The main form of inequality that HCPCP can and should address is economic marginalization. Being a pauper cemetery, the HCPCP is the burial place of the individuals who, for a variety of reasons, could not afford a paid-for burial. These are individuals who may have had a variety of reputations within the community, some extremely positive, but did not possess financial resources. The HCPCP happens to be located in very close proximity to privately owned memorial grounds. Upon entering the vicinity, it is immediately apparent which cemetery has funds and which does not. The HCPCP has seen neglect, not because those in charge do not care, but because resources are minimal. Racial marginalization does occur in many places, though in Hidalgo County, Latino culture is the most prevalent. The vast majority of individuals buried in the HCPCP are of Latino/Hispanic descent, so I do not believe these individuals have been marginalized solely because of their ethnicity. This being said, many of the individuals may have come to Hidalgo County from Mexico or may have come from Mexican families. If any of these individuals were undocumented, they may have had a more challenging time earning money or gaining economic status in the community. In this way, racial and economic marginalization may be linked.
The individuals who are buried in the HCPCP may have experienced economic marginalization in life, but deserve no less justice than those of higher social standing. This public archaeology class has an opportunity to not only map out the cemetery and locate additional graves, but bring justice to each and every individual. To begin, we can use our social media and university platforms to shine light on this cemetery, reminding inhabitants of Hidalgo County that it does exist and deserves our attention. The occupants of these graves matter and should not be regarded as community outsiders. We can also use said platforms as a reminder to all, of the ongoing issues surrounding social inequality in this community of which we are all members. The HCPCP may no longer operate as a cemetery, but economic marginalization is still very present today. It is important to recognize the issues of the past in order to achieve fairness in the present and future.
I do not believe our public archaeology platform is reproducing economic inequalities. If anything, I believe we are shining light on the inequalities of the past and showing that with hard work and attention, any individual, alive or buried, can and should be shown the respect they deserve. No one deserves to be buried in an overlooked or unmarked grave, regardless of their previous financial means. Archaeologists have the unique opportunity of investigating the ‘forgotten’ in a way that is respectful to the past and beneficial to the future. Paul R. Mullins (2007, pp. 92) states, “Ultimately the goal of an engaged archaeology should be a critical analysis of inequality and not a flood of volunteers who troop off to the PTO to potentially craft collective political interests”. It is undeniable that in certain situations, a profit of some sort may be sought after by a collective of scholarly or political professionals. In our situation, I see the standout gain of our work being our contribution to a stronger community.
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.