Final Reflection

In all I was very excited and looking forward in starting this projects with DR. Rowe and my classmates before the semester even started, I had heard about his service learning class through Dr. Duke whom had invited Dr. Rowe to present to the class what the HCPCP was all about and the techniques that would be used. Being an Anthropology minor I was really excited and and looking forward and participating in this project. However little did I know the impact that this project has had and is still having (due to the fact that this particular project is still not complete) on the community of Hidalgo County.

In working on this project i have had first hand experience in data collection, which makes it very simple due to Kobotools being a website that is interactive with any smart phone or device that has WiFi or cellular data. In addition I was very fortunate to be working with the total station a couple of times as well as being the pole person that is used as the marker for the graves. the total station machine is part of the technology that is being used to map the cemetery in a way it is much slower because there is only a limited amount of people working on this machine that is used to map the graves. This spring semester was very fortunate because for some reason (hopefully but most likely due to global warming) for the most part we had fair weather, in the beginning the we had cool weather and towards the end the weather started to warm up. I was very pleased that the county of Hidalgo was very helpful and cooperative in their part by providing air conditioned restrooms and a ice chest of bottled water for us to hydrate,

in working with the HCPCP I have discovered that there are a vast number of graves with many different markers, unfortunately i had to witness some headstones/marker graves that were made out of PVC pipe with the epitaph written in stickers that are found on mailboxes for the mailman to deliver the bills. other graves were evident that they where made on site with cement with epitaph’s written with a stick, other headstones where made out of steel pipes, others where made with sheet metal, and many did not have a headstone at all, I have also noticed that a lot of the graves are from very early on dating from far back as the 1800’s and early 1900’s. This cemetery was originally opened in 1913 which makes me question why there are headstones dating back to the late 1800’s. It is just y opinion but it also sheds light as to why the County of Hidalgo has left this job for the university, because it is a burden that they personally they do not want to deal with, Yes the local government has helped with hydration and a place to maintain homeostasis, but I wonder because I do not know and did not bother to ask Dr. Rowe in which other ways the local government is doing to help this extensive workful project.

Furthermore in my firsthand experience in working on this project I have also become curious and more attentive to our Mexican/Hispanic culture because in working and putting effort unto this project I have noticed particular things that may be out of place. In the coming weeks in which I have been data collecting graves I have came across a technology that is probably not popular between you and me. What I am trying to explain is Witch craft or black magic. Personally after coming across one voodoo doll one day I have learned to be more attentive to my surroundings. in total I have come upon six voodoo dolls and 3 flask. all of these material have been found on, near, or around graves, the pattern was that all of the flask’s were buried next to the headstone. Unfortunately or fortunately a colleague of mine opened one of the flasks while I documented the findings on my cellular device. Inside the flask or mason jar, it was filled with sugar, cloves of garlic and seeds of Chile. Once all of the ingredients where taken out of the jar, out emerged a picture of a man, but before we can clearly take a look at he picture we had to untie the knot of a chain of paper clips that had been wrapped around the photo, once the paper clips where removed there was a photo of a middle aged man approximately in his late 40’s to early 50’s, the man was wearing a button up shirt, the man had a beer belly but his overall built was average and he also wore a dashing mustache. Later in the day towards the end of the class my classmate had mentioned how he had some knowledge on the occult and how this type of work was an “amarre” which translated to a “binding” in English, who ever had done this work on this deceased man was jealous of him or wishes that he/she most likely she wanted to be with the deceased man. Now when I saw fortunately i meant it because if we had not opened the mason jar we would not have figured out who had been buried there, because the marker had no name, on the picture was also some dates, and we are assuming that it was the date of his birth and death, however nothing is certain,

overall I am more than elated that I have participated in this project and I hope I am there when it is finally finished, I know this will certainly not be tomorrow, but I am glad that i participated and looking back I am proud to say to my offspring or grandchildren that I was part of Dr. Rowe’s students that helped map the HCPCP graves and helped reunited many families with their deceased loved ones.

