Once when doing Archaeology in Belize, I got the question from a local worker that was participating in his community public archaeology; “ Why are you here?” He knew about the research taking place and how we were there to discover new findings of the Maya civilization. What he did not understand is why a person would fly over the lands and sea to study some region and culture that does not pertain to their own. This question remained with me since and I been trying to understand it myself. Back then I did not have an answer but now working at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) I seem to find the archaeologist’s motive.  We are here to help both us and the community, to gain new knowledge, preserve and enjoy the cultures. Or as Ervin states, we are here to create “ a greater awareness of community members’ own resources’ (Ervin 2000: 200).” In relation, two great writers, Fred McGhee and John Jameson, go into detail of how to achieve public archaeology.

McGhee’s 2012 work consists of using the Participatory Action Research (PAR) whereas Jameson’s older work of 2003 speaks of public education and outreach. Firstly, what PAR consist of is to “transform communities for the better and where positive social change is an explicit goal (McGhee 2012: 213).” PAR is considered to be revolutionary for its goal is to commit to the region’s political struggles in order to become part of the community’s collective memory, build solidarity and knowledge (McGhee 2012: 218-219). This is done by having the community work hand in hand with the archaeologists. Differently, Jameson aims for the archeologist to work more with instructors, officials, leaders rather than the common locals (Jameson 2003: 158). The first one seems to be more directed towards the community self-learning while the other view is to first spread towards a smaller group of people that can then teach the community.  This difference in public archaeology approach shows how ethical principles are becoming more embraced and understandable over time. Now that the world has more connections, like social media, it is easier to see and learn from the different and similar ethics. Also, we have become more racially mixed and even live next to multi-diverse cultures. This will further make anthropology researchers closer to the people. In fact, the HCPCP has been building their work to be available to the public by providing the resources online like and being published in the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) press release and the main end goal to make a publicly accessible database of each individual grave. What seems to be missing is for the project to be even more open to the public by sending out volunteer opportunities to the community. There does seem to be a number of people approaching the project participants (UTRGV students) that are interested in what we are doing in the area. Maybe providing them with a flyer of the project they could explore the website and contact us for more information or even suggest to help out with the project. I believe that can make the project become more PAR.   

It doesn’t matter where archaeology takes places, what matters is the resources that are contributed to the people. Therefore, the work that we are doing at the HCPCP will help the community and others that have moved farther away to find their relatives. What we gain from here is giving the available resources to the public as well as better understanding the cemeteries cultural aspects. Here the cemeteries preservation has been reignited and hopefully the graves cultural notions will become alive as how the other nearby graves stand. I really like Jameson’s explanation that the ultimate goal of archaeology is “to improve people’s lives by helping them to enjoy and appreciate their cultural heritage (Jameson 2003: 161).”   


It is important to note that the Rio Grande Valley has more Hispanic people than any other ethnicity. Therefore, the HCPCP is conducted by diverse cultures with most of the research participants and burials being of Hispanic descent. I believe that with these same or similar cultural backgrounds, the project is easier to understand and determine valid results, for we can understand the forms of burials conducted in the area by comparing with our own lives. With that said the stakeholders are both the community and the researchers since there is a connection with the culture and society. Of course, this does not leave out other cultures that are integrated, buried nearby, who we are able to learn as well as understand, such as Hispanic culture. The end result is to record, analyze, provide and revive the cemeteries’ descendants and memorial region.

