Edinburg Cemetery Celebrating Anniversary Place of Pride for African-American Community

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EDINBURG – Restlawn Cemetery in Edinburg is celebrating its 25th anniversary. At one time, it was the only cemetery in Hidalgo County where African-Americans could be buried. A historical marker at the site tells its story.

"Most people do not know there has been African-American people who have made significant contributions to Valley life since the 1920s. My parents and my grandparents being some of those,” said Edinburg native Clarence Callis.

He added his parents, sister and maternal grandparents are buried at Restlawn Cemetery. Before 1928, African-Americans could only be buried on private ranch cemeteries.

Restlawn Cemetery is only a few yards away from Hillcrest Memorial Park, the city’s cemetery. Hillcrest allocated the half-acre for African-Americans.

"They called it the cabbage patch,” said Kimbly Callis. "When I was little, my dad let me ride with him on the riding lawnmower. This place was stickers, grass. There was a lot of brush here. It was separated from Hillcrest."

She told us her father, Lewis Callis, was one of the people who helped start a community observance at the Edinburg cemetery. She explained, "It's very important to pass it on and to keep this tradition going so that it never dies."

“There's a lot of heritage here," said Ollie Mae Heliton Gonzalez. “I come out here, because it's something special for me.”

Gonzalez’s parents, grandmother and brother are buried at Restlawn Cemetery. She’s one of many who visit relatives, friends, and unmarked graves.

For many, the cemetery will always be a part of their history and a place of pride.

"I'm proud to be black. I'm very proud of my color,” said Gonzalez. “I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world."

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