Social Justice and Archaeology

The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) can help address issues of marginalization and inequality. One of the clear examples of marginalization found in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery (HCPC) is the separation of the land between the private cemetery, Hillcrest Memorial Park, and the HCPC. Through this separation, there is a clear difference in maintenance, as well as in the condition and arrangement of the monuments. The separation also highlights the inequalities between the rich and poor, as those buried in the HCPC came from predominantly poor backgrounds, and were buried in the HCPC as it was a free plot of land.

Through the HCPCP, we can address the marginalization and inequalities shown in the cemetery through raising awareness of the conditions and through the data collection and analysis. Through raising awareness, we can involve the community in improving the conditions of the cemetery and educate the community on the history of the cemetery. Furthermore, our data collection and analysis will help provide more information on the HCPC. Generally, the HCPCP has been effectively addressing the issues of marginalization and inequality. However, there could still be room for improvement in communication of the project to the general community and the involvement of different community members.

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).

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.

Communities and Stakeholders

In the HCPC project I think that the stakeholders is the Hidalgo county and the community. In the valley there are many communities and there are too many to list or even keep track of. If this deals with the cemetery itself then I would probably say the Hispanic and the Mexican communities but there could be more people who I don’t know about. I would say that it depends on the person and how well they connect with the people but I would say that we aren’t entirely part of the community because we haven’t been there long enough or have enough connections to be considered a true member of the community. I don’t have a clear opinion on whether investigations should be conducted without a cultural affiliation. I am mostly leaning towards no and that is mainly because the project or whatever it is part of their community and culture so they should have some say over it. When conducting an investigation someone will always be forgotten or neglected but there isn’t a certain structure on communities so we can’t exactly be sure that if we work with this certain community some other community won’t be payed attention to. One power dynamic that I think is part of this cemetery would probably be between the people of the community that actually have family in the cemetery and a personal connection to it and the people that don’t have a personal connection and just see it as a way to learn more about history without seeing that it is important to someone.

Social Justice

Social status is something we have been able to observe in burials and graves that date back thousands of years.  Some ancient grave markings are monumental while others can be a simple carving on an available piece of stone if anything at all. As seen throughout history, those of higher status tend to have better or easier access to resources and materials. This status and wealth division can be seen in civilizations and communities throughout the world; even here at HCPC it is evident. When we arrived the first day you can see the clear difference in social status between HCPC and the neighboring Hillcrest Cemetery. Hillcrest Cemetery has graves with headstones of granite and marble. The lawn is green and well maintained. While out doing data collections, gardeners and maintenance workers could be seen tending to the grounds. Before our class began meeting at the cemetery the area had to be cleaned up due to overgrown vegetation. The ground is for the most part dry vegetation and dirt. The graves have been poorly kept and many had been severely damaged. Some grave markers were constructed of metal pipe while others were of wooden crosses or home-made cement. At HCPC we have found most of the graves are that of young Hispanic individuals. Many children and infants were also found to be buried at HCPC. This made me wonder, what could have been happening in the community at this time? Was there some type of illness that contributed to young children dying? Were children of lower social status able to receive adequate healthcare compared to those of higher social status? Are there infants and children from the same time period buried at Hillcrest?

It is unfortunate that HCPC had been neglected for so long but I am glad to be part of this project that is giving a piece of Hidalgo County’s history back to the community.

Social Justice

A pauper cemetery means that for some reason, someone could not afford a paid-for burial. The HCPCP is a pauper cemetery and that is their main form of inequality. Pauper cemeteries have negative stereotypes about who was buried there and why. Since the word pauper means poor person, people assume those of low stature and criminals have been buried here. People believe those who have no family were also buried there. However, many people forgot that it existed, the gravesites went uncared for as weeds started to grow over it, the cemetery was adjacent to another cemetery. One that was cared for and you could tell where the pauper cemetery started and where the other private cemetery ended. It went from being cared for to a cemetery that was left in shambles more. Most of the graves were in poor condition a few didn’t have headstones.

We were not given any information as to how the individuals ended up in the cemetery. But from working in the pauper cemetery I can say that the individuals in the cemetery were well cared for, some had offerings on or by their headstones. Some of the headstones were cared for. There were even a few veterans buried in the pauper cemetery. Some of the people buried might have had family and was very cared for, but their family could not afford a private cemetery. It is also believed that more of the Hispanic culture was buried there than was buried in the private cemetery. Even though the Hispanic culture is more prominent.


Mullins, Paul R. (2007) Politics, Inequality, and Engaged Archaeology: Community        Archaeology Along the Color Line. In Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement, edited by Barbara J. Little and Paul A. Shackel, pp. 89-108. Alta Mira Press, Lanham, MA.

