Colonia (United States)


Colonia (United States)

In Spanish, colonia means "Colony". The word has been adopted to refer to colonia rural settlements along the U.S.-Mexican border. Colonias in the U.S.-Mexico border region are often characterized by poor housing stock, inadequate physical infrastructure, and a weak social infrastructure. Concerned government entities, businesses, and non-profits frequently re-define "colonia" to serve their specific purposes.

The United States Code defines a colonia as a community that (1) is in the state of Arizona, California, New Mexico, or Texas; (2) is within 150 miles (240 km) of the U.S.-Mexico border, except for any metropolitan area exceeding one million people; (3) on the basis of objective criteria, lacks adequate sewage systems and lacks decent, safe, and sanitary housing; and (4) existed as a colonia before November 28, 1990.[1]

While the various definitions of "colonia" by numerous federal agencies can be confusing, rural border communities display an array of housing and infrastructure characteristics found in the federal code. It is therefore more practical to begin with a generic, academic definition.[2] The argument has been made that colonias are but a specific example of an irregular, largely self-help housing practice that have been increasingly prevalent on a global scale, over the course of the twentieth century.[3]

Contents

Defining Colonias

There are many possible generic and legal definitions of colonias in the United States.[4]

Academic definition

A consensus on an academic definition of US border colonias is difficult to establish from the literature. The most prolific scholar, Dr. Peter Ward, published the most definitive work on the subject in 1999.[5] Dr. Ward approaches the problem as a sociologist with a background in rural urbanization patterns around the world.[6] Fortunately, these authoritative pieces incorporate both the physical, infrastructure characteristics of the communities themselves in addition to the societal characteristics created by the people that live in the communities. Considering academic work on the practice of housing now and throughout history,[7] global and regional demographic movement,[8] and scholarly investigation of colonias,[9] colonia can be academically defined as a particular case of irregular settlement in the United States.

The manner in which irregular settlements are settled and develop around the world varies greatly. In general, these settlements are on low-quality land passed over by developers and individuals with access to financing. Many of the homes found there are frequently constructed by self-help practices. That is, contractors and construction companies are not hired to build the homes—residents, relatives, and even neighbors help with construction. Self-modifications to existing and manufactured homes are also encountered in irregular settlements.

Public works and utilities are frequently absent for a number of reasons. Lots are usually acquired informally: no subdivisions are recorded, financing is provided by the selling party (if the lots are sold, not squatted), and there is generally no community planning office involvement. Some settlements, particularly irregular settlements in Mexico, eventually acquire essential infrastructure as the government recognizes these settlements, utility companies invest, or residents pool sufficient money to purchase infrastructure for services themselves.

Legal Definition

United States federal statute is probably the best legalistic definition of colonia, particularly for a discussion of US colonias. The code defines a colonia as a community that (1) is in the state of Arizona, California, New Mexico, or Texas; (2) is within 150 miles (240 km) of the U.S.–Mexico border, except for any metropolitan area exceeding one million people; (3) on the basis of objective criteria, lacks adequate sewage systems and lacks decent, safe, and sanitary housing; and (4) was in existence as a colonia before November 28, 1990.[1]

Federal agencies

It is unclear how the federal statute influences federal agencies' definition of colonia. Each interested agency seems to define the concept for itself in spite of commonalities between definitions.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

HUD defines colonias as "rural communities and neighborhoods located within 150 miles (240 km) of the U.S.-Mexican border that lack adequate infrastructure and frequently also lack other basic services.[10]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA defines colonias as "rural U.S. settlements with substandard and poor living conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border. These communities typically lack potable water, wastewater treatment, drainage, electricity, and paved roads."[11]

The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The USDA defines colonia as "any identifiable community designated in writing by the state or county in which it is located, which is determined to be a colonia based on specific criteria to include lack of potable water, adequate sewage system, and decent, safe, and sanitary housing. The community must lack adequate roads and/or drainage and the community must have come into existence or be generally recognized as a colonia before October 1, 1989."[12]

And there are undoubtedly many more ...

