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Dia De Los Muertos: Cemetery Tours

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The city of Elgin is hosting a yearlong Sesquicentennial celebration in honor of the communities founding in 1872. 2022 is a year for the entire community to commemorate, educate and celebrate the rich history and highlight the cultural fabric of the last 150 years.

Cemeteries tell their stories before the annual Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration on Nov. 1, Tuesday, at 3 p.m. in the heart of Elgin, 19 miles east of Austin.

Founded in 1872, Elgin has been the engine fueling the rise of blue-collar workers from all walks of life from Irish immigrants making brick, to Swedish immigrants working corn and cotton farms, and a diverse small business community spanning 150 years. Día De Los Muertos provides the backdrop to celebrate and honor area Hispanic ancestors. Real individuals are portrayed during the play of historic cemetery tours.  

First stop is the Elgin Mexican Cemetery in town near the water tower. It is segregated from the adjacent predominantly Anglo Elgin Cemetery. There are about 115 graves — 82 marked and 43 unmarked graves. There are 10 Woodmen of the World markers and one veteran of World War I who died in 1930. 

This is where you can read and hear of our people in Spanish and English on some of the stones. The Mexican Revolution starting in 1910 prompted many people to move north to Bastrop County and nearby Sayersville for mining, then later in Elgin working at the brickyards and railroad. The earliest grave is 1904, one year after the railroad built the Elgin Union Depot. Traveling priests performed marriages a few blocks from the cemetery in the little wooden Catholic church, which no longer stands from 1880-1936. 

The second stop is the Elgin Latin Cemetery on the south side of U.S. 290, past the Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse. Land for this cemetery was purchased initially in 1930 and was primarily formed to serve the Mexican American community. Through the years, the demographics began to change. Some Anglo Americans were buried in the cemetery through the years, mainly because they had been married to Mexican Americans. 

In both cemeteries, there are dozens of homemade concrete markers. Mariano Santos, a local barber and artisan now deceased, was deaf and augmented his income making custom, unsigned crosses and gravestones. He made the form, laid sand in the bottom and designed markers embedded symmetrically with glass or other personal objects belonging to the deceased such as colorful broken plates and cup handles.

At the present time, approximately 1,000 burials have occurred at the Elgin Latin Cemetery since 1930. Currently, about 75 of those buried are veterans. Most are Army veterans from World War II. One notable exception, Anastacio “Tacho” Hernando Beltran, will be featured. In 1967, at the age of 21, he was the only Elginite who gave his life while serving his country fighting in Vietnam.     

In 2010, the first African American was buried in the cemetery, and this was in large part because the historic Black Westbrook Cemetery was no longer available for sale of plots for burials. Former Mayor Ron Ramirez recalls his grandfather, Eufracio (Fletcher Ramirez), was born in Mexico Jan. 1, 1907, arriving in America at Elgin in 1908 with his parents. Around 1965, his son established a barbecue place, “Ramirez Sausage Market.”  Now gone, though the memory of Gov. Connally stopping in lingers.  

Guests should meet at Fleming Community Center for Part 1, the Elgin Mexican Cemetery, of this tour and will be responsible for their own transportation for Part 2, the Elgin Latin Cemetery, 305 Ochoa St. Tour time is 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Attendees must arrive at least 15-30 minutes before the scheduled start time. The event is free. Ample parking located at Morris Memorial Park & The Fleming Community Center. Dress comfortably. Participants should be prepared for walking on uneven surfaces and do so at their own risk.

Media Release courtesy of Debbie Wahrmund, freelance writer, or 512-971-0274.

Join the celebration for the Elgin Sesquicentennial — attend an upcoming event, highlight 150 years of Elgin in your business, proudly display a yard sign, and volunteer throughout the year. Visit online at and follow on facebook @etx150. For more information on all things #etx150, connect by emailing at or give us a call at 512-229-3227.