The History of Fort Lowell Cemetery
Cemeteries are the history of a people, a community and lifestyle. They provide an important process of mourning and religious observation and are visited by family, friends and everyday people through the years. Try to imagine life in El Fuerte during the early 20th century, when lives revolved around church, school, family and the year was marked by fiestas and Saint’s days, weddings and funerals. Life was hard and families depended on themselves and each other.
The Fort Lowell Cemetery represents the cultural heritage and silently acknowledges the perseverance of people with strong roots to their community. The first interment is unknown on this long-established funerary ground, as markers are missing or names and dates are no longer visible. Recorded in the late 1800’s paisanos “countrymen” from Magdalena, Ures and Huepac in Sonora Mexico as well as Santa Rosalía and La Paz from the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico, resided in and around the decommissioned Fort Lowell Military Post. They were not immigrants from one nation to another, rather relocating from one part of the land in which they were born to another area of the Sonoran Desert.
The settlement flourished into the village of El Fuerte, “The Fort”, and these paisanos where known as Los Fuerteños, “The People of the Fort”. On the one acre site lies the final resting place of the earliest Fuerteños and is restricted only to their descendants that continues to this day. The time-honored burials are hand dug by family members. Traditionally during Día de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead”, visitors honor their ancestors and friends by decorating, reciting prayers or leaving mementos. The Fort Lowell Cemetery was presented to the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, Inc. by its former owner Jean Dun Porter in 1997, who felt that the Fort Lowell Cemetery belonged to the historic neighborhood and was part of the history and tradition of its people.
Conservation & Preservation
The Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, Inc. and its appointed Fort Lowell Cemetery Committee, has a defined role working towards the conservation and preservation for the Fort Lowell Cemetery. The customs and religious affiliations of those buried in the cemetery will be considered. The cemetery is an expression of a community including the cultural beliefs that make the community unique; respecting the dead means extending respect to their descendants.
Conservation efforts will be directed towards the property used a as cultural and a heritage funerary ground, gravesites, markers, architecture, recorded documentation of burials, and providing research that will further the knowledge of those who were living in the Fort Lowell area of Tucson years ago. Additional maintenance and management is essential to protect the cemetery from the natural exposures to age, weather, unforeseen circumstances and vandalism.
The Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, Inc. Cemetery Committee, with assistance from volunteers, will work towards the following goals.
- Encourage preservation and restoration where possible
- Prevent and deter deterioration and vandalism
- Provide services and assist the families and friends of Fort Lowell and Los Fuerteños
- Provide education and special events
- Develop public awareness
- Implement and post cemetery etiquette and rules
- Inspect and clean the grounds twice annually
- Provide recorded documentation of Interments
- Utilize the Fort Lowell Cemetery “Management and Conservation Plan” to achieve goals