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).

0 thoughts on “Social Justice and Archaeology

  1. I definitely agree that we should analyze and talk about the economic and racial implications of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery and its surrounding cemeteries. The disparity is obvious and abundant but hopefully our work will help to alleviate some of the effects of such inequality- mainly by finding lost graves and creating a data base for all the other graves.

  2. I agree that the prevalent examples of inequalities and marginalization in this project are in income and in race. As you point out, not only is the land separated between the public and private cemetery, but it also includes a separation for African-American burials. Raising public awareness and educating the public about the history of the cemetery could help address these problems, but as you point out, we have to be careful in how we communicate and ensure that we continue to involve the community.

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