Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Phoenix cemetery goes historic

[Source: Veronica Sanchez, 12 News] -- After a fight to preserve it, and years of neglect, a century old Phoenix cemetery is deemed historic. This week, the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission voted to preserve the cemetery. That means no one can alter or change the Sotelo-Heard Cemetery without expressed permission from the commission itself. It's been a long and sometimes forgotten battle. Hundreds of Mexican laborers and their children were buried near 12th St. and Broadway from the late 1880's to the 1920's.

Throughout the years, grave robbers and kids trampled on the headstones and destroyed them. Some people actually cared, like 76-year-old Emily Lilly. As a young woman she walked the grounds of the cemetery sketching the names of the dead before headstones were destroyed. And then there was Tim Diaz who two years ago became the unofficial caretaker. About that time the owner of the cemetery wanted to develop on the land but was pressured by Hispanic activists not to. Since then a new owner has taken over, the non profit agency Neighborhood Housing Service. Representatives say they fought to preserve the cemetery but also want to build homes near it. Some people who live near the cemetery aren't wild about the idea, but it's better than the old scenario. NHS still has to clear zoning hurdled to build on the lot but reps claim the cemetery will not be disturbed. The dead will be remembered with a dignified memorial.