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Are Texas Colonias a problem What should the state do about them Colonias is originally a Spanish word meaning simply neighborhoods or areas of a cityIn Spanglish the mixed English-Spanish spoken in the parts of the US near the Mexico bordercolonias refers to the primarily Hispanic neighborhoods in cities like San AntonioTexas Since these neighborhoods are much less affluent than Anglo or mixed neighborhoods the word connotes poverty and substandard housing Colonias are characterized by substandard housing inadequate plumbing and sewage disposal systems and inadequate access to clean water They are highly concentrated poverty pockets that are physically and legally isolated from neighboring cities With an average annual household income of 6784 in South Texas it is not difficult to see why these people live in colonias It is only in these largely unregulated rural settings that they can lay claim to home ownership which on the surface appears to be affordable But homes in the colonias are affordable only because these communities lack the basic necessities mainstream Americans take for granted water sewer paved streets and fire and police protection There are other immediate needs in the areas of health adequate housing and sewage disposal Local medical providers and hospital administrators told me that they have been overburdened with demand for services by a population unable to pay Sewage treatment and disposal largely nonexistent is both an engineering challenge and a costly project Improvements needed to provide safe and sanitary housing carry a large price tag The tax base in these communities cannot amortize the costs of these improvements without assistance from the private and public sectorBrownsville and Matamoros are the easternmost border towns Near the downtown bridge heavily-barred currency exchange houses advertise cambio in bright lights All along the border on both sides such houses do a thriving business many of them serving as conduits for drug-money laundering US officials say In this dynamic region where First and Third worlds
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