Final Reflection

Fall 2018, the first step of this project was full of ideas and unknowns. Meeting the requirement of 15 students was the first hurdle this course endured. While the class was being filled by the first group of student wanting to partake in this project. The university worked hard to acquire the necessary permits to allow the course to do fieldwork. Dr Rowe with her hopes held high, discussed her concerns and goals to us in our first class meeting. The list of unknowns grew within the first hour, we did not know the conditions that the cemetery was in, how many graves were visible, if all the graves had headstones, if there was going to a flat place of land to set up the total station (a machine that is a key part of this project), the list went on and on. A few weeks had pasted before the permits were approved, and we took our first steps on the cemetery grounds. The fall semester was full of trial and error but also success. We left the cemetery with a headstone count of 1,015 and 20 unmarked graves that were found by cadaver dogs.

Spring 2018, picking up right where we left off, we again started gathering data from each marked grave. With the help from the previous semesters technological problems we were able to configure a better Kobo toolbox list. Making the task of gathering data per grave a much faster and easier process. With the new Kobo list we were able to collect the marker design, marker type, marker material, orientation of the grave, over all dimensions of the headstone, if there were carved surfaces, overall condition in other words is the headstone was soiled, or stained, etc…. We also recorded the individual’s information, what grave offerings if any and if was a grave slump. With the large amount of data gathered, others following our findings may conduct further research  in to a single individual or the cemetery as a whole. An other added benefit from this semester was we were able to have the total station out on the first outdoor class. This task so far have proven to be tedious. I spent the majority of this semester working with this slow going machine. It seemed as each time we began to step up the total station we would forget a simple step which then caused us to start the process all over again. Thanks to Dr. Rowe the setup of the total station did become a easier process but, still it a task in which we needed her assistance. As the course continued we spent the majority of our time outdoors, we left the cemetery with few graves needing data collection and many graves needed to be mapped with the total station. With the help from Dr. Rowe this project will be a great accomplishment. She has worked hard to proved the community with information of what this project aims to accomplish.

Collecting data and assisting community members who have came in search of lost loves have been top priority from the beginning of this project. As the project continues there are many more goals this course seeks to accomplish, mapping with the total station will resume in hopes that a digital map of cemetery may developed, the map will include information we have gathered via Kobo, a picture of each grave, a exact location per grave, and a drone view image of the cemetery. Giving individuals access to view graves of loved ones while also providing further assistants to other who wish to use the data gathered for research.

Thanks to the hard work of all  involved this project will be a great contribution to the not only to the families with relatives within the cemetery,  but many others that have interest in this historic cemetery.  Within the semester and the last I have learned many skills and am grateful to have taken part in this once in a life time experience. Working side by side with Dr. Rowe has given me a opportunity to experience the world of public archaeology. Moving forward from this course I can use the skills I have learned both the academically and professionally in the next chapter of my life.


Communicating Archeology


In the “Hidden Audience” by Allen (2002) he speaks of having a “worst nightmare critic”, a monster from with we all may or may not have. With this project I have more chances to explain our work through light conversions with friends, classmates, and family. When speaking about the objective of this project I have always received a positive response. I can say the same for the writing part of this course. We has a class are taking the risk of putting of thoughts out for all to see on our blog. In doing so I believe thanks to all our individual thoughts and creativeness we as a group create a place that the hidden audience from of one classmates response can find themselves creating a connection to an other individual writer.

Given that most of the pieces we have read for this class have been aimed for higher class of reader. The 10 rules Allen’s suggest are present but as student I sometimes feel as an outsider of the audience. Seeing how our class relates to some of the readings does give a closer look to what our blogs responses can become. Reading the advanced pieces gives us great step in the learning experience to know how others contextualizes their own projects.

As we continue this project we should be more expressive by possibly giving the students to express what it is the project means to them. By having one or two response available for this course without an advanced reading peice attached to it. Or maybe finding other readings that are done by students could lessen the gap between our responses and the more advanced Archaeologist. Having these readings have given some insights to Archaeological world but what has it done for the other individuals wanting to learn more about this project? This project is indeed has many components, an yet we have not been fully able to share them with outsiders of the project. Our readers should know how meaningful this project is. How we are giving names to individuals that have lost their identity’s due to possible weather corrosion on headstones. Finding information or locating individuals that had no headstone from the day they were laid to rest. How we have help individuals reconnect to family members graves they thought they would never find again.These are the stories the community understand and speak about with the members of this project.