Communities in the Rio Grande Valley are mainly Hispanic but there are diverse cultures. One way we can glimpse at this is by viewing the nearby Black descent cemetery. This shows that others besides Hispanics have been living in Edinburg, Texas since the earlier days. Even so, there are mainly Hispanics buried in this region as there are more Hispanics living here in present times. The reason for this is that the Rio Grande Valley is neighbor to Mexico and the land became part of the United States after the Treaty of Guadalupe of Hidalgo in 1848. The cemetery has dates going back as far as the late 1700s. It shows that the start of burials was during the time that the land belonged to Mexico. Such acknowledgment raises the question: does this cemetery have older descendants than the other three neighboring cemeteries? As stated before, there is another cemetery nearby that has black burials whereas the other well maintained (compared to the one we are working on) Hillcrest Memorial Park and Monuments cemetery. It is interesting how the Hillcrest cemetery is so well maintained with paved roads, integrated water sprinklers, trash cans, restrooms and so on.  What happened to the HCPC? Is it much older than the Hillcrest? Is there a difference in the hierarchy? This is important to know so we can determine what communities should be more reached out to. It is like how Cheryl LaRoche and Michael Blakey’s African Burial Ground project in New York shows how the work gave a testimony of the African-American contribution and suffering in that region (LaRoche and Blakey 1997: 100). Here we might find a connection to the regions past participants of what they represented and who they were.

   Having Hispanic students conducting research with the HCPCP there is obvious cultural affiliation. It would be great if we could work with communities around us especially those who are families from the descendants. However, “all people put value on objectivity in certain contexts” and no one should be rejected or forced to use the data collected (Kanne Pyburn 2009: 163). By placing the information online, whoever wants to go and see is free to do so. I do believe that there needs to be cultural affiliation involved for the project to function. This does not mean that the leader of the project should be someone that has a decedent in the cemetery. What I mean here is that it makes it easier to have some people that know about the culture. With that, the researcher can teach the others something they know about the burial materials or forms that are difficult to see if not part of that culture. Together they learn and understand the cemetery. Cultural affiliations can as well ease tension with the community who at times dislike non-Hispanic people to research their region. Something similar to the African Burial Ground project problematic situations of questioning if white people should study black people (LaRoche and Blakey 1997: 93).  Now if we have Hispanics in the project there will be more comfortable with the communities. In all, I think working with diverse cultures is good for there are so many different views and interpretations that can work together to find the cultural significance of the cemetery.

The stakeholders for the HCPCP are the community and researchers. Both should have some control over the research to share with each other what comes out from the project. What they end up gaining is knowledge of the regions ancestors, culture, and social changes. In fact, the power dynamics of the project is to make the cemetery a better place in order to maintain the cultural importance of the living and the dead. By working together, the attention to continue maintaining the cemetery will increase, for people will become aware of this forgotten graveyard. Going back to HCPCP stakeholders, not only does the researcher need to know the community but the community needs to get to know the researchers in order to understand each other. It is how Pyburn states: “It is important to be known, as to know (Pyburn 2009:174).” In other words, by knowing each other we can place trust and respect on the region and the work that is being done.




As anthropologist work with different communities, they become a part of them. Sometimes it is communities they are born into, or work with over years. It can benefit anthropologists because they can get to know about how the communities are, not just to the public but to each other. I have been on the outside of the valley community and still am, I have only been for a year and a half. The valley has many people from many vibrant cultures, which blend together beautifully. By being on the border you see many people from all over the world. Some of them, like me, may not have any connection to the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery. People who are involved in the project are mostly individuals, who family has lived here, who have an interest in the history of the people of the valley, or those who would like to use it for future data and research.

One of the stakeholders for the HCPCP is The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the anthropology class led by Dr. Sara Rowe. Another stakeholder would be Hildago County officials, who gave our class permission to do work at the Pauper Cemetery site. The class also uses indirect stakeholders, by the family’s that visit the cemetery and give the class background on their family members. Many of the funeral homes, and hospitals that can give us information on who was buried there are also stakeholders.

Site interpretations

Gonzalez-Tennant talks about how he hopes to use the virtual reality-type program Second Life to inform the general public in a more considerate manner. It is helpful because with the technology today, people are more likely to reach out and help out online than to come by in person. I believe this is a great way for the public to understand what is happening and to help out with the project. By doing this project we helped people become aware of the pauper cemetery again.

