|Every community has at least one cemetery, a refuge for those who have passed from this world into the next, a final resting place that offers perpetual peace for our loved ones who have gone before us.
They are solemn places, often well manicured and greatly revered for their eternal purposes, a place that demands respect and offers solace in our darkest hours. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as surprise to learn that more than just a few people share an odd attraction to these “doorways to the next world”, a silent understanding and subtle appreciation for the significance these fortresses of solitude provide to society.
If you have walked through one of these stately resting places -- and who hasn’t -- you might understand the serenity and magnitude of our moments within their confines. They are places of honor, the home of the remains of our loved ones and friends. Instead of a dreaded place of fear and forbidding, they often offer peace of mind that defies easy comprehension, but one we often embrace as we stroll the hallowed grounds where they lie.
In Brownsville, the Old City Cemetery is all that and more. It is a ‘living’ history lesson of the dead and department. It harbors the glory and richness of the Rio Grande Valley past, and because of its unusual and unique architecture and marbled headstones and tombs, it is a site to behold, a prime example of Old World graveyard fashion and flavor.
On Oct. 18 the Old Cemetery Center will be dedicated during grand opening ceremonies. The ribbon cutting dedication is scheduled at 5 p.m. outside the Old City Cemetery Center (on the corner of 6th street and Monroe). At the ribbon-cutting dedication, guests will learn about the efforts to install security system and lighting at the Old City Cemetery and Hebrew Cemetery. Guests will also have an opportunity to view the new permanent exhibitions of the Old City Cemetery Center. The exhibitions educate visitors about founding families, notables, and veterans buried at the cemetery. Additional displays feature the Hebrew Cemetery, cemetery symbolism and architecture, preservation, and burial customs. The preservation project and Old City Cemetery Center are made possible through a contract with the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation.
At 5:30 p.m. following the ribbon-cutting, the audience will be entertained by a Cuentos Celebration with Consuelo Samarripa. At 6:30 p.m. the festivities continue with the opening reception for La Flor Y La Calavera: Two Brothers Explore Duality exhibition featuring the work of Carlos and Noe Truan. During the reception, guests will enjoy a musical performance by Joe and Rosa Perez of Rumbo al’Anacua. Outside of the Old City Cemetery Center, visitors will enjoy refreshments and free activity tents.
Closing out the festivities will be bilingual performance of the Life and Times of Juanito Gonzalez by SAG member Pedro Garcia.
The Old City Cemetery Center will offer free admission from Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. Guided tours of the cemetery will be available by reservation at a charge of $5 for BHA members, and $8 for non-members. It is located at 600 E. Jackson Street on the corner of 6th street and Monroe.
National Arts & Humanities
Brownsville Heritage Complex located in historic downtown Brownsville and Stripes, join hundreds of arts and cultural organizations, corporations, and communities across the nation in celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month throughout October. Brownsville Heritage Complex will carry this message to the people of Brownsville through activities that honor the efforts of artists, historians, and cultural groups working to make the arts and humanities a part of everyone’s life.
As part of the month-long celebration, the Brownsville Heritage Complex will offer National Arts and Humanities Month Family Fun Time from 10 am to noon every Saturday in October. Family Fun Time will be offered on October 7, October 13, October 20, and October 27.
A special free program on traditional Mexican Candy Making and Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Decorating will be offered on October 20.
This program is meant to provide safe, enjoyable and affordable opportunities for Brownsville families to become exposed to the arts, history, and culture of downtown Brownsville.
Day of the Dead
The Old City Cemetery Center will focus on history, architecture, art, and folk customs of the cemetery. As the cemetery is unique in the Rio Grande Valley and is modeled after the New Orleans cemetery, it provides a great opportunity to learn about marble art and architecture as well as the history of the people buried there. The folk art customs of the cemetery include “descanos,” homemade nichos, paper art, and silk flower coronas. The Old City Cemetery Center will offer permanent exhibition focused on the cemetery, as well as rotating exhibitions focused on these folk art customs. The BHA’s Day of the Dead programs will continue the tradition of the cemetery Day of the Dead customs, as the Historic city Cemetery in Brownsville was one of the original and first places where Day of the Dead was celebrated in the Rio Grande Valley.
Every cemetery has its famous burials and the Old City Cemetery is no exception, giving proof of its historical significance. At long last the Historic Brownsville City Cemetery is receiving some serious attention, along the lines of conservation, security, and a ground swell movement of public patronage. Wouldn't you think so, after all, it's 150 years of existence have been graced with (earliest research figures):
#1 - a soldier of the Battle of San Jacinto,
#2 - over 20 souls that were directly tied to Zachary Taylor's defense of our southern border in the Mexican War,
#3 - over 20 soldiers involved in the Civil War, of the North and the South,
#4 - a "Rough Rider" who went over San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, and was hanged (later) by Gen. Lucio Blanco.
Beyond this cadre of warriors, you will also find side by side the great empire builders of commerce and politics that transformed this desolate border outpost into the thriving community on the Rio Grande that it is today. Their stories are fascinating - and soon the world will view a more focused glimpse of the color, intrigue, and sacrifice that so many of those who have been laid to rest in Brownsville's Historic Cemetery.
For more information, call 956-541- 560.