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Hidden history: Mexican-American cemetery lies in Sugar Land neighborhood

The San Isidro Cemetery in the Sugar Creek subdivision was first designated as a burial ground in 1918.

SUGAR LAND, Texas — Did you know there's a Mexican-American cemetery in a Sugar Land neighborhood? The graveyard's modest headstones mark sacred ground that serves as the final resting place for Mexican farmers and their descendants.

It's called the San Isidro Cemetery and the land was first designated as a burial ground in 1918.

Migrant farmers had replaced the controversial convict labor lease program of mostly Black prisoners. They picked cotton and harvested sugar cane for Sugar Land Industries.

"I actually know a family where the dad was recruited from northern Mexico, maybe 50 to 75 miles outside of Monterrey, the big center, and they would recruit in the small towns. And I was told that they had handbills that would say, you know, we're looking for people to work," University of Houston Professor Marie Theresa Hernandez-Ramirez said.

Carmen Flores-Perez and Terri Moreno-Rodriguez are advocates for the cemetery. The 71-year-old women said many of those who are buried at San Isidro are family members and friends.

"My husband's grandfather, Felipe Perez, with a sharecropper," Flores-Perez said. "You know, I always tell everybody it's like walking my neighborhood. Like, if I walk here, I see one of my neighbors or I see my father's coworker or I see guys and I went to school with in high school."

The cemetery is a source of pride for the women and they've fought hard to preserve it.

"I have my grandmother, my grandfather and uncle and cousin. They're buried here in San Isidro," Moreno-Rodriguez said.

The burial grounds lie in the Sugar Creek subdivision, which was Sugar Land's first master-planned community and was developed in 1968. Some residents were clueless about the graveyard while others had issues with it.

In 1993, the cemetery association and Sugar Creek entered litigation over San Isidro, but they never went to court. They were able to reach an agreement in mediation.

"There's no amount of money that would that would be enough for us to remove somebody (from San Isidro)," Perez said. "This is sacred to us."

The community has since come around and even celebrate the cemetery and Dia de los Muertos at the Sugar Land Heritage Museum. The event is about the holy day, but it's a great introduction to Cemetenrio San Isidro and its history that so few knew about that is in their own backyard.

This year's exhibit will be virtual and you can find it on the Sugar Land Heritage Museum website here as well at the San Isidro Facebook page here.

To read and learn more about Cementerio San Isidro you can read "Cemeteries of Ambivalent Desire: Unearthing Deep South Narratives from a Texas Graveyard" by Marie-Theresa Hernandez Ramirez, Ph.D., University of Houston World Cultures and Literatures Program.

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