AUSTIN (KXAN) — An overgrown field in southeast Austin appears to host only overgrown grass and weeds, but upon closer inspection, grave markers can be found under the brush. The San Jose Montopolis Cemetery Association aims to make it easier to access those hidden graves with weekend cleanups this month.
Joaquin Rodriguez with the cemetery association said last year was the first public cleanup held at the cemetery.
The mission of this year’s cleanup is the same as the previous ones — pick up the area before a Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 2.
“This is more than picking up litter by the highway,” Rodriguez said. “This is giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Rodriguez said he became aware of the neglected cemetery, known as San Jose Cemetery I and II, while tracing back his own family roots a few years ago.
Since then, he’s met other locals that wanted to preserve and revitalize the cemetery which was formed as a final resting place for the southeast Hispanic and Latino communities in the 1940s.
He said it has been difficult to track down why the cemetery has been abandoned for years. The last burial to take place was in 1988. Before that, there were decades-long gaps between burials.
Rodriguez said the 4.5 acres of largely undeveloped property has been scouted over the years by potential buyers. He said the association wants to preserve the area as best as it can. He believes developing it would erase the memories of the people laid to rest there.
“As development encroaches, as Austin continues to change, this could be lost,” Rodriguez said.
The cleanups will take place Oct. 8, 15 and 29 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cemetery association encourages the public to come out and help. Volunteers are asked to meet at the gates to the cemetery between Poston and Ella Lane. The listed address for the memorial site is 2512 Hoeke Ln.