Rinconcitos off the Beaten Path

One of the random hobbies I picked up from my mom is taking road trips within El Valle in search for curious or historical or haunted or abandoned or quirky places. Whether it be a planned trip or a spur of the moment occasion, there’s something about it that makes the experience seem like an expedition in our own back yard. Discovering what’s off the beaten path.

Cemeteries have introduced us to forgotten children from ages past, wondering if time would have seen them to be grandparents. Making calculations to determine that at this moment in time there is no chance they’d be walking this world because aging would’ve made then older than a century. And how did they die? Would modern medicine have prevented their death? When was the last time anyone paid respect to their gravesite?

Often a time, we’ve jumped a the sight of remnants from rituals seemingly done to honor la Santísima Muerte. Incense and statues and broken glass littering around gravestones. Our fear was mostly because we don’t understand the practice. A heaviness following us on the road home from that dark unknown.

There is a magic in discovering what has been forgotten. Imagining the hands that built wooden homes in the outskirts of Hidalgo, Pharr, San Juan, Edinburg, Brownsville, Rio Grande City, Mission, Alamo. From one corner of South Texas to the next. Agriculture evidently being the purpose of families settling in those regions and monte growing over these isolated structural bones.

Mom taught me to be curious at the sight of Historical Markers. They tell of stories we do not learn in school. Of mi gente and the leyendas haunting our ears.

The pictures I share above were taken in the outskirts of Hidalgo. Or Alamo. Not sure what city it pertains to, lol! I had gone on a sporadic road trip with my nephews and at the sight of this home, we decided to take a walk around the monte there. We didn’t go far that time once we saw several border patrol trucks patrolling about 100 feet away. The river wasn’t too far off.

What are some of the random road trips you’ve taken in your rinconcito?

Jackson Ranch Cemetery

In February of 2019, I first found out about the historical Jackson Ranch Church Cemetery during a local history program at McAllen Public Library. As part of their Black History Month celebration, the program ventured into the past of the Jackson Ranch as part of the Underground Railroad leading into Mexico. Prior to that, I had no knowledge of this and, of course, I was intrigued!

Read this article from Texas Standard for more about the Underground Railroad leading south.

When I found out my nephews were studying the Underground Railroad in class, we made plans for a road trip to find the cemetery. I’m not the best at following directions and the maps I found online confused me when my GPS took me in circles. My mom would call me norteada because I’ve always had a broken internal GPS, lol! If I were to describe the location I’d say its somewhere in the middle of Pharr, San Juan, and Hidalgo near the Rio Grande River. Waymarking.com has real directions that may help you reach the destination though at waymarking.com/waymarks/WMJYPR_Jackson_Ranch_Church.

Once there, my nephews and I came across a peaceful protest in the cemetery grounds with tents spread throughout and generations gathered in a communal space, ranging from elders performing spiritual ancestral rituals and children sitting by bonfires. The day was cold and it was sprinkling on and off. At first, because I was confused, I drove past the place but my nephews were adamant they wanted to know what was happening.

We were greeted at the entrance by a U.S. veteran who explained why and what they were protesting. He asked us not to take pictures of the protesters and described how the crowd included several indigenous gente from throughout the nation joining local folks as they brought awareness to the community about how the border wall would actually run across the cemetery and disturb human remains, several were unmarked Native American remains and others were the remains of several Jackson ancestors. It was also one of the first black cemeteries in the Valley.

We were welcomed to be part of the experience and the kids and I were overwhelmed with what we learned. We listened to heartbreaking prayers and when I peeked at them, I noticed my nephews sobbing. Back at home, Mami was on her deathbed and the chants had such an effect on us, we couldn’t help but to feel the energy in our souls. And when we finally walked away, my nephew whispered “Don’t disturb the bodies.” My heart broke.

I underestimated them as children and didn’t think they’d comprehend the seriousness of the situation.

This video clip was filmed when we were back in the car.

The threat for the wall disturbing the remains loomed into the 2020 presidential elections. In March of 2021, I asked my apa to join me for a trip back to the cemetery to see where the wall stood now that construction had been delayed or cancelled. As you can see from the images below, the wall surely almost came to split across this sacred space.

Most of the pictures had to be taken from a distance as stepping onto the cemetery was prohibited. These images were taken from different angles and I tried my best to give you a glimpse of the area.