Behind the Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery on the corner of Richardson Rd. and Expressway 281 in Edinburg is the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery.
Although not in use since the 1990’s, the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery goes back 100 years to the founding of Edinburg.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley anthropology student Leann Castillo, along with fellow students, is helping map out once forgotten Valley residents that have passed years ago.
“We have to ask people to come help us because we don’t necessarily know if people still have loved-ones here,” Castillo said.
Records from Hidalgo County have been lost over the years. Sometimes, it’s unknown who is buried where.
UTRGV anthropology professor Sarah Rowe said the county first reached out to her in order to identify grave sites at the cemetery.
“The cemetery has really been neglected for a long period of time,” Rowe said.
Castillo and fellow students are using their smartphones to register every single grave. Remains of the gravesite are recorded using a smartphone that is logged into an online database. Each grave is tagged with its physical location, characteristics and grave dimensions.
“Many of them have come and said, ‘You know, when I was child – when this relative of mine was buried, I know they’re here somewhere and they might be in that section’,” Rowe said.
The cemetery is covered with flags showing a new cataloged grave with a name – a person.
“A flag has each number and a check mark to see if we’ve actually finished mapping it,” Castillo said.
Castillo has been able to find pieces of her own family’s history.
“The history of where you live. You’re learning about new things you’ve never known before,” Castillo said.
Rowe wants the community to take back what is part of their history.
“Something that a cemetery does is it gives you a tangible connection to the past and to the people that are here and their lived experiences,” Rowe said.
Anyone interested in finding a loved-one that was buried at the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery, can call Rowe at (956) 665-3567. To learn more about the research group’s project, visit www.hcpcp.wordpress.com.