Saving San Jose Cemetery I: Why the community is taking responsibility

AUSTIN (KXAN)— Joaquin Rodriguez just recently found out where his father was buried in Austin.

His father, along with other of Rodriguez’s relatives, rest in San Jose I Cemetery in East Austin.

“If you were on a low income and needed a place to put your relatives… this was known as this where you go,” Rodriguez said.

That’s why he founded the San Jose Montopolis Cemetery Association a few years ago. It is a community group that works to maintain and preserve the San Jose I and II Cemetery grounds.

It has a lot of history and has been around since the early 1900’s. It is where Latino and Indigenous families have come to bury their loved ones.

  • Neighbor discovers tombstone, hidden by debris. (photo KXAN/Jake Sykes).
  • Neighbors carry debris from the grave. (photo KXAN/Jake Sykes).
  • Neighbor fills wheelbarrow with storm debris while cleaning up graveyard. (photo KXAN/Jake Sykes).

The February 2023 winter storm left a trail of debris and even slightly damaged gravestones. On Saturday, Rodriguez and other community members spent the day cleaning up.

“In this whole process of discovering my, my roots, I just saw a need, I just found a need for a bigger initiative to happen beyond single individuals coming here and taking care of a small area of land,” Rodríguez said.

The grounds have been somewhat neglected over the years, some of the headstones are even completely overgrown with overgrown shrubs and branches.

Rodriguez hopes he and others can change that. He said he plans to organize community cleanups at the cemetery every spring and fall. The group posts updates on its Facebook page and other social media accounts.

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