Colonias in Texas: Help For You

Authored By: US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Texas Secretary of State



What is a Colonias?

From the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:

The term "Colonia" has been borrowed from the Spanish term for a residential neighborhood. In the United States, a "colonia" has a specific meaning, referring to a community within the mainly rural US-Mexico border region with marginal conditions related to housing and infrastructure.

Issues Faced by Residents of Colonias

  • Access to Water and Sewer Service - From Texas SOS - Many colonias do not have sewer systems. Instead, residents must rely on alternative, often inadequate wastewater disposal methods.
  • Housing - From Texas SOS - Housing in the colonias is primarily constructed by residents little by little, using available materials. Professional builders are rarely used. Residents frequently start with tents or makeshift structures of wood, cardboard or other materials and, as their financial situation allows, continue to improve their homes. Housing in older colonias tends to be better developed because residents have had more time to make improvements.
  • Health - From Texas SOS - Dilapidated homes, a lack of potable water and sewer and drainage systems, and floodplain locations make many colonias an ideal place for the proliferation of disease. Texas Department of Health data show that hepatitis A, salmonellosis, dysentery, cholera and other diseases occur at much higher rates in colonias than in Texas as a whole. Tuberculosis is also a common health threat, occurring almost twice as frequently along the border than in Texas as a whole. A lack of medical services compounds health problems in the colonias. In addition to a shortage of primary care providers, colonia residents' difficulty in accessing health care is compounded by other factors, including having to travel long distances to health care facilities, fear of losing wages for time spent away from work, inconvenient health care facility hours, lack of awareness of available health care programs and no health insurance. As a result, many colonia residents' health care problems go unreported and untreated. For children, these barriers can be devastating and may result in slow growth and lower educational development rates.
  • Unemployment - From Texas SOS- The unemployment rate in some colonias is more than eight times the state rate. A 1993 Texas A&M study discovered that unemployment in five Lower Rio Grande Valley colonias ranged from 20 percent to 60 percent, compared with the overall Texas unemployment rate of 7 percent. In addition, many colonia residents often cannot find year-round work due to the seasonal nature of their primary occupations. Fieldwork represents 29.5 percent of their jobs, construction work, 24.4 percent, and factory work, 14.9 percent.



I am a Resident of a Colonias, where can I find help?

Last Review and Update: May 20, 2015