I appreciated the article "Death Waits for No Plan
" [News, Feb. 6] on the draft of the Austin Cemetery Master Plan, which addresses long overdue needs in Austin's five city cemeteries. With that said, I take issue with the representation of, or lack of, the historic Mexican community of Austin in this document.
While Mexican-Americans are in the section "Ethnic Groups in Austin," we are little to be found elsewhere in its 542 pages. The most glaring example of exclusion is to be found in chapter five, on Oakwood Cemetery. I agree wholeheartedly with the Chronicle
's observation that "each cemetery is the history of Austin, played out graveyard by graveyard, plot by plot." To read the historical report on Oakwood, one would think of burials only in terms of white and black. Yet sexton records beginning in the early 1860s show the presence of Mexican burials. These ledgers have a printed row of headings, one being “Color,” underneath which are the designations for "White/Colored." In the “Colored” column is to be found "Mex" to indicate a grave dug for a Mexican. It wasn't until 1900 that the ledgers added a third printed column, "Mex." In addition, there was a segregated area in Oakwood called the Mex Grounds.
Also under this chapter on Oakwood is a listing of “Historically Significant Persons,” these being as expected, predominantly dead old white men and a handful of their former slaves. Of course, no Mexicans made the cut. Unlike the African-American community, I am unaware of the engagement of any Mexican-American groups by the master plan team to identify the Mexican presence in Oakwood. Our historical significance lies in a community of lives lived and it seems as far as the cemetery master plan is concerned, not worthy of inclusion. The report takes more notice of the trees than what is expended on Mexican burials. For the Mexican-American community to be unacknowledged in its equal place in the history of Oakwood, whatever the reasons, I can only hope will be corrected before being presented to the City Council.