UT group works to preserve historical sites for communities of color


AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Diana Hernandez first started (Re)claiming Memories at the University of Texas at Austin, she wanted to restore missing and forgotten histories of those who are often overlooked.

“Typically, disenfranchised communities of any kind — BIPOC, queer, Indigenous, people of color communities,” she said.

Specifically, the group’s goal is to secure sites like San José Cementerio in Montopolis.

“The San Jose Cemetery was founded in 1919 it was specifically created for the Mexican American community built during segregation era times,” she said.

Hernandez said there are several community leaders buried there, including Miguel Guerrero.

“He was part of the Unión Fraternal Mexicana who founded the cemetery so he’s, therefore, one of the founders of San Jose. Also, instrumental in founding Zaragoza Park,” she added.

They’re working with the community and city leaders to preserve the cemetery. Hernandez said the group’s next project involves the Palm School, which primarily served elementary-aged Mexican American students during its time. For this project, they’re working with community advocates.

“There are literally hundreds and hundreds of people still alive that went to school here, and they would like to see it preserved as a museum of Mexican American culture and Latino culture,” said Martha P. Cotera, who is currently the Museum at Palm School task force coordinator.

Hernandez said they plan to continue to reclaim memories one site at a time.

“I think it’s important to preserve these histories because they’re not being preserved, and I think it’s important to reclaim these memories for our younger generation, so they know their history,” Hernandez said.

The graduate student said the UT group will continue to advocate for these sites and work with community leaders to ensure they receive the proper recognition.

When it comes to the county-owned Palm School, Travis County officials said they’re working to redevelop the land the school sits on. In June, Travis County staff requested approval to move forward with the sale or lease of Palm School. The Commissioners Court voted to first hold a community meeting, but according to online records, that has not happened yet.

However, through the City of Austin, there have been a couple of meetings this summer as part of its Palm District Planning Initiative.

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