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Troubleshooters helps to resolve dispute over cemetery adornments in Mathis

Troubleshooters helps to resolve dispute over cemetery adornments in Mathis
Posted at 4:19 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 17:20:03-04

MATHIS, Texas — There's a dispute in Mathis between families with loved ones who have been laid to rest at a local cemetery, and the people who run the cemetery.

The families believe they're being denied the opportunity to decorate and maintain their gravesites.

They spoke with the Troubleshooters about it, as did cemetery management.

Ramon Morales was tending to the graves of family members at the Descanso Eterno Cemetery #2 in Mathis when approached by Lydia Martinez Perez, the newly appointed agent and treasurer.

Morales recorded that interaction and later posted it to Facebook.

In the video, Martinez Perez, can be seen telling Morales that rules were put in place regarding the upkeep of the cemetery and individual gravesites in 1999.

It was the first time he had met or spoken to Martinez Perez

She was appointed cemetery agent and treasurer by a five-person board in July, replacing her mother-in-law, Epifania Perez, who passed away in June.

Martinez Perez told the Troubleshooters she began cleaning up the cemetery in June. She began spreading the word two weeks ago that there would be a volunteer clean up on Nov. 1.

"It's just a clean-up. It was nothing mandated for them to remove flowers. Headstones," she said.

During a meeting of several concerned families at the cemetery last week, it didn't take long for emotions to flare regarding their concerns.

While Martinez Perez insists she intended to get the word out about the volunteer clean up, many families took it to mean the tradition of leaving anything to honor lost loved ones would no longer be allowed.

"Now I'm hearing that I can't do it," Morales said. "I can, but, in two months they're going to come and take everything up."

It has long been a Mexican tradition to adorn the gravesites of loved ones long after they're gone.

"Be able to put out memorabilia, flowers, celebrate birthdays, Christmas, how we've always done," Lucy Silva said. "And she's trying to take that right from us."

As another family member explained, it's a way of grieving and mourning over their lost ones.

There are other issues.

Family members want to know how Martinez Perez suddenly became the person-in-charge of not only Descanso Eterno No. 2, but also No. 1 as well?

Who is on this board Perez says that put her in charge?

And where are the cemetery rules and guidelines?

Perez says the cemetery board consists of Nancy Flores, Jay Flores, Maria Sanchez, Elizabeth Perez and Elias Perez Jr.

They meet once a year.

It was at their July 3 meeting where they appointed her as agent.

And that change in agents had to be approved by the Secretary of State's office.

Also, according to Perez, the rules and guidelines were updated in 2016.

But these families insist they've never seen them.

"There was no guidelines of what we could put in the cemetery or not," said LeRoy Barrera. "And now she wants to come and change everything."

"After the fall clean-up, I'm going to try very hard to let them be familiar with the rules and regulations," Perez said.

She further tells the Troubleshooters that other families are contacting her about this situation. And they're irate, until she explains she's not trying to end a tradition.

"All you're asking them to do on November 1st, is show up. 'Yes.' Clean up your site? 'Correct.' You can leave the flowers there? 'Yes. Verdad.' You can leave the benches there, but please cut the grass and pull the weeds just around your area? 'Yes. Correct.'"

Perez says she'll put signs out to get the word out inviting families of loved ones resting here, to keep this tradition going.