Peñitas Historical Society

Peñitas Historical Society Members of this committee were appointed by the Peñitas City Council in February 8, 2012.For information on the History of Peñitas go to www3.historictexas.net/penitas this website tells you the history of Peñitas, a must read.
The Peñitas Historical Society members are Efren Garza President, Dr. Robert Zamora Treasurer, Rick Alanis Secretary, Ramiro Loya Member, Rigo Lopez Member, Amancio Chapa Jr. Member, Armando Garza Member, Rey Cedillo Alternate. Previous Members. Jerry Bell, Marianela Cardenas Vela, Mauro Reyna III,Blas Loya Jr. and Adalia De Luna.

Peñitas is possibly one of the oldest towns in the United States. It was established, according to tradition, in the mid-1520s. Founders were a priest and 5 other Spaniards of the unsuccessful Panfilo De Narvaez expedition into Mexico in 1520. Its name means "Little Pebbles" from area gravel deposits, which traces its origins to the colonization efforts of Spaniard Jose de Escandon.

Mission: Our Mission Statement is to create awareness for future generations of the historical significance of the City of Peñitas and surrounding areas. This will be accomplished by compiling, identifying, protecting, preserving and being advocates for any and all relics, information and historical facts.

City Of Penitas TX Government
07/11/2019

City Of Penitas TX Government

The City of Peñitas was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Peñitas businessman and beloved community member, Gerald "Jerry" Bell. A staple of our community for more than sixty-five years, Jerry Bell embodied the spirit of entrepreneurship, service, and community among generations of Peñitas residents.

Bell leaves behind a legacy of positive impact, growth, and development throughout his years of support of our Peñitas community, and is fondly renowned for his planting of more than 1,000 oak trees that line the Bell Farms property. The epitome of generosity, the Bell family contributed to charitable causes, educational organizations, and other efforts to beautify our community. Bell also devoted his time to public service, serving in various capacities on boards and organizations throughout his professional career.

"We join our entire community in celebrating the life of one of the most influential members of our Peñitas community, whose legacy lives on in the bright promise of Peñitas' future," said Mayor Rigo Lopez. "Our most heartfelt thoughts are with the Bell family and pray for peace and comfort during this difficult time," Lopez continued.

On behalf of Mayor Rigo Lopez, past and current City of Penitas officials, employees, and our entire Peñitas community-at-large, we extend our most sincere condolences to the Bell family on the loss of Mr. Jerry Bell. May he rest in peace.

The sidewalk/trail concrete project continues at the Peñitas Historical Cemetery.Mr. Eloy Zamora and brother Ramiro hav...
06/25/2019

The sidewalk/trail concrete project continues at the Peñitas Historical Cemetery.

Mr. Eloy Zamora and brother Ramiro have taken on a sidewalk project at the Peñitas cemetery as they already poured at the front entrance a total of 60 square feet of cement. The improvements continue with everyone that has helped and continue to help with materials.

If anyone is interesting on helping or if you had benefit from this projects already and would like to contribute to the sidewalk, please contact Mr. Eloy Zamora at 956-240-0327 as they continue to work on the other areas of the cemetery. Also due to the heat right now during the summer months they are taking a break but their plan is to start again in October 2019, as they put together more materials to continue working on it.

They welcome your assistance for the benefit of our community.
Thanks.

This picture was taken around 1943 and was give by Dolores DeLa Garza Cantu. It was her birthday party and she told her ...
05/22/2019

This picture was taken around 1943 and was give by Dolores DeLa Garza Cantu. It was her birthday party and she told her momma Tia Lolita that she wanted to invite all her friends. She is sitting down with little white bows. Cuties.

CITY OF PEÑITAS RECEIVES A BEAUTIFUL GIFTMayor Rigo Lopez and City Councilmen J.R. Flores, Mr. Quintanilla, and Ramiro ...
04/13/2019

CITY OF PEÑITAS RECEIVES A BEAUTIFUL GIFT
Mayor Rigo Lopez and City Councilmen J.R. Flores, Mr. Quintanilla, and Ramiro Loya were on hand to accept a Bell donated by Gracie and Robert Goodwin. The Presentation was held on Wednesday, April 10th. 2019 at 10:30 a.m. at the Peñitas Public Library. This bell is a replica for the Bell that was used at the Peñitas Common School to alert students when classes began, when they ended, lunch time, and at the end of the day when school was dismissed. This special Bell is rung manually, just like the original one. It will be set up where the Peñitas Common School was located, which is now the grounds of the Peñitas Public lIbrary. This generous gift by Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin is sincerely appreciated and will be displayed alongside the Historical Plaque commemorating Peñitas Common School. This school was an Elementary School where local children attended before being part of the La Joya Independent School District.