Site Interpretation


The Hidalgo County Cemetery Project has many potentials in regards to the community. By being expressive, creative, and educative our project can inform the community on the importance of persevering the history of fellow residents of The Rio Grande Valley. During the fall term we have have a handful of encounters with family members of departed found in the cemetery. In some cases we have gained insight of what life was like for the departed and how they came to rest in the Hidalgo County Cemetery. Other interactions assisted locate unmarked graves. Incompancen to Uzi Baram our project yet not hold fear against politics or the desire to be wiped clean for new and better apeeling structures. As in the the archaeological project done by Baram, our class along with Hidalgo County have begun reaching out to our local newspaper and community. Limitations of mobilizing the community are outweighed by the potentials of having eyewitnesses of how the cemetery has changed throughout the years of its existence.            

I presume the steps we have taken thus far are small but effective ways to create opportunities for the communities involvement. During our class time (Fridays at 10:40am- 1:10pm) we were able to conduct few interviews on site, as while as being on site during class time, we created informative flyers which explain our class would be placing small numbered flags near visible headstones, as well as a contact information. With the hopes of gathering as much information as we possibly find, we have also involved local funeral homes which do hold some records of individuals found in the cemetery. As the class enters the new spring term of 2018, I would like share our blog with others who hold similar interest and would like to further involve themselves with our project.     

Final Reflection

The Hidalgo County Cemetery was once a forgotten cemetery in 2008, a local newspaper brought back in the thoughts of the community. The article, *“Poor, dead, forgotten: County pledges to care for long-neglected potter’s field” may have been the first stepping stone informing the community of the cemeteries that were in need of care. The County of Hidalgo in retrospect is aiming to provide social justice of the individuals of the cemetery. As they work hard on maintaining the cemetery, as a class we worked to provide as much information for each grave. By combining hands on experiences with weekly articles this class has taught me about public archaeology, Archaeologist, stakeholders, social justice, digital techniques, local history, and the importance of communication between stakeholders and the community.

Types of public archaeology as proposed by Gage Moshenska. En español:

Public archaeology holds many meanings, it can provide new and refreshing views on how projects can be conducted with the help of the public. By involving the public within this project our class was able to gain insights on few of the individuals who can be found within the cemetery.

The view placed upon Archaeologist by some create a negative perspective about archeology. Thoughts of archaeologist being disruptive and destructive have been creased from my mind with the help if this project. With the help from Dr Rowe, as a class we have collected data from 100+ graves without causing damage nor injury upon ourselves or the cemetery. As the class collected data, we were able do so with no disruptions to visitors of the Hidalgo County Cemetery as well as visitors of Hillcrest Memorial Park.

In the beginning this project had few stakeholders which were, the workers involved with the cemetery from Hidalgo county. As the project moved on the county requested assistance from the University Of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Accepting the request to assist  UTRGV along  with Dr. Sarah M. Rowe, created a public archaeology class. In turn Dr. Rowe’s ANTH 4385/6385 class became part of the stakeholders of this eminence project. Being a stakeholder of this project has giving me great joy over this Fall term.Knowing this class will further my college career while giving back to the community is an experience I will never forget. 

By using other projects for insights, we have encountered similar circumstances and goals such as, using mapping techniques, using digital data collection techniques, as well as other means of locating unmarked graves.  With few community members that have knowledge of the individuals founded in the Hidalgo County Cemetery we lack information on many graves, some which have headstones and others that have gone unmarked and were only found by the assistance provided by specially trained cadaver dogs.       

With social justice being one of the many goals of the project a sense of pride has arisen within me. As I stated before, this project has not only has provided my with  new information, it has also taught me how important the preservation of historic sites. Preserving sites like the Hidalgo County Cemetery is important not only to the family members of the decrease but it also holds importance to the community. With the data collected we can conduct research, research which may hold insightful details of the former residents of the Rio Grande Valley found in the cemetery. Using the data collected we compare death dates may assets research of deadly outbreaks such as the influenza outbreak of 1918.

Using this blog and other means of technology to further enhance the way we collect data has made it possible to provide the information gathered available to the public. At the end of this term we have yet to complete the mapping of the Hidalgo County Cemetery. Once the mapping of the cemetery is complete we hope to create a mapping system that would be available online and similar to the mapping done for the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Historic-era Cemetery.**

As we create more opportunities for the community to get involved this project will create positive relationships between the residents of the Rio Grande Valley who hold interest within the cemetery, the county of Hidalgo, and University Of Texas Rio Grande Valley. As the project  has progressed, the members of the community which we have spoken to, have assisted in locating unmarked graves, explaining how the deceased found their resting place in the cemetery and how life was before the deceased passed.    