State and state agencies

California

Arizona

New Mexico

Texas

Colonias by state

Colonias in Texas

Around the 1950s developers began creating subdivisions along the U.S.-Mexico border on agriculturally poor properties, divided land in small parcels, and provided few services; the development of the properties, intended for low income buyers, is the beginning of the Texas colonias. By 1995 the state passed laws against developing subdivisions without services. During that year, and in the period between 1995 and 2011 the office of the Texas Attorney General had 87 judgments against developers who created properties without services. The office of the Texas Attorney General said by 2011 that Texas had about 2,294 colonias and estimates that about 500,000 lived in the colonias. Of all of the Texas counties, Hidalgo County, as of 2011, has the largest number of colonias. Emanuella Grinberg of CNN said "Getting an accurate count of the population in any of" the state's colonias "is notoriously difficult, due to geographic isolation, shared addresses, swiftly changing development and mistrust of government data collectors."[13]

History

The history of colonias is complicated because it refers to the history of human settlement as well as a concept redefining housing according to a modern standard.

Human inhabitants

The unique circumstances of colonia development across the border region complicates the historical discussion of colonias. The geographic location of each of the U.S. border states has influenced human settlement patterns throughout history. The dual concept stems in part from the idea of a beginning. If the reader accepts the axiom that colonias originated with the first human habitats, then colonias "began" with native North American tribes.

Spanish conquistadores encountered Suma, Manso, Jocome, and Jumamo tribes on their journey northward from New Spain (Mexico) in the El Paso region.[14] The dwellings would probably not be considered safe by any modern standard, and there was no infrastructure. Europeans and other foreign groups assuredly encountered resident natives in other parts of the border region. If these interactions and subsequent European settlements were anything like those in the El Paso region, trade and agriculture were the bases for sedentary life by Europeans.

People that would come to be known as El Pasoans and New Mexicans were frequently awarded land grants by the Spanish crown and Mexican government.[15] Several grants have lent their names to many New Mexico communities and been the subjects of controversial land claims disputes in the Mesilla and Rio Grande valleys of New Mexico.

The differences between state subdivision regulations have influenced the historic development of colonias by state. Independent historical accounts would be appropriate by state.[16]

Colonia—a Concept Based on a Modern Standard

Speaking strictly about the word colonia and the concept as defined above, colonias are a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S.

The word colonia itself originally comes from Spanish for "neighborhood" or "community". In Spanglish, the English-Spanish mix, colonia began to be used to refer primarily to Mexican neighborhoods about thirty years ago. In 1977, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, UT Austin, published the first manuscript using "colonia" to describe rural desert settlements with inadequate infrastructure and unsafe housing stock. In this way, the word "colonia" acquired the specific meaning for which it is used herein.[17] Since these Hispanic neighborhoods were less affluent, the word also connoted poverty and substandard housing.[18]

In the 1990s, colonias became a common American English name for the slums that developed on both sides of the U.S.–Mexican border. Colonias have existed along the border for decades, but since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, the number of people living in colonias has increased significantly, due, in part, to the increase in low-skilled jobs created on both sides of the border through the maquiladora industry.[19] The extent to which general world globalization, growing populations, and other economic or political factors have influenced this growth has yet to be quantified.

As of 2007, Texas has the largest concentration of people (approximately 400,000) living in over 2,000 colonias on the U.S. side of the border.[20] New Mexico has the second largest, followed by Arizona and California.[21] However, remote location and stealthy development characterize many colonias. It is therefore unlikely that an exact count is valid for an extended period of time.

Descriptions

Colonias are basically, from the U.S. point of view, illegal subdivisions created by rural settlers and are found near the U.S.–Mexican border. The lack of clean water and proper plumbing infrastructure is due primarily to the fact that the settlements were established spontaneously without the approval or assistance of the proper governmental authorities. The population of a colonia will usually grow rapidly well before its infrastructure needs are realized by the closest established towns or government officials.

From Mexico's point of view, however, a colonia is a regular division inside every city, meaning suburbs or fraccionamientos sometimes, aside from economic and sociocultural development. Every Mexican city is divided into different colonias for administrative purposes and sometimes a colonia belongs to a single postal code.