Progress Times newspaper article about the Historical Penitas Cemetery. Good reading.
03/04/2019

Progress Times newspaper article about the Historical Penitas Cemetery. Good reading.

Monitor's article about the dedication of Peñitas Historical Cemetery.
02/27/2019

Monitor's article about the dedication of Peñitas Historical Cemetery.

02/25/2019
Peñitas Historical Society's cover photo
02/24/2019

Peñitas Historical Society's cover photo

Penitas Historical Cemetery.
02/23/2019

Penitas Historical Cemetery.

02/23/2019
Dr. Zamora cemetery marker

Dr. Roberto Zamora, Peñitas Historical Society treasurer, reads the recording of the Peñitas Historical Cemetery Marker.

02/23/2019
Senator Hinojosa speech

Guest speaker, Senator Jesus "Chuy" Hinojosa speech at the Peñitas Historical Cemetery Marker celebration.

02/23/2019
Efren Garza cemetery celebration

Efren Garza, President of the Peñitas Historical Society welcome speech at the Peñitas Historical Cemetery Marker celebration.

Panorama photo from the Penitas Historical Cemetery celebration.
02/23/2019

Panorama photo from the Penitas Historical Cemetery celebration.

Refreshments at the Peñitas Library after the Peñitas Historical Cemetery celebration.
02/23/2019

Refreshments at the Peñitas Library after the Peñitas Historical Cemetery celebration.

After the Peñitas Historical Cemetery celebration, people walked around the cemetery to visit family members.
02/23/2019

After the Peñitas Historical Cemetery celebration, people walked around the cemetery to visit family members.

Peñitas Historical Cemetery Marker celebration was beautiful. Thank you to the Peñitas community.
02/23/2019

Peñitas Historical Cemetery Marker celebration was beautiful. Thank you to the Peñitas community.

Peñitas Historical Society
02/23/2019

Peñitas Historical Society

A reminder to please attend this Saturday the Peñitas historical site dedication at 10:00 a.m.

At Penitas Cemetery, tombstones create an elegant final remembrance and also celebrates a lifetime of love and memories.
02/21/2019

At Penitas Cemetery, tombstones create an elegant final remembrance and also celebrates a lifetime of love and memories.

Some images of military veteran tombstones that honor their memory and sacrifice at the Peñitas Cemetery.
02/20/2019

Some images of military veteran tombstones that honor their memory and sacrifice at the Peñitas Cemetery.

In honor of Peñitas Historical Cemetery week here are a few above ground markers.
02/19/2019

In honor of Peñitas Historical Cemetery week here are a few above ground markers.

A reminder to please attend this Saturday the Peñitas historical site dedication at 10:00 a.m.
02/17/2019

A reminder to please attend this Saturday the Peñitas historical site dedication at 10:00 a.m.

The article on the dedication of the Peñitas Cemetery as a historical site.
02/17/2019

The article on the dedication of the Peñitas Cemetery as a historical site.

You are cordially invited to attend theUNVEILING CEREMONY OF THE PENITAS HISTORICAL CEMETERY MARKEROn February 23rd. 201...
02/11/2019

You are cordially invited to attend the

UNVEILING CEREMONY OF THE PENITAS
HISTORICAL CEMETERY MARKER

On February 23rd. 2019
At 10:00 a.m. at the Penitas Cemetery

02/11/2019

Check out special report on Peñitas Oldest Settlement in the United States with special message on date of the dedication of the Peñitas Historical Cemetery on Saturday February 23, 2019.

02/02/2019
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FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HISTORY THIS IS THE NARRATIVE SUBMITTED TO THE TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION FOR THE PEÑITAS CEMETERY MARKER WHICH WILL ARRIVE THIS YEAR.