The fall term of 2017, has been full of insightful readings, hands on experiences, creative thinking, and teamwork. Giving to the community as well as learning new and different archaeological skills has been an amazing experience. With the help from the Hidalgo County this project is and will further produce remembrance for the deceased.   



Digital Techniques

As a class we have set the first of many stepping stones for this project. Within these few months we have been collaborative and co-creative. Yet the question of how can we move towards more collaborative, co-creative, or hosted methods of engagement still arises almost each time we have met. Our class has contemplated and have executed our own ideas up to this point. By working together we have placed close to 1,000 small flags. These flags were a small but important step in this project. With each flag number from 1-1000 they helped conceptualize how massive this project truly is. With each visible headstone accounted for, we then used the flag number as reference number per grave. By using the digital techniques our class can gather data efficiently, with the help from the flags we can see what graves have had their data collected as well as finding similarities between the graves. Another way our class has embraced digital techniques, is allowing us to display our thoughts via blog thus,creating a open space where the public can understand and visualize what is our inspiration for this project. As we gather our data we can compare it to similar projects and use their form of data collection or use what information fitting towards our project. For example, one goal we have is to map the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery just as The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) Historic Cemetery has been mapped. Making it easier for the public who would like to find their family members graves or for further research that can be conducted within our findings. As the project progress we will more collaborative and co-creative once more of the public become aware of it. We will search for ways to become more engaged with the public, I believe opportunities will present themselves in given time. Dia De Los Muertos is a great example of how opportunities may arise in regards to engage the public.

With the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery project having many graves using 3D representation may sound like a tedious task.  What benefits would 3D models provide for this project? It be possible for us to use 3D models when talking to the public. Having 3D models of headstones we may be able to get information of previous repairs of headstones, or if a headstone were damaged we could possibly recreate a non damaged headstone to show the public the importance of caring for cemetery has a whole. As we collected data there were a few graves which had trees or shrubs planted near or directly upon the graves. While a small managed plants will not do much harm, a large unattended tree can become devastating to headstones or graves. Other ways a 3D models could further push this project forward is also show how to clean a headstone, if you should use soap with a sponge or should it be cleaned with a small dry brush.

We are now close to the end of the first class to take part in this project, I am very pleased to see how far our class has come in data collecting and also in our creative thoughts of where this project will lead other students and the public and are excited to see where and what other techniques this project will incorporate in given time.     

Social Justice and Archaeology

The Rio Grande Valley, is located on the border of Texas and Mexico. The Valley has always seemed different when compared to the rest of the United States. It is possible     I have grown from a unknowing child, to a knowledgeable women. In the eyes and in the mind of a child social injustice is unknown.  For as long as I can remember, there has always been a homeless individual at the corner of 10th street and Expressway 83. This street corner is affiliated as the exit to our Luxury mall. Though the individuals have changed that corner, which is  as always been “home” to someone. If we still see individuals “struggling” in this newer, more advanced era, how was life for the individuals we are finding in the cemetery?

I do not believe the intent of the county was to marginalize these individuals, but to provide a finally resting place that was not our of reach due to what we assume were low income individuals.  Many of the graves we are finding in the cemetery, have been left with small or no headstones. I have seen graves in the cemetery with, wooden crosses, homemade headstones consisting of concrete, as well no headstones at all.  Seeing those graves with no grave offerings or even a headstone at first made me believe, those individuals were simply forgotten by their family members. After reading our articles for the week, as well as reading my classmates responses I suddenly got reminded, we are not dealing with a “high cost cemetery”.

Provided with no information of these individuals resting in the cemetery, we know not how they lived their lives. Because we are dealing with a pauper cemetery directly located next door to a private cemetery. It is evident the pauper cemetery has been neglected through the years as soon as you step foot on the property. While the property line may be invisible, due to the fact there is nothing dividing the two cemeteries physically. You can clearly see the divide of the properties by the luscious green grass of Hillcrest Memorial Park compared to the light brown dirt the covering the majorly of the pauper cemetery.  Not only does the pauper cemetery lack green luscious grass, the grass it does have is over grown, the trees have grown untamed by humans, causing injury to few headstones and graves. This are small injustices on the grand scheme of things.

As a class along will help from the county and the local community, I believe we could solve these small injustices and other injustices that others will call on. The sheer amount of land and graves that are still waiting for our class to visit could be seen sooner if more individuals were to join us in this endeavor. This endeavor, meaning providing the graves with the most information we can gather. By finding the information in the field or searching Valley-wide at funeral homes, who allow us to search through their records that suggest the burial at the pauper cemetery


Communities and Stakeholders

Though the data collected and the Cemetery is opened to the public, our class remains the stakeholders of this project for the time being. This project is still in the beginning stages, we still are contemplating on how we can spread the word of this massive project to the community.

