeology”, it is discussed how the public assists archaeology and the researchers within the project to make it strive.

The writings for archaeologists is different that what I am use to, exhibit A it is recommended to use I. My whole life of writing it has always been forbidden to write in my own point of view, and now it’s recommended which does take awhile to adjust to. However, it sends out a nice message that the writing is personal. I believe writing on a personal level definitely attracts readers. Writing on a personal level could be the hook that Allen writes about. Allen writes there are 10 ways to attract the audience, “1. Find a hook. 2. Tell a story. 3. Include yourself. 4. Write in plain English (or Spanish or Hopi). 5. Talk to a single reader. 6. Create memorable identifiers. 7. Use only the data you need. 8. Present data visually. 9. Emphasize theory and method. 10. Always think of your audience.” (Allen, 2002, p.248). Following these steps assures you will attract an audience into your writings.

First, one will always need to report the important information like the findings, before discussing the details. That way, the readers know everything you are discussing actually leads up to important findings. Explain the history behind your findings, and discuss why it is important to you as an author. This makes it more personal and real which attracts readers. This also ties into including yourself, which can also mean writing in first person. Writing in first person is something I have been told is something one must never do. Yet, here I am using the term I and it feels great to be able to make my writings on a more personal level. Even though Allen recommends writing in English or Spanish, I believe for our particular project it is important we release information in Spanish since the community is heavily Mexican, or Mexican-American. Also, most of the graves are of Mexican descent. As a writer we need to be able to reach out to a single reader, making them feel as our writings are specifically for them, because they are. We want to connect to each reader on a personal level. Adding photos to your writings, and especially blogs is a major bonus as well. I personally love to see one’s personal findings through images, it creates a more personal feel and helps the reader understand exactly what one is discussing.

The purpose of communicating all these ideas is to attract the readers and allowing them to engage in your writings. A major concept in Archaeology is attracting the public/ community. With the HCPCP with the help of the community we will be able to go further into our project as they can give us important information needed. Whether it is identifying unmarked graves, and even give us their history with the cemetery and their loved ones. We as future archaeologists will be able to understand on a more personal level as well, the history of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery and the individuals buried there.

Engaging with Publics Online

Social media has quickly become one of the ways individuals communicate with each other. Cell phones have swiftly taken over a major part of our day. Technology is where our future is headed, and I personally believe that social media is where everyone is introduced to new ideas, places, cultures, and events. Social media is where I learn about projects around me, or where I am informed of subjects that intrigue me.

Before I had registered to be a part of this project I had only heard about it through a colleague who was currently taking the course, and through Dr. Rowe who was my professor for Intro to Archaeology. I had not seen anything regarding to this project through social media. I believe an idea or project will  flourish even more and gain support through social media if promoted enough. For example, I am a frequent user of social media! I use most of the mainstream forums of social media, and I have posted pictures and photos regarding to this project on my social media as well. I share anything regarding this project actually. Now, my followers are informed about this project and are aware as to what it is all about.

I believe the best forum for this project would possibly be via Twitter and Instagram. Many individuals use these platforms on a daily basis, and this is even where many hear about major events. These platforms are on the palm of their hands throughout the day, and they are constantly checking them. If we were to post about the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project via Twitter many individuals from the Hidalgo area would take a major interest. Rapidly, I predict that a Twitter account for this project would go viral within our community, and that is more than enough. What we are doing is for the community, and through Twitter we could get the community to engage with it as well! Possibly for connecting families to their loved ones, or just to see what UTRGV and the county are working on together.

If we were to promote the project via Instagram it would be more of a visual approach. As Instagram is mostly use for images followed by captions. If the community were to visually see what we are doing a major interest would spark! I myself have posted on my Instagram regarding the equipment we use, and even students in action. I have received many comments taking an interest as to what we are doing.

I firmly believe if we were to promote our project more via Twitter and Instagram the community engagement we will receive is huge! Through this platform we will also be able to have information regarding the project available to anyone interested. We will be more available to reach as well as the community could send us their comments, questions or concerns.

What Public Archaeology Means To Me

Public archaeology to me is uncovering history whether forgotten, abandoned, or lost. It means even that much more when it comes straight from the region one was born and raised. Public archaeology is something the community can take part in because it involves their life, and their own history. That’s what makes public archaeology even more intriguing! When one thinks of archaeology the thoughts of Egypt, or famous ruins come to mind. However, there’s history on the exact land we live our day to day lives. Being a part of this amazing project is so exciting to me! As my colleagues and I gain hands on experience, there is also a sense of giving back to our community. What is possibly better than doing something you enjoy, while helping others in the process?

Our project aligns perfectly with public archaeology. The purpose of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project is to engage in archaeological techniques, and to help our community of Hidalgo while gaining knowledge at the same time. As students, we will be able to practice techniques used in archaeology in our own region. As the experience is a major bonus, so is the idea of helping families who have loved ones buried in this public cemetery.

When I first began in UTRGV, I was stuck between what majors to pursue in. After deciding that Anthropology was what I enjoyed learning, and wanted to pursue my career in it was set. I entered anthropology leaning towards the cultural and linguistic aspects. After my first semester with Dr. Rowe in Intro to Archaeology I knew that archaeology would be a field I would love to gain more knowledge and experience in. I am positive participating in this course of Public Archaeology will push me to want to also pursue a lead into the forensic aspect of anthropology as well. Through this project I want to understand how to operate the devices offered to help us identify what we are looking for. Whether it be data collection, identifying unmarked graves, and etc.

I am the type of individual who learns best by hands on work. The knowledge gained during this course will help my colleagues and I use these techniques for our careers. In many courses one just learns by listening, and reading. In this course we have the opportunity to learn by listening to directions and instructions, reading pieces that pertain to our work, and by actually engaging in these techniques archaeologists use in their careers. I am a first timer in this course, but many are veterans. I hope too that I will be able to grow along with this project and share my experience as they are. I am excited to see what this wonderful project brings to our community of the Rio Grande Valley and to our university of UTRGV!