The beginning of the semester was rather confusing in the sense that I was not entirely sure what the class will teach me. While yes, the objectives of the course were taught and for the most part understood, there is always something else that I personally take from the class. As the semester progresses what I think I’m learning constantly changes. For instance, in the very beginning I thought I would simply learn first what exactly Public Archaeology is, as well as, learn some archaeological skills that I feel I would not have learned otherwise. While I did in fact learn these things, it was more of an addendum to what it is that I was to learn from the class. That being said, I learned a lot of different things about the cemetery, the people, archaeological methods, anthropological methods and over culture of both the past and present cemetery. One of the things that I learned, is how intertwined the cemetery and the people are. While personally I know that this is because of the fact that in the culture here in the Rio Grande Valley, family is highly prioritized. This does not mean that they abide by the traditional roles of family, for some family is an accumulation of people that they care about, which can be especially seen in barrio areas of the Valley. These areas consist of very closely-knit communities that are often there to support one another. However, this is not the only way in which the two are very closely intertwined, curing the course of the semester I learned that this is due to the fact that though there is a strong bond between the dead, their loved ones and sometimes the community around them. The fact that there is still an interest in this cemetery says a lot about the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Before I move on and talk about all the other things that I have learned over the course of the semester, it is important to me that I talk about the cemetery itself, as this is where I believe that I learned the most.
In the very beginning of class we learned that the cemetery was built in the early twentieth century, and was closed in the late twentieth century, making it one on the youngest Potters field cemeteries. The cemetery is owned by Hidalgo County and is usually referred to as a Potters field or as a Paupers Cemetery, however, I disagree with the use of those names. While, yes, these name do most accurately describe the purpose of the cemetery, it has negative connotations and associations attached to it and, it does not change the fact that the dead who are buried there are or were a loved one to someone else. For instance, during the semester we saw a few people come to into the cemetery to put flowers on their loved one’s graves and to tidy it up a little, this shows us that though we are working in a cemetery for people who did not have the means to have an elaborate funeral, either for themselves or their loved one(s), it does not make them any less human than anyone else. Which is why I like the idea of changing the name of our project name form Hidalgo County Pauper’s Cemetery Project to Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project. The only problem that I can see with this is that, because of the fact that the word pauper may be more readily known than what a Public Cemetery is exactly, it may garner more interest in the project than a more neutral name for the project. However, I am still in favor of using Public Cemetery instead of Paupers Cemetery as a whole.
The use of a different name of the project helps to influence the kind of attraction that it will garner not only in the general public, but in the academic spheres as well. For example, during the semester we were reading a few academic articles that were similar to the project that we have started here. In these articles it is interesting to see the direction that people take when they start the project. Though I cannot remember the specific article that has originally started with one named and changed it to another, I can remember there being an article written about a project done at a university. In this project they encountered some problems in dealing with a group of people who were looking to maintain their local history. The way that they dealt with this is by listening to the group and attempting to appease them as well as give as much factual evidence as they could. This is one the articles that stood out most to me because I was able to read a little bit more into the way that the project was affecting the community, as well as, having some historical context to the area. The historical context is extremely helpful to me, because as a reader or general public I have less knowledge as to why this project is important not only to the area, but as a whole. Therefore, I believe that it would be beneficial to have a class period or special project for any given semester that would allow for us to talk to the people who are directly affected by this project. I feel that talking to them would allow for a very open communication system that will help us further shape our project.
In terms of the project itself, I believe that we have had a great start in being able to learn how to interact not only with others in our field of study, but with people whose field of study may not outwardly seem to work in conjunction with ours, but ultimately can, as well as learning how this will benefit the community. It will do this by allowing for people to find out who exactly is buried there, for some it may mean being able to finally find their loved ones and for others it will allow for a sort of piece having their loved ones properly documented once again.