Update: No after-school program for struggling Texas border community
Gavina Barrera raised four children in her home, including a daughter who still lives there with her own children.
September 23rd, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Update: No after-school program for struggling Texas border community

Priscilla Martinez wishes the children of Las Lomas had an after-school program this fall. But in this Texas border community poverty is the norm, and extras like after-school programs are luxuries.

"We don’t have any funding right now," said Martinez, director of Colonias Unidas, the community center in Las Lomas that usually hosts the after-school program. "We're just hanging on by a string."

Colonias Unidas' primary source of funding comes from revenue from mailboxes the center rents to Las Lomas residents. That money ran out after this year's summer program, which provided the children of Las Lomas with lunch and a place to play four days a week, Martinez said.

CNN visited Las Lomas in July, when the summer program was in full swing. Gavina Barrera, a resident of Las Lomas, showed us around the community, which is known in bureaucrat-speak as a "colonia," or an unincorporated settlement usually lacking water, sewage systems, sanitation or electricity.

In Las Lomas, in unincorporated Starr County about an hour from McAllen, median household income was $22,418 in 2009.

Explore the country by the numbers on CNN.com's census map

Barrera, a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to Las Lomas in 1984, has seen the colonia grow from a shanty town to a neighborhood with paved roads and drainage systems. It may be substandard to many Americans, but given the progress of the past 20 years, it's a place Barrera is proud to call home.

But with each step forward, it seems another hurdle arises.

Colonias Unidas held an after-school program last year from September to May, she said. From Monday to Thursday, high school students provided homework help to younger children, receiving a stipend as incentive. This year, the money ran out before fall, Martinez said.

In the meantime, residents look forward to the little things, she said. Colonias Unidas holds a monthly "mercadito," where residents can sell handmade crafts or used household items. In October, architecture students from Texas A&M University will build a playground on the community center's grounds.

"That's something we look forward to. It gives motivation to the community, and that's important when you have little in the way of wealth or material possessions." she said. "People live simple lives here, but basically, as long as they're safe and their families are safe, they're happy."

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Filed under: Census • Economy • Texas
soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. Mr. Zippy

    I've never met a person or visited a community that spoke Espanglish who prospered.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Prettygreenbird

      I just KNEW it was the bilingualism keeping them back! My knowledge of only ONE language is CLEARLY superior.

      (In the future, please keep your thinly cloaked racism to yourself!)

      September 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zip it Zippyitydodah

      Yes, you are correct, Zippy...that's why I make more money than you could ever hope to. Because I speak, as you say, "Espanglish"...your ignorance and stupidity know no boundaries!! Now, come clean my floors for me, and do it right, caramba!

      September 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • cocoloco

      I am bilingual and make the income of a couple of whites put together. There you go for racism!

      September 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      South Florida. specifically, Weston.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. phillip floyd

    The city manager, mayor, and controller need to get together and contact the United States Department of Agriculture headquarter offices in Temple, Texas. The USDA Rural Development program has many grants and low interest rate loans available not only to fund construction of a new permanent structure but also help out with addressing staff funding as well.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DIEGO

    there is a reason after school programs are not part of the school programs, because they are "extra" and not needed. you still got food stamps, excess food, and obesity

    September 23, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawrence

      After school programs keeps kids off the streets and helps the parents stay at work longer to make money. Maybe if Texass would only have a income tax to support itself and not rely on Federal money so much......

      September 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Greg Gilbert

    Texas has been like this ever since I could remember..... 25+ years. I guess CNN has got orders from DNC headquarters, and we are going to hear for till election on how bad Texas is under Perry.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Texas IS suffering under Perry. There is no miracle. Oil rich white Texans like things this way. Time for the rest of the country to get it. Poor white Texans believe they will one day, if they pray hard enough, be rich white Texans. They've got whole megachurches telling them this–the unholy trinity (church, bidness, and the Republican party). Never gonna happen, folks. You've been suckered.

      September 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James

    This is a good thing.......What needs to happen across this country is that people need to connect with one another , and solve these issues by themselves instead of waiting for the government to do something. Get some parents together , create your own program , and DO IT . don't wait for someone to do it for you. Make up your own rules and requirements , volunteer to make an impact oin your own kids life , get other parents to do the same and then you are the master of your own destiny (and your kid's).

    September 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. joker22joe

    lord have mercy they need to get into the drug trade if they aren't already!

