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. NorCalMojo

    They actually call them colonies? That's not very subtle.

    Illegal settlements filled with illegal residents.


    September 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Possibly. How else would those developers offer the McMansions at the prices they do, were it not for those illegals. How else would those manicured ladies in those cheaps houses get them cleaned? How would those lawns be mowed? With our own pampered sons and daughters?

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

      Colonias are what they are yet no politician Democrat or Republican will take steps to remove those unlawfully residing in the U.S. In Texas' case our near non existent building regulations in unicorporated areas allowed many colonias to pop up eventually resulting in millions in government grants.

      September 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • WDinDallas

      That's right JFritz. You should donate more money.....

      September 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Illegal

      That shows your ignorance. Perhaps, you shouldn't comment if you know exactly what's going on there. It sounds more racist. I know people in these areas and understand their struggles. You don't. MOST people living in these colonias are either American citizens or legal residents. Yes, there are illegals living there, but it is not representative of the entire population. We shouldn't judge people based on ethnicity, income, faith, or nationality. People should not live in these conditions. It is sad that people with racists views affect everyone, Hispanic or not. Even illegal aliens provide a much needed service. Name someone who will work picking crops in the heat of the day, paid below minimum wage. Everyone is an immigrant in this country through ancestry, unless you can trace your roots solely and directly through native americans.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ba'al

      Maybe if all those illegal aliens who work would pay some taxes on their income as well as taxes other than sales taxes then the county woudl have money for after school programs and so on. Instead the county gets shafted for the healtcare, education, and other freebies these criminals line up for and taxpayers are billed for.
      If you cannot feed them then do not breed them.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • BW42

      Las Lomas is not illegal, it's unincorporated. That means it has no government, collects no taxes and provides no services to its residents. In other words, a Libertarian paradise.

      Ms. Barrera and her children are US citizens. If you have information about the other residents' immigration status, please share it with us.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RD

    Texas is suffering big time under Perry. He pimped the biennial budget to make points for his presidential run and please the rich white Texans and to hell with the rest. He maligns our border communities as unsafe and scares off business and tourists when the truth is that the homicide rate for all Texas border towns combined is lower than that in Austin.
    Do you really want the sign to read America for sale, inquire within ask for Perry or do you prefer it to remain Texas for sale, inquire within ask for Perry. If it can be sold Perry has sold it to some political contributor or supporter including creating a monopoly for the nuclear waste dump.

    Texan tired of Perry.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • WDinDallas

      Go to California. Texan tired of whiners.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saddy Soslowski

      WDinDallas: No. "Whiners" are what make democracies great

      September 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eyeforaneye

      If fighting for the truth and fighting for what you believe in is whining, then maybe you should get out of the U.S. jerk, those are the very principles this country were built on. I see more and more people from Texas posting on these sites and they are burying people like you with the truth...let them speak up, it's their right and they don't need to move or shut up because you want to hide what they have to say!

      September 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fuyuko

    Maybe cut the funding for college for illegals, you might have money for other education programs?

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

      There is no funding for illegals attending college. They have to pay for it themselves just like everyone else. Perry just made it legal for them to attend college while paying instate rates and working towards a citizenship. Many of these kids got here with their parents illegally when they were really young, however, it was their parents choice to enter illegally not theirs. One should not be punished by the mistakes of their parents.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kalifornia

    I live in a major city near Los Angeles, and we don't have after school programs for free either. It costs $800-$1,200 a month for after school programs. Welcome the real world. Not everything is coming to you for free from the Government. Some one, somewhere has to actually pay the taxes to pay for the give aways. And if you don't have money for kid number one, WHY ARE YOU HAVING ANOTHER KID? Some people don't just EXPECT to get everything for free, THEY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND PLAN THEIR LIFE. I am pretty tired of hearing about single mothers with 5 kids complaining they can't get enough social services. Use your brain for a change.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moneye101

      EXACTLY!!!!! 5 Thumbs up to your post!

      September 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Young, Catholic, born in a culture that doesn't give a girl many choices. Machismo. My goodness, bourgeoise America is stupid.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saddy Soslowski

      Kalifornia: In relation to what? Public school? Private school?

      In my city (unspecified) after school programs weren't that expensive

      September 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • robmel9880

      I think that you are confusing, after school day care with their after school program. Most after school programs are usually charity based, like a church, boys and girls club, the salvation army, etc. In these programs they only pay a stipend to attend. If you are paying 800-1000/month, then that is child care pure and simple.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bren

      You said it all Kalifornia! My three children are grown now...but it came from my wallet as a divorced mom when the youngest went to after school care. I didn't complain, I didn't ever ask for a handout nor would I have expected an offer. More people need to read out loud what you so perfectly wrote and actually "hear" what they read.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    It's an ILLEGAL "shanty town" built by ILLEGAL mexicants.
    The place should just be torn down.

    "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."