What is Public Archaeology?

To my understanding, public archaeology is for the public, and largely by the public. Public archaeology means community involvement, consideration for and preservation of local heritage, collaborative work between institutions of education and investigation, and it can also very much be activist archaeology. I think our project aligns with this in that it directly affects members of the community or the public, and it encourages the public to contribute to the completion of the project. This means that it covers community involvement and the intention to preserve something but significance to our local heritage. I also strongly believe that by putting together the pieces of the story of the Hidalgo County public Cemetery, we are inherently making this a matter of activism because we are uncovering truths about inequality and marginalization, in the history and in the present day of this community.

The lines of investigation that I am interested in pursuing for this project are the questions of social justice, like the racism and poverty that is apparent was present in the region. I think it’s important to reflect on the impacts of these acts today,  not just for the cemetery but for the people. Outside of what is already established at the moment, some of the aspects of public archaeology that I would like to more solidly incorporate into the HCPC project are collaborative work between the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and museums or galleries or sister/neighboring institutions of education.

Additionally, it could be exciting to see community involvement grow with the hosting of events relevant to the culture of the region, like Day of the Dead celebrations. Community involvement could also mean club involvement, like the university’s Anthropology Club.

Digital Techniques

I think the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project could move towards more collaborative, co-creative or hosted methods of engagement by reaching out to other departments and programs in the university and exploring realms of public archaeology that overlap with Majors outside of Anthropology and outside of the social sciences. For example, computer science Majors can be invited to collaborate on the project. We can invite them to assist in making improvements to our data collection form, analyzing some of the data, or making improvements to our website use. Outside of the University, we can find institutions like museums and galleries to display, perhaps, a collection of models developed from 3D scanning. We can also compile our work at the cemetery for presentation at symposiums via multimedia presentations, etc.

The benefits of 3D technology in a public archaeology project are the ability to interpret or analyze data away from the site, the ability to share the data in a very visual and navigable way, and the ability to restore/reconstruct artifacts digitally without having to manipulate what could be organic or fragile material. For example, a 3D scan of an unidentifiable or illegible marker at the HCPC could provide a clearer reading of inscription that may be hard to pick up to the naked eye. Furthermore, having 3D scans of the cemetery can help us reach a wider audience online via interactive websites or visuals. This can help us reach people who may not even be in the area but would like to help or participate in the project anyway.

The pitfalls of 3D scans are that there is a potential for error in scanning, and its limitations in helping lie in the area you are actually able to scan. Surrounding material and matrix composition does not show up in a 3D scan. Despite these limitations, I still think 3D scanning should be integrated into the project by means of creating 3D models and providing an opportunity for digital restoration.

Engaging with Public Online

I think the most effective social media outreach for our project at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery would most likely be Twitter.  I say this not only because of the writings of Lauracuente and Rocks-Macqueen but also because of my personal experience with social media and its reach.

For this blog post, I reflect on the findings of unofficial class surveys in my history and political science courses in college. Without fail, every time I took one of these courses the professor would always ask the class to answer where they get most of their news from and which media or news outlet they frequent the most. Again, without fail, the majority of the class would answer that they did not watch the news or deliberately read any newspaper and that one of their most frequented news platforms was Twitter. I think this news may have been disappointing to these professors dedicated to policy, old and new, but it could be good news for us. I don’t think we should hesitate to take advantage of the popularity of this platform if it will result in great community involvement. There is a high volume of traffic on Twitter, and a lot of kids, believe it or not, are looking to get in touch with their roots and the history of the RGV.

In addition to that, I follow a couple of anthropology and archaeology related forums and accounts on Twitter myself, as well as some accounts that share things to do around the Rio Grande Valley. A lot of people use this platform for the same reason: to find things to do and to make local connections. I personally think we should not pass up on the opportunity to reach a wider audience with the local users of Twitter. As far as casting a wider net goes, Twitter is a sure-fire platform to help us pick up some volunteers or curious onlookers. I’m confident it could even help us catch the attention of some icons of Hidalgo County, or perhaps future sponsors for the restoration processes.