    September 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 1ofTheFallen

    Another ILoveObama article. Have you seen how many after school programs are missing in inner city Chicago? Obama's hometown is being ruined by his anti-business policies. How many of these citizens in this community are illegal and pay no taxes to support the local school much less after school programs, police, health services. If immigration services show up half the town leaves and comes back later. What is the actual illegal population in these border towns that pay no taxes for the sevices that they all use?

    September 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • IrishAmerican

      Oh I'm sorry did Bush not a get a chance to fix this while he was in office. I guess 8 years isn't enough to fix everything, just to screw it up right?

      September 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rahul

      I love it, half the time conservatives are railing against the president for being on the side of business and not on the side of the working class joe, and the other half they're railing against him for being anti-business and a bleeding heart socialist. I guess whatever brainless mantra they want to chant depending on the direction of the wind will suffice for thoughtful political discourse amongst them today.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. brian

    What the hell are they doing there anyway. There is nothing in that town. They are so close to the tri cities where there are better schools, funding, after school programs, jobs. Edinburg has been recently recognized as a T.E.A. school distric!!! I live in the RGV and let me tell something, people who live like this are victoms of themselves because they choose not to better their lives especially being so close to a better place. MCALLEN, EDINBURG, PHARR-SAN JUAN, MISSION, WESLACO, and surrounding cities are all better places to be especially MCALLEN since it's been voted one of the nations best place to get employed quick and a good place to live and Edinburg coming in second!! WHATEVER, THIS IS JUST PROPAGANDA AGAINST SENATOR PERRY.. Just now reports are coming through about the poverty in south texas when it's nothing new.. Most new companies opening up shop here in the RGV are doing so only because they know they can pay minimum wage here and get away with it where any other place in Texas they would have to pay the people more..

    September 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      Rick Perry isn't a senator, he's your governor. Shows how much you know about government.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. richard

    how many tea baggers does it take to change a light bulb?
    they would rather sit in the dark than change anything

    September 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • BW42

      No, they will find a working light bulb, unscrew it and throw it away.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bilingual

    Mr. Zippy what kind of nickname is that anyways? Is that REAL English (from England) FYI English is NOT from USA. You don't speak English, you speak something else. Just travel there when you have a chance, and you'll find out.
    ZIPPY is a Disneyland word NOT English. Grow up and try to get rid off that child mentallity. BTW Hispanics were here BEFORE. Actually were Anglos who crossed the first border ILLEGALLY. Then they stole the land. They give them a hand, and they took the leg.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mountain made

      You are incorrect. Texas was only populated by missionairies and indiains when first Spain, then Mexico sought Americans to colonize it. There were very, very few Mexicans there. Didn't steal it, won it in a more then fair fight against overwhelming odds and a Mexican army 4 times the size of the Texas fighters and better equiped. Plenty of Hispanics fought on the Texas side. Read some history and get off of your racist rant. Quit hating white people based upon the color of their skin. Shows how ignorant you are.

      September 23, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. angryblkman

    why is the government’s responsibility to provide after school programs? how about they do this for themselves. It would not cost anything, just rely on some of the women in the community who do not work, to volunteer some of their ample free time.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. pixxygirl

    Damn!! stop having kids people

    September 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. scoop it good

    CNN does these stories just to stir things up.
    People are capable of surviving anything- look at Africa- they take a licking and keep on ticking!
    No one FORCED anyone to have a baby they can not afford here in America.
    Thee are called hard times for a reason. If you don't vote, get involved, learn, then you get screwed.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JFritz

    This is a state so benighted that it is willing to spend a fortune housing people on death row, often placed there by faulty evidence, then whine about the cost of their last meal. So vengeful that they thump their bibles, but forget the words, "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." So stupid that they do not realize that the New Testament dictates that "and eye for an eye" is history, and now we forgive. We are so oil-drunk and church-brainwashed that we are willing to let these modern-day energy and developer thugs put up yet another politician that they've groomed to kid us about what our real problems are. These are the guys who brought us the swift boat delusion to bring down a bona fide hero. So we elected that good religious man. DId it make us a more holy nation? Did we prosper as those pastors told us we would. Well, some of us did–the ones who were already rich. Oh, wake up!

    September 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Beth

    When CNN featured a story a few weeks ago about how poverty has worsened in TX over the past decade, quite a bit of what is driving that is this.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
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