Uzi Barams website on excavation explains the connection of working with communities and their transitions that are made. He talks about how communities are like organisms, they continue to grow and evolve. Gonzalez-Tennant mentions that as communites grows information is lost and people are lost or forgotten in the change. Many sites have been discovered by accident, such as the site of Lascaux cave paintings that were discovered by kids following their dog, or sites where hikers go off the beaten trail. One of the most famous ones is Machu picchu, a forgotten city in books that no one could find. Only to be discovered by a teacher. However some of the locals still knew of Machu Picchu and were to find it. If it were not for the community it would not been found for the public. That’s why it is important to reach out to people to see what tales they have. We can take from these articles that we should incorporate oral histories into our findings where possible.

Digital Techniques

We used a lot of digital techniques at the pauper cemetery. HCPCP used collaborative participation, by making the site public and encouraging help from people who might have information. We made the blog that is for public access on what we are doing. The project has used 3D scanning but not in the field. With 3D scanning you can recreate what a site might have looked like before it broken or got the weeds overgrown on it. We used our phones to record the data and take pictures of the grave site. We tried to be as open about the project with community as possible. We wanted to use crowd sourcing as much as possible to learn who was buried at the site and to help make the entries of the site as detailed as possible.

The use of digital technology has new ethical issues. It is a great way for public participation, however there is not much to tell collaborate with what someone tells us. It also relies on voluntarism from the public for our information. It has been criticized as free labor and contributing to neo-liberalist economies. But using digital technology made collecting the data easy as all we had to do was input it into our phones. The complication was if the phone died as it used a lot of the battery, there was no place to charge your phone if it died in the process of recording. The cell phones also relied on signal to use which is not always reliable in the middle of a cemetery.

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.

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.   



Final Reflection

Our very first blog post was about each member of the class identifying what “public archaeology” meant to them and with slight doubt in my initial post I found myself to be proven wrong. I mentioned that I felt public archaeology was more of a concept in which we bring a community together to find solid research and maintaining communication with the public for what has been discovered. There was not full confidence in this statement because I personally felt unsure the public would become aware of our project as quickly as they had. To my surprise and satisfaction, members of the community were in fact aware of the project we had begun and were thrilled to hear of our efforts. I was unaware of the amount of communication and collaboration it would require for our project to excel as quickly as it had. As a group we gathered occasional volunteers, collaboration with archives, human remains detection dogs and the general community becoming aware of the mission we set out for ourselves. Just in the first semester of working on the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) the course has been able to branch out to various people, even professionals in other states, and this remains to only be the beginning of our project. With outside efforts, we have been able to learn more of the cemetery than beyond what is on the surface.

My perspective of the overall objective of HCPCP is to benefit those who lost loved ones as well as bring a sense of justice to those who are deceased and have gone unmarked or neglected. I can confidently state our motives are of the most genuine and it has been very interesting to experience technological techniques while creating a sense of a bond with the descriptions on marked, and even unmarked, graves. Typically, I am a believer that though technology is wonderful it is consuming too much of our lives and we have become reliant on it despite it not always being reliable. However, while working on this project I have been capable of bending my belief in understanding that the equipment is incredibly helpful. Some individuals within the class were granted the opportunity to digitally mark grave dimensions with advanced technologies while others documented information of each grave. There have been occasional run-ins with technology, where we are set to re-mark graves, that soon become tedious and slows down our progress but balances when I am reminded that we are benefitting other individuals. Through my observations, I have become aware that the project is primarily technological based for items on surface level, however the human remains detection dogs were useful in discovering what is below surface level. This benefitted our project but allowing us to acknowledge the graves that have gone beyond unmarked and resulted in being entirely unknown. Unfortunately, with respect to the deceased and their loved ones I am unsure of a way we could distinguish these individuals but we can now note there is a grave in areas that appear to be nothing but ground.

