Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1993


Published in Great Plains Research 3:1 (August 1993). Copyright © 1993 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Colonias are unincorporated subdivisions located in the rural, largely unregulated portion of counties where building codes and regulations are either nonexistent or unenforceable. Colonias are characterized by Third World living conditions where basic infrastructure services such as wastewater collection and treatment, drainage, paved streets, and, in some cases, electricity is lacking. Housing is substandard, with poor plumbing, heating and cooling systems. In Texas, there are approximately 1,193 colonias (home to an estimated 280,000 people, mostly Hispanic) concentrated outside of El Paso, and in counties comprising the lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1989 and 1991, voters approved constitutional amendments that authorized the sale of $250 million in water development bonds to help finance water projects for the colonias. Presently, 25 such projects are in various stages of development and construction. This paper examines colonia geographical distribution, voting patterns produced by two constitutional amendment elections, and outlines procedural guidelines for the economically distressed areas program.