I was out, walking my neighborhood yesterday, trying to burn off a few calories. Just down the street is a private cemetery, fenced up with a gate that stays chained closed most of the time. Yesterday, the gate was open so at the end of my walk, I decided to go inside and take a look around.
The cemetery is named San Isidro and lies on the banks of Oyster Creek in Sugar Land. I strolled around, reading the names and dates off the headstones, snapping a few pictures with my iPhone. Almost every name was hispanic – Garcia, Hernandez, Torres, Luna. It was a peaceful little cemetery. The grave sites, overgrown with grass and weeds, lack regular care. A man with a thin shovel and a woman with a plastic grocery bag tended one or two sites, probably their own family members.
As I strolled through the 6 or 7 rows of graves, the man approached and asked if I had family buried there. I told him that I didn’t and asked if he’d like me to leave. He was, after all, a pretty good sized hispanic fella himself and I had not been invited in.
“Oh no,” he said, “you are welcome here any time.”
He told me that his wife’s grandparents are buried here and that he and his wife come a couple times a year to tidy up their graves sites. While they’re at it, they work on a few of those nearby that need some extra care. He spoke slowly in a solemn voice and held out a handful of pecans he’d picked up while cleaning up the area.
“Come in and get you some pecans whenever you want,” he offered. ” We just keep the gate locked to keep the dirt bikes and bad guys out. Some people were even stealing headstones.”
“Do you know the history of this cemetery,” he asked.
“No, I sure don’t. I recently moved here and have been curious about this place but it’s always locked. What do you know about it?
His name was Hector. He explained that long before the houses in these subdivisions were built, this land was donated by the Imperial Sugar Company for a cemetery for those that worked for the company. Anyone who worked the fields or in the sugar mill was able to be buried there along with their families. He explained that this site was way back in the boonies, nothing but woods and fields.
He pointed over to a vacant area fenced off with a six foot hurricane fence. “That was for the slave families”
“You’re kidding! Slaves?”
He said that there was one stone gravesite visible still, and pointed to something that looked like a small cement cross leaning sideways. He said there were other concrete markers in the ground, but grass had grown over most of them.
“Just take a shovel over there the next time it’s open and you can still find them.”
He told me that there used to be a wooden bridge across Oyster Creek just southeast of where we stood, but it’s not there any more. He said that families used to bring their dead over here and dig their own graves for the deceased. People didn’t have money to pay for graves to be dug in those days. I noticed that most of the older gravestones showed the date of death in the 1940’s. I concluded I’d have to do some more research on the slave topic and the actual dates that the sugar cane fields were farmed.
Hector gave me the gate code for the padlock and said I could come back whenever I wanted. We shook hands. I enjoyed meeting Hector.
When I got home, I went to work on the pictures I took with my iPhone. Using the techniques of rubicorno, I used several apps to tweak my images.
Take some picture.
Meet new people.
Say a prayer.
Tidy up someone’s final resting spot.