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.


Addressing Social Injustice Through Public Archaeology

This blog post is based on the issues of social injustice and how we as members of the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project(HCPCP) can identify and cancel these components out or rather expose such measures in order to establish a foundation that truly represents the people involved in HCPCP.

In the study of Anthropology as a whole, it is clearly stated that as specialists and peers of the social study we must recognize the elements of human behavior and how they affect the world today. Issues that come from these elements interfere with the growth of humanity unfortunately, and among those is social injustice. Social injustice represents the issues that lie in the ideology of certain individual’s believing that all must live according to some aspects that predetermines their lives. Among this ideology births the execution of these beliefs that have resulted in racism, genocide, segregation, marginalization, and oppression.

Being that this project at the Pauper Cemetery centers around those buried in it, it should not be taken lightly the surroundings of this area altogether. The pauper cemetery is located in the far back, presumably North, of the property in which is now owned by the Hillcrest Cemetery. To the Southeast of the property, is the historical landmark of Hidalgo County burials of officials and other notable public figures. And to the far Northwest, disconnected from the Hillcrest Cemetery completely, is the Restlawn section of the cemetery. The most segregated part of this land that notes obvious borders within burying the dead from the earlier times of the cemetery dating back to 1913.

The Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project should address these specific borders within the property and also note the conditions of these graves within the pauper cemetery compared to that of the active portion and the landmark area. There is no question as to the happening of these solid lines consolidated onto the burial grounds from the time of establishment up until the end. Segregation was clearly in play here with the layout of this land and could be the reason why the pauper cemetery is so poorly maintained. It begs the question now of who is buried within these graves on the pauper field? Clearly, the pauper field is another word for poor man’s grave but does this only inherit the impoverished or does this also include the unwanted and disrespected?

Many of the names found on the descriptions of the legible headstones read in Spanish as well as those found in the respected area of the property by the historical landmark. So, maybe we cannot assume this segregation is also based on race but maybe only that of class status. I also want to mention the importance of what this project brings to the community in conditions that are representing the one’s who were not cared for, thus contributing to the social change we desperately need in the Valley.

I do not believe the practices we have executed through the process of data collection and research analysis have in any way displayed forms of inequality. I do not say this only in part that the majority of the members of this project are apart of this community but because it is clear we are all working towards the goal of representing each and every one of these graves properly and  educating the public of the existence of these burials.


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


Social Justice in HCPCP

One of the forms of marginalization and inequality that HCPCP should address is how both we and the community view the pauper cemetery as a whole. The pauper cemetery is surrounded by many negative stereotypes about who was buried there and why. When I first told my friends and family about the project I was asked out right why I would want to work in the “beggar’s field” they also insinuated only the lowest of the low, who had no one were buried there. It is because of this way of thinking so little care up until recently was given to the cemetery ,years of being left alone and practically forgotten the cemetery was in shambles over run with weeds , drugs and a site of ritualistic ceremonies. And with local and state government agencies giving little funding to aid in cleanup of the cemetery not much could be done up until recently. This only fueled public perception of the cemetery, if the agencies that are supposed to maintain cemeteries doesn’t care there is no reason they should.
The stereotypes that surround the Pauper cemetery are false , from working one the project I can say without a doubt that the people buried in the paupers cemetery where very much loved and cared for. Many of the headstones we examined are homemade and show a lot of work and consideration and many of the graves are adorned with grave offerings. While it is true that some of the people buried here may have been the destitute we must be understanding that there could have been unforeseen circumstances that lead them there. The people buried here could have been pillars in their own community but lacked the financial resources to buy a plot in the private cemetery. I also recall that many of those buried there where infants, and as sad it is, many times parents would have to make the choice between their dead child and those who were still alive. Plots are very expensive and if you have several children still alive at home you can’t afford to given them the funeral who might have wanted. It one of the tough choices that exist in our society.
Another and the most common form marginalization and inequality is tied to race and ethnicity. The majority of those buried here are of Hispanic decent, but considering that the majority of the population of the Rio Grande Valley is as well I do not consider race to be a factor in who was buried there only socio-economic status . But directly across from us is the African American cemetery which I do believe was marginalized do to race. While better kept in better shape than the paupers cemetery there is a clear seen difference between it and the private cemetery.
At this point in time we are doing anything to reproduce the inequalities of the past, but we also not doing anything to ramify them either. Going forward I believe that we must keep the community informed about the project. We ourselves must remember not to judge on only what we can see now. That we are not just taking pictures of head stones, but connecting them to real people whose family might still be out there looking for them. And take this as a learning opportunity about how our society functioned in the past , and how we can take those lessons to better our present and future.