The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation and the City of Sugar Land Visitors Center have announced the exhibit San Isidro Cemetery: 100 Years of History, and a Dia de los Muertos at the Sugar Land Museum and Visitors Center from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3.
On the north bank of Oyster Creek in a modern neighborhood sits a tranquil cemetery that is as strong an emblem of old Sugar Land as the Char House, or the Lakeview Auditorium. San Isidro Cemetery is celebrating its centennial this year, and the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation, the City of Sugar Land, other local organizations, and families with deep roots in Sugar Land’s past will join in this celebration.
There will be two events at the museum to celebrate the exhibit, each will be a half-day event and will include music, refreshments, presentations, and other elements to explore the local history. The museum exhibit will comprise personalized altars created by local families to honor their loved ones and commemorate their lives in old Sugar Land. Visitors will learn about the town’s rich historical legacy in a personalized and unique way.
Oct. 27 program
· 1 p.m. Local musician Leticia Rico will perform.
· 2 p.m. Agustin Loredo will speak on Dia de los Muertos and its significance to Mexican Americans. He has taught Mexican American studies at Pasadena High School for 15 years and has served on the Goose Creek School Board, including a term as its president.
· 2:30 Eleno Flores Jr. will speak on San Isidro Cemetery and its place in Sugar Land’s legacy. Flores was born and raised in Sugar Land. His professional career has taken him across the globe, but his Sugar Land roots have remained strong.
· 3 p.m. Sugar Land musician and singer Vince Ramos will perform.
Nov. 3 program
· 1 p.m. Children are invited to a workshop where they will create Dia de los Muertos artwork.
· 2:30 Eleno Flores Jr. will speak on San Isidro Cemetery and its place in Sugar Land’s historical legacy.
· 3 p.m. Vince Ramos will perform.
San Isidro Cemetery is in many ways an island preserving the past in a sprawling modern city. The Dia de los Muertos exhibit will explain the significance of All Saints Day in Hispanic cultures across North and Central America. Following long-standing tradition, families return to the burial sites of their beloved ancestors, attend to maintenance of their resting places, construct personalized altars to honor their memories, and conclude with a celebration of thanksgiving for the blessings from the past.
San Isidore (1070-1130) is the patron saint of farmers and farm laborers. He was renowned for his pious care for animals and the poor near his hometown of Madrid, Spain. The cemetery’s name is fitting because Sugarland Industries provided the land it sits on for immigrants from Mexico to bury their loved ones in local graves, since in almost all cases they lacked the means to bury relatives in distant Mexico. The cemetery became the resting place of many people who worked for Imperial Sugar Company and, eventually, other enterprises.
In former times, it was well known as a bucolic, serene location, surrounded by pastureland to the north and corn and cotton fields on the south bank of Oyster Creek. Tall pecan trees shaded the cemetery and adjoining area. A wooden bridge with no rails provided access from the south side of the creek. It is located in present-day Sugar Creek subdivision between Sugar Creek Boulevard and Oyster Creek. Find A Grave web site indicates there are 690 known burials with the earliest dating from 1920.
Carmen Flores Perez has extensive ties to the cemetery. Multiple generations of her family and her in-laws are buried there.
“There is one family with six generations buried in San Isidro. I don’t know how many times I’ve met people from other coastal towns, and when I told them I’m from Sugar Land, they tell me they have relatives buried in San Isidro. Connections to this cemetery are deep and wide,” she said.
The Sugar Land Heritage Museum and the Sugar Land Visitors Center is located at 198 Kempner Street, Building B, 2nd Floor. Admission is free. The hours are Monday, noon to 5 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.