Peñitas Cemetery
I. CONTEXT
The historical Peñitas Cemetery is located eight miles West of Mission. From U.S. East Expressway 83, turn South on Farm to Market Road 1427, also named Main Road or Peñitas Road. Travel about one mile to Zamora street. At Zamora street, turn East, cross the railroad tracks then turn left on Manuelita Rios street. Peñitas latitude and longitude are 26°13′52″N 98° 26′42″W. The rectangularly shaped cemetery rests on a 1.5 acres hilltop and runs parallel with the railroad tracks. The cemetery is oriented East-West while most headstones face East. The oldest graves are located on the East side of the cemetery. The cemetery's terrain slopes downward from the South toward the North. It has a white adobe arched entrance with an iron gate.
In order to appreciate the influence of the cemetery, one must understand the importance of historical events that occurred in Peñitas. In the early 1500s, friendly Tejones Native American Indians from the Apache tribe lived on the South side of the Rio Grande River (Rio Bravo) (1). The Indians named the area Peñitas after the small rocks found in gravel pits. The soil was nonexistent in some areas where it was compacted with rock and gravel. The town of Peñitas was established in the 1520s as a small settlement on the North side of the Rio Grande River (1). Peñitas is considered the oldest town in the United States. Founders of Peñitas were a priest named Father Fray Zamora and five Spanish explorers (1). The Native Indians traded with Spaniard's goods such as corn and cotton. Also, they shared farming and cooking techniques resulting in a good relationship. Father Fray Zamora Christianized the Native Indians.
Maps from the Texas General Land Office show that in 1767, King Charles III of Spain granted “porciones” or portions of land known as Los Ejidos de Reynosa Viejo to local settlers in order to establish communities and cultivate the land (2). In 1802, people migrated and established a community in Peñitas. The 1880 census listed 75 families living in Peñitas. Cattle were raised for meat and hides were sold, the vaqueros slowly transitioned from ranching to farming. They were good-hearted people and treated any stranger like family. Ancestors that are now buried in the Peñitas Cemetery are remembered today for their contributions and sacrifices. In 1911, The map of Los Ejidos de Reynosa was surveyed by the Texas General Land Office. In 1935, the map was also surveyed by the Hidalgo County. The map detailed additional land that was accrued from the Hidalgo County Water District One for use by the cemetery (2).
Peñitas is mostly identified as a Hispanic heritage town, where strong traditional cultural and Catholic religious beliefs. Saint Anthony Catholic Church (San Antonio Catholic Church) was built next to the cemetery and was later moved to its current location. On November 2, the Mexican holiday “Day of the Dead", friends and families pray and remember those who have passed on. Friends and families visit, clean, repair and cover graves with flowers and favorite objects of the deceased. It coincides with All Souls' Day. On this day, the cemetery is full of colorful wreaths and images of saints decorate the cemetery. Grave ornamentals include toys, water, religious saints, crosses, candles, and synthetic flowers.
II. OVERVIEW
One of Peñitas' attractions besides the War Memorial that is located on Main Street is the small fenced cemetery displaying the life story and history of the community. The small patch of land allocated for the cemetery was donated by the Spanish government to the community as per the Map of Los Ejidos de Reynosa Viejo. The cemetery was first named San Antonio Cemetery (3) in honor of Saint Anthony. It was later renamed Peñitas Cemetery as the town grew.
In the 1976 cemetery census, there were approximately 256 marked graves and 120 unmarked graves totaling 376 graves in the cemetery. The reason for so many unmarked graves is that handmade wooden crosses were used as headstones. The wooden crosses have decomposed, and the gravesites have been lost. In the early years, it was a tradition to communicate historical events by word of mouth. Over generations, some of the history resting in the Peñitas Cemetery has been lost. However, the importance of the contributions made by those buried in the unmarked graves is not forgotten and is well respected.
In 1988, a bronze plaque was dedicated and displayed in honor of Manuelita Rios for her service and commitment to the cemetery (4). The road leading to the cemetery is also named Manuelita Rios street. Doña Manuelita Rios was a lady who faithfully served the community. Ms. Rios volunteered at the church and cemetery taking care of everyday duties. She would recite the rosary, hold prayer groups, and teach Catholic religion classes to the children of Peñitas.