Contrary to my usual opposition of technology, I find as though technology is greatly improving and allowing for more accurate research. With possibilities of a drone in our research future it could provide a more accurate scaling of the public cemetery and improve our research findings. This is especially helpful for graves the human remains detection dogs discovered. Hopefully in the future of the HCPCP we can utilize more outside, physical help to provide a more accurate representation of the cemetery as we have worked on it. Additionally, I hope for a lively looking cemetery. The borders of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery, other cemeteries, appear to be more “attractive” to the eye, thus I hope in the near future we will be able to offer a similar appearing cemetery so there is no sense of neglect and disinterest.

A small thought has lingered through my mind and it is the attempt we may make in meeting the needs of the public. As an individual in a group project I have acknowledged our goal contributes to involving the public, though at this very moment there is not much involvement from the public. This is entirely acceptable, for we have just begun our project, though in the future will public and archaeological methods and/or ideas clash when deciding what is best for the cemetery? From my individual stand point I view this to potentially slow down the research process in which there will be continues lessons to be taught for new individuals involved in the project. However, there is a very strong possibility it could improve the project, as well. With outside perspectives from individuals who may have nearly no knowledge of archaeology, their inputs could guide our research into an unforeseen, positive direction. I feel as though the primary focus in caring for the cemetery should stem from putting yourself in the perspective of which your loved one is buried in this exact or a similar cemetery. It is then that the best public understanding and changes to what is the “now” could be made.

Finally, the amount of effort and collaboration that is required for this project to become successful is outstanding and entirely worth the effort. There is a bunch of support on the project that has been developed and the few interviews that have approached the group with questions have been more than kind and ecstatic. There are individuals that have asked to remain informed or have reached out to an individual and provided names for us to look out for. Minor, yet helpful, requests have been established and, as stated earlier, with this being the barely the beginning of our project the final outcome will be incredible. Personally, I look forward to the project development as well as the technology development that will be made to aid in creating the most accurate, realistic, digital display of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery in years to come.

Site Interpretation

Uzi Baram writes about his experience with a former Florida colony and in doing so he addresses another individuals research. Baram began with explaining the connection between working with communities and the transitions that are to be made. Often “community organizing” is mentioned and despite the initial thought upon this term it influences building alliances. For community organizing to be successful you must expand from socio-politics to local politics. There is some notice that there is a collaborative continuum in “an act and a practice” that influences scholars working with more individuals that would consider the work a different sort of activity. Baram acknowledges Saul Alinsky (not an archaeologist) and explains that Alinsky sharpened tactics in allowing the community to believe they are building up social change. In Bradenton, Baram explains the city accidentally sold their park and when admitting this mistake a columnist named Tom Lyons question why the city wanted the park back. Through his opinion he believed the city should allow for positive caretakers to remain taking care of the park. The objective through community organizing is primarily about conservation of sites that have the potential to be lost. A group of professionals and locals network to bring more individuals together, including government and non-governmental organizations, together to preserve regions. Baram states, “The process, ideally, includes jointly negotiated approaches using archeo-heritage for building community and social justice.” For today’s perspective, there is now notice towards race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality to better succeed at reaching the needs of each individual.

Through my understanding Gonzalez-Tennant is attempting to reach the general public of those utilizing online technology as their source of information. Through this I feel we could identify stories about the cemetery where individuals have not been entirely blessed throughout their lives. There are the occasional individuals that have outstanding marking for their loved ones with new offerings while a large majority of the others appear to have been neglected and not kept up with. Though the project we have begun is to increase knowledge of those who have gone forgotten or unnoticed I concluded there are many deceased individuals that are entirely unaware of. Virtual realities are explored through the reading and beginning with our technology advancement there will soon be an opportunity for our project to also become a version of virtual reality. Often when individuals pass away they are forgotten, this is no secret, though with archives and live through the internet these individuals remain alive. This allows for people all over to discover new, interesting stories from various locations and the legacy of people will continue to thrive, regardless of not being entirely knowledgeable of an individual personally. The research that is compiled is going to result in the way others see certain deceased individuals that have gone unheard of thus this allows for a sense of a “second life”. Continuing to document the individuals we discovery is a positive way to keep our personal experiences of the cemetery alive as well as the individual we discovered.