The Texan legislature has defined colonias as: a) subdivisions, b) lacking essential elements of infrastructure, and c) near the Mexican border.[22]

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a colonia as an unincorporated community located within 150 miles (240 km) of the U.S.–Mexico border, with a population of less than 10,000 that is low and very low income, and which lacks safe, sanitary and sound housing, as well as services such as potable water, adequate sewage systems, drainage, streets and utilities.

Colonias are usually found in rural areas. Subdivisions are usually created out of cheap farmland. Usually it is not in a city's interest to annex a colonia because it would subsequently be required to provide such city services as water, electricity, and sewage, even though the tax revenue from annexed colonias would probably not cover the cost of installation and use of services. Counties, under whose jurisdiction colonias tend to be, are usually not required to render such services.

In contrast with shantytowns in other parts of the world, most residents legally own the land on which they reside.

Advocacy groups

Housing and community advocacy organizations such as the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS), an affordable housing advocacy nonprofit organization,[23] and the Colonias Development Council[24] in New Mexico, work to alleviate poverty in colonias by promoting self-help housing programs that provide colonia residents with resources to build their own homes, fostering community empowerment and raising public awareness.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b 42 U.S.C. § 1479 (f)(8)
  2. ^ Ward, Peter ed. 1982. Self-Help Housing: A Critique. London: Mansell Press.

    1999. Colonias and Public Policy in Texas and Mexico; Urbanization by Stealth. Austin: University of Texas Press http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader/ (27 May 2008).

    United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS). 1996. An Urbanizing World: Global Report on Human Settlements, 1996. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Turner John. 1963. “Dwelling Resources in South America.” Architectural Design 37:360-93.

    Mangin, William and JFC Turner. 1968. Barrida Movement. Progressive Architecture, In vols 37-56 pp 154-62
  3. ^ Ward, Peter M. 1989. A Critique of Self-Help Housing.
  4. ^ See US Code, Texas Code, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture, as well as academic definitions/exploration by Ward 1999 and related public employees
  5. ^ Ward, Peter M. 1999. Colonias and Public Policy in Texas and Mexico; Urbanization by Stealth. Austin: University of Texas Press http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader/ (27 May 2008).
    Available from the University of Texas at Austin: http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/warcol.html
  6. ^ Dr. Ward has published several books and articles on this topic:
    Ward, Peter M. 1978, "Self-help housing in Mexico City: Social and Economic Determinants of Success," Town Planning Review. 49: 38-50.
    Ward Peter M. and J. Carew. 2000. “Absentee Lot Owners in Texas Colonias: Who Are They and What Do They Want?” Habitat International. 24, 327-345.
    Ward, Peter M. and Paul A. Peters. 2007. “Self-Help Housing and Informal Homesteading in Peri-Urban America: Settlement Identification Using Digital Imagery and GIS.” Habitat International 31. 205-218.
    Ward, Peter ed. 1982. Self-Help Housing: A Critique. London: Mansell Press.
  7. ^ Mangin, William.1967. “Latin American Squatter Settlements: A Problem and a Solution.” Latin American Research Review. Summer, 2(3): 65-98.
    Mangin, William and John F.C. Turner. 1968. Barrida Movement. Progressive Architecture, In vols 37-56 pp. 154-62.
    Turner, John. 1963. “Dwelling Resources in South America.” Architectural Design 37:360-93.

    F. C. 1972. “Housing as a Verb.” In Freedom to Build. Ed Robert Fichter and John F. C. Turner. New York: The MacMillan Company.

    1976. Housing by People: Towards Autonomy in Building Environments. London: Marion Boyars.

    1982. “Issues in Self-Help and Self-Managed Housing.” in Self-Help Housing: A Critique. ed. Peter M. Ward London: Mansell Press. 99-113.

    1991. “Foreword.” In Beyond Self-Help Housing. Ed. Mathéy, K. London: Mansell Press.
  8. ^ United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS). 1996. An Urbanizing World: Global Report on Human Settlements, 1996. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    (UNCHS) 2007. Enhancing Urban Safety and Security Global Report on Human Settlements. London: Earthscan.