Social Justice and Archaeology

Some of the forms of marginalization or inequality that the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project should address are poverty (economic disparity) and racism. This is due to the fact that Hidalgo County public cemetery is the final resting place of a largely Mexican-American population as a public cemetery and it also hosted many low-income families as clients for the burial of their loved ones. This is further evident in the fact that the cemetery used to be called the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery– or poor man’s cemetery. Furthermore, across the way from the Public Cemetery lies Hillcrest, a private cemetery that coexists on this open plot of land, but is visually very different from the public cemetery it is known to have once owned. This says something of the funding and the care placed into these plots based off of their price and their interred. Behind Hillcrest is another clue to the inequalities of the history of the cemetery and the region. There you can find Restlawn, an African-American cemetery that only lies cast away in the corner of this open plot of land because of the history of segregation in this area and across the country.

We should address these forms of marginalization by providing contextual history and making these connections for the public. Their education on the matters could be crucial to addressing the marginalization because it is them who it has affected and the project should stand to, not only restore records but also to lend a voice to the public and the community members with family interred in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery.
Some of the practices that may inadvertently reproduce some of these inequalities are the exploitation of the project when trying to publicize it, the lack of participation by community members that aren’t students enrolled in a course requiring them to work on the project, and the possible continued neglect of the graves by the county. I think some of this could be counteracted with community involvement, and perhaps proper (news) coverage of the history of the cemetery (since it is a large informative platform that can tell the story of the HCPC and reach a more diverse audience than perhaps academic work can).

Final Reflection Essay

Going into this class, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had signed up for. I was a little intimidated by the prospect of working in public archaeology because I was somewhat scared I would like it. All I knew about the class was that it was largely based off campus and would demand different work from me than a standard classroom setting would. As far as the course goes, it is exactly what I had always hoped to do in this region and so much more. I think I am mostly surprised that throughout the course of this semester, I heard no mention of the fact that a graduate student from TPA was actually the person who marked and restored a great part of the Restlawn cemetery across the way from the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery. I first heard about this student’s work back in 2013 when I decided to purchase a newspaper one July morning. I remember setting my heart on doing work like this in the future, and it was a moment I knew solidified my interest in anthropology in general. Fast forward to the end of this semester, and I got to experience some of that same work that this student put into the restoration of Restlawn Cemetery.

For example, some of the methods I got to use for the restoration of the Hidalgo County records of the Public Cemetery were online forms, GPS mapping, and spreadsheet/data processing. The online form turned out to be pretty convenient for the purpose of taking in data for the individual plots. The practicality of recording grave marker details via our phone was probably what lead to what I assume is an exponential improvement in input efficacy. I appreciate that the familiarity of our phone usage could help us record the grave measurements, marker conditions, inscriptions, and document the presence of grave offerings. From what I can recall, the majority of the gravestones were made of concrete/cement or a combination of materials where the former made up the majority of the marker. As I collected a lot this data, I anticipated all of the statistics that could be derived from our collective work. Being out there, rain or shine, felt pretty rewarding once the semester came to a close and we looked back on the hundreds of graves we put on the map this spring.

Another collection/recording method I got to work with this semester was the total station. Initially, I was taught by my classmate how to use it from the recording tripod, but I really enjoyed working at both ends of the station. One work day I got to record the points from the scanner tripod, and the other day I worked from the prism, or point of interest. It was obvious that setting up the prism required more than just moving it around the four corners of each plot. The days that obstacles stood in the way of mapping the coordinates from the total station, we would move trees to get our point read. This would make for some questionable bending of branches and jumping around, but all in all, I look forward to the results on our cartography medium. Although the results are not complete, I still would like to browse the map for future reference and look forward to connecting the located grave plots with the information we have compiled into spreadsheets.