    September 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saddy Soslowski

      If the news story doesn't say they are illegal, assume they are legal

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

    It is an illegal shanty town, CNN found the only nauturalized citizen, and I'm sure her parents came here illegally. In Texas school funding comes directly from property taxes. They even take taxes from richer area to fund these poor areas. Wealth distribution, the American way for all the illegal Mexicans.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob

    How can you call them struggling. Look at those guts. The only struggling I can envision is opening the twinkie wrapper.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JFritz

    WDInDallas, this Texan knows when there's more hat than cattle. Not all of us think that worshipping that lone star and smelling the sage in bloom makes a state special. Last I knew we were part of a nation, and that Texas's nationhood ended in the nineteenth century. Time to get on board the 21th century train. Illegals are modern day slaves, pure and simple, and for some reason, Texas has been allowed to continue this slavery. Ever watch illegals building homes in those walled neighborhoods? No helmets, no safety. Ever watch their wives trudging through those neighborhoods to the bus after cleaning those multi-thousand sq ft homes? Those men sweltering in the 100+ heat after manicuring the lawns? THAT'S why they're here, DWinDallas. If you don't live in one of those homes, you aren't the one who gets the decision to keep them here. As long as they're useful, they'll stay.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hector

    Judging from the photo food is not a problem for those buffarillos. How about they do something about it other than whine. Most of those shany towns are nothing but illegal aliens and it is just like back home for them, that is why they created it here, only differance is that here if they complain the may get more freebies while back home they get a boot in the face by the government.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dan in AZ

    Get dad to help, oh he isn't around anymore. Geez, go figure.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. darkstar3000

    Sad, but I am sure they will persevere1

    September 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chuck

    If we had an IMMIGRATION policy that called for IMMEDIATE DEPORTATION.... these problems wouldnt EXIST !

    September 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • True!

      True! May be difficult for some to agree with, but it is very true.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rahul

      I'm actually pretty sure they still would, but if believing that helps you channel your inner klansman, then go for it.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ssggoke

      Where do we get to send you to? Somolia is probably a good fit.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mily

    as a Mexican immigrant myself. serving in the armed forces now, not requiring gvt' assistance. and having to prove myslef everyday that i am worthy of my American citizen this is an insult. i do not feel sorry for any of these people that claim poverty or hunger when they got like 5 kids!! get a job i will tell you that much! i understand maybe u messed up and u had one kid and u were too young..but 3, 5!! u dont need after school programs u need sterilizations!! this goes out to not just my people...but everyone for that matter that chooses to be welfare queen and wut not!!

    September 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Mily, I can't think of a better example of an American citizen that you. Be safe, don't forget to vote, and don't forget that other tax payers bless any children that you have because you take care of them and set a great example for them. Unlike the welfare queens we see in this stellar piece of journalism. And thank you for your service to our country (yours and mine).

      September 24, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Kevin O.

    Yeah, unless those guts are full of malnourishment induced gas...those vacas are doing quite well. If people want to be taken seriously they need to take broken appliances out of their front yards and not display them as if they are statuary. 5131 Palm Street of Las Lomas, TX with the zipcode of 78582 needs to have a letter sent to them telling them to clean up their property. Oh those poor kids, someone call CPS.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JFritz

    These "fat" comments are just ignorant. Poverty often equals fat, because in this crazy Food, Inc.nation fattening foods are cheapest. It costs big time to eat healthy. A mother can feed her family on dollar meals, but she can't often afford fresh produce. Truly, there must be a lot of narcissistic, self-absorbed young people posting here. Seriously, learn a little about life in poverty. Learn anything.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin O.

      Whatever, it costs nothing to get some excercise to work off those fat thighs. And they are FAT, are you blind? They are FAT. GORDO. Grasa eatting cholos. Estupido.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • OK Fritz, put your thinker cap on...

      What ever happened to a garden? If you can't do that...it's called LAZY buy the sad meal instead of hitting the grocery store. That's just an excuse my unhappy little cat.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • mily

      nope i do not believe healthy eating is expensive unless u shop organic or at wholefoods. i come from a difficult background and we still ate healthy w/out gvt assistance. im sure there are many ppl out there that will tell you the same. i just do not feel sorry for them at all. they expect everything to be handed to them.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Yes, folks, it is possible to eat healthy cheap. But not everyone knows that, and Food Inc. doesn't want them to. Garden? Oh, yeah, someone who works many more hours than most of us ever do needs to garden too. After WWII there were FEDERAL programs to teach those post-war brides how to healthfully feed their families on ration stamps. My mom used those programs, and they led to life-long health conscousness for all of us. WAIT? We don't want federal programs? Like Texas is going to spend money on this?

      September 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rahul

      I see just as many well-to-do white christian americans who couldn't say no to a second helping of slop if their life depended on it. Poor health, while a serious problem amongst lower income families, knows no class boundaries.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Oh come on. there is a tote in that picture that would make a great beginning of a container garden. and I see plenty of space and suspect plenty of time for composting. if they are really "poor," they get food stamps, which, if that is the whole household, would provide upwards of $1,000/month of free food for these malnourished victims of society's... gifts.

      September 24, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
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