Being on the Border, The Valley is home to a vast arrangement of people. I have seen individuals from many corners of the world here. Individuals residing here may not have a connection the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery. Making our target community for the this project modest. The communities that I believe who would want to be included in this project are

1) Individuals that are curious about the history of the Valley.

2) Individuals who have family members resting in the cemetery.

3) Individuals who could use our data for future research.

Within those individuals I expect, Valley natives as well as others from around the world and the nation. Making the cemetery and its individuals, members of many different communities.

With that being said, as a class we each are part of these communities. We may all might not be part of each and everyone of these communities. Speaking for myself, I am part two of these communities. I am a Valley native, curious how the Valley residents of the past lived, to my knowledge I do not have family members but would like to take the opportunity to conduct research of the data collected.

It is possible to conduct investigations without culture affiliation within this project. But I believe, by involving individuals with cultural affiliation we would gain a substantial amount of insight to the members of the cemetery. Through the weeks of data collection, we have encountered many graves with little or no information. By allowing the community that does hold a cultural affiliation with the cemetery, we may gather the missing information for those graves. Furthermore they could provide first hand accounts of the individuals found in the cemetery.

It is hard to estimate what communities would be neglected or forgot about if we only chose to work with certain communities. If we were to choose to work with family members of the individuals of the cemetery, we would possibly close all the doors for the community who desires our data for research.  Lacking of  knowledge of how family members feel about our class conducting our fieldwork, it is hard to presume how those family members would feel about the class releasing the data to individuals who would use it for research. On the other hand, if we were to chose to work with solely individuals who would take part only for the benefit of data to used towards research. We could possibly neglect family members of the individuals of the cemetery.

By involving multiple communities a power dynamic may arise between the communities. By adding each community the goals of the project may shift, and finding the balance between the communities may be a tedious task.

What Public Archaeology Means To Me.

When I signed up for this Pubic Archaeology class I asked myself, what exactly does “Public Archaeology” mean? With our syllabus in hand, I read over the purpose of this class. The first purpose listed, “..Link students to the broader community by giving them the opportunity to provide service and learn at the same time”, supporting my theory that we would be involved with the community. Hints “Public” but I still lacked the knowledge of what Public Archaeology truly meant. Thankfully our first reading assignment was ” Do you even know what public archaeology is? Treads, theory, practice, ethics” by Lorna-Jane Richardson & Jamie Almansa-Sanchez.

What is Archaeology? According to Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez, Archaeology is “influenced by emerging trends, especially with regard to theoretical approaches to interpretation”. Now, how does placing “Public” in front of “Archaeology” change their definition? The theoretical factor of the term remains accurate, but the definition remains open. We find yourself still searching for the correct terms to label this fairly new approach to Archaeology. By adding “Public” we also granted new and multiple perspectives and opportunities to enter, in doing so Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez suggested we must “situate our work socially, politically and economically”.

Public Archaeology is defined as both a disciplinary practice and a theoretical position by Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez. With communication and involvement with the public, Public Archaeology becomes a sub-discipline. With fifteen contrasting contexts listed by Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez they point out there is not a definitive answer to the question what does a public archaeologist do? The World Archaeological Congress in 1986 had an early manifestation established to promote “the exchange of results from archaeological research; professional training and public education for disadvantaged nations, groups and communities; the empowerment and support of Indigenous groups and First Nations peoples; and the conservation of archaeological sites”.

On our first day of class this data was evident, our institution will be assisting our local county in a project at a long-forgotten Cemetery in hopes of recovering part of the native history. The Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery was founded in 1913 and was operational until approximately 1990. Being a Pauper Cemetery majorly of the individuals who were laid to rest there were indigent, and a fraction were unidentified individuals. Sadly, the documents belonging to the cemetery are no longer available, this is where our class springs in to action. As a class, we will be providing information of the individuals who were laid to rest here. Through the help with modern technology we will be proving names, date of births, date of deaths, descriptive details of each individual’s headstone’s, details of grave offerings provide by loved ones, imagery of the graves, as while as a GPS location of each grave. By using our handheld devices to do the majorly of the data collection we will providing this information with minimal distress to the graves.

As a percipient in this project, I am hopeful to learn about how these individuals lived and died. As a native to this area, it is a pleasure to find out how life was in the area I call home. My thoughts on public archaeology are full of wonder and pride. The wonder if our community as well as the archaeological community will embrace our work or disregard it do to the title we find ourselves under. And the pride of helping a community, which I am a member of. Through the discipline of archaeology, we will remain professional and complete our goals throughout the semester.