Although I only worked with spreadsheets once throughout this semester, I look forward to possibly working further with this data in the future. I think that, although it was just one job, I learned a lot about doing work efficiently. Data cleanup proved to be one of the most fun aspects of this course. Analyzing what is left to clean up after inputting data into our forms told me that the system we have as of now definitely has room for improvements. This was apparent in the repetition of data sets and the missing data sets that failed to go through the forms. I hope to continue working on the data. finding the demographics of the cemetery, finding potential correlations and the implications for the community. I certainly hope I get to learn what this can reveal about the history of this cemetery and its business–knowing it used to be called a pauper cemetery already says so much to us anthropology students, but I would like it if it were as obvious to the community members. What was immediately apparent to me was the variation in attention and care that was put into the maintenance of the separate cemeteries on this square of land, and I feel like I speak for a good portion of my classmates when I say that it’s something we hope changes in the future. I think ultimately releasing or sharing these statistics can move more people to involve themselves in this public archaeology project, and will increase the likelihood of the change we hope the community makes in the preservation of this historic cemetery.

Something I didn’t get much of an opportunity to work on was dealing with the public eye or publicity for the project. The only family member to come my way while we were working on recording graves was a woman I had to redirect to Dr. Rowe because it was our first day out and I had yet to develop dialogue for what I was actually doing out there. In inclusion to that, I felt like I hadn’t contributed enough to the project, at least not as much as my veteran peers, to have any authority in speaking to the inquirer. What I was able to do was a poster presentation on the course as a service learning class. I had worked with Engaged Scholars before, and I must say I greatly enjoyed working with them once again for this group effort. It felt really great to hear the director of the program’s input on the HCPCP project and it was a privilege to represent Dr. Rowe’s work for that afternoon.

Any future direction for me in regards to this project looks like a continuance of my volunteering and potential re-enrollment in the class for the coming semester. For the course itself, I know Dr. Rowe and future volunteers for the project, myself included, would greatly enjoy use of the Ground Penetrating Radar for identifying unmarked graves and an opportunity to have the human remains detection dogs revisit. The ultimate goal of creating a permanent public record for Hidalgo County is within reach. I don’t doubt that the enjoyability and learning opportunity of this course could lead to it possibly being picked up in the future with other cemeteries. The hands-on archaeological experience within the RGV and affordability of the course as an option in our degree curriculum made the course all the more exciting. In the end, I know that what I didn’t get to experience this semester, I am sure I will get to see if I stick around until this project’s end.

Engaging With Publics online

There are many aspects that need to be put into consideration when trying to engage anyone on the World Wide Web, because when most of the time when it comes to blogging  you are not engaging with people face to face. so you have to be careful what you say and how you put your sentences into context, as well as be weary of exclamation points, commas and question marks. There are many online platforms in which people just rant about their pet peeves, and there are other online platforms in which people engage in intellectual arguments. So one must choose which platform is appropriate for  them.

when it comes to blogging or posting on a social media outlet one must choose the social media website in which one thinks their information will go further. However according to Doug Rocks-Macqueen there is a dilemma with that because “Simple math tells us that it is impossible to use every possible social media platform. Taking the AddThis list of 345 different digital services and assume a person spent one minute a day on each service we would find that they would need 6 hours of work per day to cover them all.” however that is not say that we must post to all social media or websites so far known to the internet. I believe that we must choose which ones will get more traction to get our word out. Online platforms are definitely appropriate because most Americans or most people around the world for that matter engage in online interactions on a daily basis multiple times a day. Honestly our audience should be any intellectual young or old that is interested in the social sciences, and if they do not know what it is, then we explain to them in a very simple interactive way to help them learn and possible pursue a degree in the social sciences and archaeology.

The most effective media outlet for our specific project in my opinion would be Facebook, because there are millions of users logged in everyday. and in this website you can blog, as well as live stream whatever it is you are doing. In the case of our project we can live stream our work at the cemetery, in addition to online platforms Dr. Rowe has a drone! which can capture amazing aerial footage of our work and later upload onto Facebook. Furthermore, on Facebook you can engage with the people that are commenting on a specific post and or blog and answer any questions that the audience may have, i believe it is a very interactive website that will be very useful to bring light and for our project to get the attention it rightfully deserves in our community.