    Ganster, Paul and David E. Lorey, 2008. The US-Mexican Border into the Twentieth Century.

    Peach, J., and J. Williams. 2003. Population and Economic Dynamics on the U.S.-Mexican Border: Past, Present, and Future. Southwest Consortium of Environmental Research and Policy Monograph 1: “The U.S.-Mexico Border Region: A Road Map to a Sustainable 2020” (27 May 2008), http://scerp.org/pubs/m1c4.pdf.
  9. ^ Ward, Peter M. 1999. Colonias and Public Policy in Texas and Mexico; Urbanization by Stealth. Austin: University of Texas Press http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader/ (27 May 2008). Ward, Peter. 2004. “Informality of Housing Production at the Urban-Rural Interface: the Not-So-Strange Case of Colonias in the U.S., Texas, the Border and Beyond.” In Urban Informality. Ed Anaya Roy and Nezar AlSayyad 243-270. Berkeley, California: Lexington Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

    2005. The Lack of Cursive Thinking in Social Theory and Public Policy: Four Decades of Marginality and Rationality in the So-Called 'Slum.” in Rethinking Development in Latin America. ed B. Roberts and C. Wood. University Park, PA: Penn State U Press 271-296.

    2007. “Colonias, Informal Homestead Subdivisions, and Self-Help Care for the Elderly Among Mexican Populations in the United States.” In The Health of Aging Hispanics; The Mexican-Origin Population. Ed Jacqueline L Angel and Keith E Whitfield. New York: Springer. 141-162.

    Ward Peter M, E. Jimenez, and G. Jones. 1993. Residential land price changes in Mexican cities and the affordability of land for low-income groups. Urban Studies 30(9) 1521-1542.
    Ward, Peter M., Flavio de Souza, and Cecilia Guisti. 2004. “Colonia’ Land Housing Market Performance and the Impact of Lot Title Regularization in Texas.” Urban Studies 41 (13):2621-2646. Ward Peter M. and J. Carew. 2000. “Absentee Lot Owners in Texas Colonias: Who Are They and What Do They Want?” Habitat International. 24, 327-345.
    Ward, Peter M. and Paul A. Peters. 2007. “Self-Help Housing and Informal Homesteading in Peri-Urban America: Settlement Identification Using Digital Imagery and GIS.” Habitat International 31. 205-218.

    Wilson R. and Menzies P 1997. The colonias water bill: communities demanding change. Wilson, Robert Hines. 1997. Public policy and community: activism and governance in Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 229-274.
  10. ^ Czerniak, Robert. 2000. "Colonia Boundary Delineation Using Aerial Photography." Powerpoint Presentation: Las Cruces, New Mexico
  11. ^ Ibid
  12. ^ Ibid
  13. ^ Grinberg, Emmanuella. "Impoverished border town grows from shacks into community." CNN. July 8, 2011. Retrieved on July 9, 2011.
  14. ^ Timmons, W.H. 1990. A Borderlands History. El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press. pp. 9-15.
  15. ^ Bowden, J.J. 1971. Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in the Chihuanhuan Acquisition. El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press.
  16. ^ Simmons, Nancy. 1997. “Memories and Miracles; Housing the Rural Poor along the United States-Mexico Border: A Comparative Discussion of Colonia Formation in El Paso County, Texas and Doña Ana County, New Mexico.” New Mexico Law Review. 27: 33-75.
  17. ^ Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs. 1997. Colonia Housing and Infrastructure, vol 1, Current Characteristics and Future Needs; vol 2, Water and Wastewater; Policy Research Report no. 124; vol 3, Regulatory Issues and Policy Analysis. Austin: University of Texas.
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ "Colonias FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)," Texas Secretary of State.
  21. ^ "Designated Colonias in New Mexico," Homes and Communities United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  22. ^ Pepin, Madeleine. "TEXAS COLONIAS: AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE CASE STUDY," Our Lady of the Lake University
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ [4]
  • Pepin, Madeleine, "Texas Colonias: An Environmental Justice Case Study" [5]
  • Huntoon, Laura and Becker, Barbara, 2001, "Colonias in Arizona: A Changing Definition with Changing Location" [6]

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