The Peñitas Cemetery is a place where a sense of community and patriotism peacefully unite. Among those interred here, it stands as a memorial to those who have served in defense of freedom. Interred at the Peñitas Cemetery are many proud veterans of the Civil War, World War II, the Korea War, and Vietnam War. Two well-known Civil War veterans are buried in the cemetery. Mr. Jose Maria Loya, who served proudly in the Texas Cavalry Independent Partisan Rangers from 1861 until 1865 was buried in the year 1900 (5). Also, interred is Mr. Ignacio Zamora, who served in the Union Army, 2nd Regiment, Texas Cavalry Company (5). He served from 1864 till 1865 and was also buried in the year 1917. Both soldiers fought proudly during the Civil War on the Union side and made Peñitas proud. To this day, this local history influenced and impacted many native citizens. The pipe flagpole sits inside a 55-gallon metal drum painted red, white, and blue. It is displayed at the front of the cemetery with the American flag honoring all veterans that are buried there.
Peñitas Cemetery is an international cemetery for families from the United States and Mexico. The cemetery reflects the life history of the border community and the settlers and their descendants. The oldest marked burial is that of Antonio Zamora born 1851 and buried 1894 (3). Mr. Zamora also has many of his descendants buried here. Another pioneer buried at the cemetery is Sinforosa P. Mandujano, the town midwife. She served her entire life to bring newborns to this community. She was considered the mother of Peñitas. Mrs. Mandujano was born on February 14, 1883, and died on September 8, 1962 (6). Furthermore, third generation families of Peñitas are buried at the cemetery are Zamora, Garza, Cárdenas, Ramírez, Ochoa, and Martinez. Each named family has at least a dozen relatives buried in Peñitas Cemetery. To this day, many of the citizens of Peñitas are related to early Peñitas pioneers (3).
The cemetery's early tombstones include handmade wooden cross markers inscribed in Spanish and English. There are many different styles of tombstones including some located above ground. Some of the newer headstones are polished, the older markers are weather blackened, but most depict images of saints, the image of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, others a portrait of the deceased. Some graves have large concrete crucifixes keeping vigil in the holy ground making sure loved ones are not forgotten. Other tombstones detail symbols of society associations, such as the Woodmen of the World.
The general landscape of the cemetery includes mesquite trees, shrubs, and grasses that grow where the only water source is rainfall. The wildlife and woodlands surrounding the cemetery are as old as the cemetery. Some other drought-resistant trees are Wild Olive, Hackberry Palo Blanco, Huisache, and Ash Fresnos. Resistant plants include Orange flower Lantana, a purple, and white flower ground cover and Prickly Pear Nopal.
III SIGNIFICANCE
Some tombstones are inscribed with lettering, and others are no longer legible. The city of Peñitas and the Peñitas Historical Committee are in the process of working with the local university to provide additional research on the importance of the cemetery and its people. The Peñitas Historical Committee is updating the cemetery's deceased census, upgrading the cemetery, and doing research. The committee meets once a month on the 3rd Wednesday of the month and welcomes the community to attend. The cemetery is maintained by the Peñitas Cemetery Association; it provides for maintenance of grounds and overall spring cleaning. The cemetery is still used today and reflects the area's rich history and is honored and respected by all citizens. A new survey was done in 2015 to identify all graves. Today, September 2015, there are 549 grave plots and 87 unknown grave plots totaling 636 grave plots (7).
An official dedication of the Peñitas cemetery, with a Texas Historical Marker, will be a permanent reminder of how Peñitas pioneers have influenced the development of this land from a small settlement founded by Father Fray Zamora and five Spanish explorers to the thriving city it has become.

IIII. DOCUMENTATION
1. McAllen, Margaret, The Heritage Sample… selections from the rich and colorful history of the Rio Grande Valley. Edinburg, Texas: New Santander Press, 1991.

2. Map, Los Ejidos de Reynosa Viejo, survey by Hidalgo County, 1935.
Maps, Texas General Land Office and other maps.

3. Mayfeld, Gloria B., Peñitas Cemetery, Hidalgo Co. Cemeteries of Texas, Hidalgo County Historical Commission, 2005.
http://www.cemeteries-of-tx.com/Etx/Hidalgo/Cemetery/Penitas.htm.

4. Rios, Manuelita plaque for her dedication to the community.

5. Burkhardt, Gail. Nearly a Century after Death, Civil War Soldier's Grave Dedicated, The Monitor, Sergeant Ignacio Zamora, January 3, 2013.
Loya, Jose Maria, Certificate of Union Service,1865.

6. Mandujano, Sinforosa, Proclamation honoring her for being the midwife to Peñitas families.

7. Peñitas Cemetery updated census, 2015.

Address

1111 S Main St
Penitas, TX
78576

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