Spring 2018: Final Reflection

This is my second time taking this class, and it has been an adventure. The first semester I took the class I wasn’t to sure what it was about. I remember being in Dr. Dukes class, and he was letting us know about the new class that was going to open for the fall. I was very excited the first day of class. I was just beyond excited, and I felt very comfortable in the environment I was in. I felt like everyone in the class was on the same page as me. It was nice because it was the first time the class was being taught and we were all learning as the time went by. I couldn’t picture the cemetery we were going to be doing the project in, i just knew that it was old, and was a little forgotten by the county. The first thing that grabbed my attention was that a lot of the graves were like the ones from Mexico. Some were colorful and full of offerings, and others were forgotten and broken. I was a little intimidating with the data collection, especially the area where we had to distinguished what time of stone the grave was, but after practicing a couple of times I was able to find it a little bit easier.  The use of electronics made it so much easier because the website did the job for you, the only thing we were doing was inputting the information, instead of carrying a notebook and writing everything down. The total station was more advance for me to get comfortable using it. It was a little to much high tech for me, so I concentrated more on data collecting. The weather during the first semester of the course was extremely hot. Good thing we were told to bring specific things to the cemetery in order to stay hydrated and protected from the sun. We found a variety of Santeria objects that seem to be offerings to graves or just random people going to the cemetery and practicing their rituals. While I was collecting data from a child grave, I saw what seemed to be a letter buried to the side of the grave. I was very eager to grab it and try to to see what it was but I did not have the heart to invade their privacy, but what I also notice was that that grave had a picture of the deceased child on the head stone. It said that the baby had passed away in the 80’s, but the picture had the printed date on the back that said it was printed in 2013? I found that very interesting, and I was eager to know why? We also found a couple of wax balls hanging from the trees that were wrapped in yarn as well. We weren’t to sure why those were there. The first semester consisted of learning the process of doing data collection and flagging all the graves as well. The majority were color coded, unless for the ones that were skipped. We also learned to  map the graves with the use of total station. When we had the detective dogs come down from California was awesome. We were able to  see how they did their work on identifying areas were might have a possibility of human remains, but due to the hot weather they got pretty exhausted, but they were still able to marked 20 more graves. It was an awesome start to the course, and a lot was learned during that time. I enjoyed the class so much that I decided to take it for my last semester as an undergraduate student. This time I felt like we knew there was a lot more to the class than just data collection. We were able to almost finish data collecting more or less of 1,020 graves. I felt more confident this next time because I had practice from the previous semester, and I was able to help the new students of the course.  I notice that there was a lot of children buried, and many from the same year, I also found a couple of graves that were from the 1800’s, which was very exciting because most of them were in great shape. We were able to see a lot more  Santeria objects and dolls as well. The highlight of the semester for me was when I was able to witness when a family was able to find their lost loves grave with the help of Dr. Rowe. This family had been looking for their love one for about 50 years, and they were finally able to find her. It was amazing to see how this project will help a lot of the community, and at the same time it will help teach the community about how much history a cemetery has. My advice for the up coming class would be to be prepared for the heat, and make sure to be open minded to things. There is so much to learn from this project, and it would be a great loss if you didn’t get any knowledge from it. I think that it would be nice to have a couple of students concentrating in finding documents based on the deceased, and we might get a better insight on what was going on around the times of their deaths. It might help gain more history based on cemetery. Others can be doing corrections on the data collection,  and another group can be doing the mapping at the cemetery. They can plan an alternating system so everyone would get a chance to experiment the areas.I have learned so much from this class, that it makes me sad that I wont be able to take it next semester, but it brings me joy because I might get the opportunity to take it as a graduate student. It was a great opportunity, and this was one of my wishes to be part of before I graduated, to be able to get the hands on experience.  I look forward for the event that will take place on El Dia De Los Muertos, and to the new adventure that awaits. 

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.