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. The Walrus

    I thought gay marriage was banned in Texas?

    September 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Deluded over-educated boomer that I am, I always assumed that everyone wanted to be learned and civil. We truly have become a nation of mean girls. OMG!

      September 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • HomeyDontPlayDat

      "everyone wanted to be learned" — JFritz

      September 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      learn ed. Sorry, I also forgot that no one learns anything except tv English anymore. OMG!

      September 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • A W Messenger

      @JFritz
      That's freakin' hilarious!!
      He didn't realize "learned" is actually a word!!
      Laughing out loud!!

      September 24, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. allittakesisphotoshop

    way to post their address....

    September 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Don't worry, the crap on the porch probably emits enough of a stench to repel any intruders who would want to steal their..... um.... skin-tight knit clothing?

      September 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Denny

    Another dump for and of Illegals. A Illegal Immigrant hideout and R&R facilitiy before departure to our inland.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • S

      So they've stuck around for 20 years to pave the streets... why?

      September 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • meisme

      Unless you are native indian Denny, you too are an immigrant. It's just a matter as of "when" your ancestors immigrated.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Meisme nailed it Denny. We are all illegal immigrants, the only difference is the timing. Unless you are a Native American, your ancestors illegally occupied this country, just as we continue to illegally occupy many other countries.

      Also, your ability to read and comprehend seems to be lacking somewhat as the article quite clearly states that she is indeed legally American.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Hm. I see two able-bodied, well-fed adults there who don't seem to make very good choices in life. Why would their kids need an after school program when they don't intend to work anyway? I see some young children who are fed and clothed, but where are the men involved??? If they show their faces, the government might want to start recovering some child support, so it's probably better for our two star "residents" up there that they remain a mystery to the reader.

      Who cares whether our subjects are legal or not. If they contribute in a meaningful way by paying ALL the SAME taxes the rest of us pay, we don't have a problem. My guess is that we have a problem here because nobody wants to work at a bona fide tax paying job, and nobody wants to take care of their own kids. The community is supposed to take care of kids??? Give me a break. You had them. Figure out how to take care of them. That is YOUR JOB.

      Wow, have times changed. I remember being a latchkey kid. Mom and Dad were working class and uneducated. They worked long hours. It was up to us kids to make sure we made it to school on time. Went home after school. Did our chores. Did our homework. If we wanted to have a friend over, it had to be planned in advance. Same if we went to a friend's house. You know, having respect for their authority and everything. Because they put a roof over our heads and made sure we had food and clothing. Of course we knew there would be some stiff punishment for not following these rules. Nowadays, why would anybody have respect for their parents if the government pays for all of that and more?

      Are you able bodied??? Get a job. If you don't like the pay, work hard and take some computer classes so you can get a better job. Don't quit a crappy job just because you don't like it. It's very simple. Legal, illegal, whatever. If you quit DRAINING the system, maybe it would be able to provide for those who REALLY need help like those who are truly disabled. Then maybe your kids would respect your authority because you don't sit on your big butt all day collecting furniture and appliances for your porch or shopping at TRAMPS-R-US for your daughter.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • TonyLuck

      KATE: What you are apparently NOT grasping are the differences between past generations of allowed, and mostly beckoned for LEGAL immigrants, and the COMPLETELY DIFFERENT persons being portrayed here, unwanted ILLEGAL immigrants. Please notice that there is no problem with US LEGAL immigrants, of any sort. It is the INVASION of ILEGAL immigrants that is undesired. Get it through your head that it is two completely different subjects.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • TonyLuck

      Yes, the one person clearly identified in the article at th "Colonia" is a naturalized citizen. But in all honesty, how many people do you think that live in the Colonia actually are. Maybe 5%? Let's look through the bleedin heart facade painted onto this article about the one naturalized citizen in the Colonia. Really, it's colled a colonia, as in "outpost"; a frontier settlement of invading illegal squatters, conveniently given a naturalized, down-trodden face.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Loc

    I have children myself and after school programs are nice to have. For me, after a full date of school, I like to spend as much time with my kids as possible. Thou, I get out of work an hour later than my kids, so I make the arrangement for a neighbor to care for my kids during that hour. I see too many parents not working and have a school bus picks up the kids in th morning, then drops off at noon, then pickup from school to some program and dont get home until 6. This is abusive. When we face challenges as a nation, everyone should do something to help out, start from our own family.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HomeyDontPlayDat

    Is it possible to "Report abuse" about something that THEY posted?

    September 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mountainDude

    Cry me a river. According to the census my rural town in Tennessee has a median household income of $25,583. You don't have to go to the Mexican border to find poverty in this country.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anita

    Why do they need funding for an after-school program? Why can't the kids just play together after school? Why are they helpless victims waiting for the government to help?

    September 23, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      They all think they're owed something. Those who contribute th nleast expect the most.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lori

      After school programs are important, especially when parents work till 5, 6, 7, or 8. School lets out usually at 3. So where do the children go? Just let them run around with no supervision hoping they don't get kidnapped? What about parents who may not have the education level to help their own kids with homework. It isn't uncommon in some of those towns to drop out of school early to help their families by working. This state is suffering on the most important levels and people who don't live in this state don't really seem to be able to see how bad it really is.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • farmerjeani

      Anita, are you a soccer Mom? Do you have the privilege of staying home with your children? Do you live your small children unattended when you are working or perhaps off doing your charity volunteer work. Or do you not have children at all? Because i have to wonder, with so many molesters and other freaks out there, how you could advocate anyone leaving their children alone with no one home? Or are you making the assumption that all of these people must be on welfare and therefore don't have jobs. Your incredible lack of understanding of the plight of the working poor is distressing. Having lived in south Texas, I can tell you that jobs are sadly lacking and those that are available seldom pay minimum wage. Both parents have to work to support their families. And before all you greedy republicans write that they shouldn't have children, I want to point out that it is YOU who are waging class warfare.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      When you have to work you ass off with two jobs to support your family, not being able to see your kids until night time when they're asleep...talk to ME about the wisdom of after school programs you ignorant soccer mom. They keep kids where they should be: off the street and in school or in this case, a community center.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • rb

      I am a female who chose not to have children to pursue a career. If I HAD children, I would not expect the govt. and taxpayers to pay for after school care. I would expect after school care to be MY responsibility, not the tax payers' responsibility, just as it was my mother's responsibility when she worked two jobs with three kids. I am so tired of people expecting the govt. to coddle them. Take care of yourself and your own children. Be responsible for your own choices. It's not MY responsibility to provide for your children.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Leo-
      That's what happens when you have kids you don't intend to pay for. I never saw my dad either. And yes, I respect that he had to do that because he and my mom had kids as teenagers. I saw how they struggled, but didn't quit. Our after school program was this: go straight home. do your chores. do your homework. If I would not have done that, there would have been hell to pay, so good thing I knew enough to follow my parents' example of just doing what I was supposed to do. If you want your kids to sit around complaining that they aren't "provided" with things that YOU CANT GIVE THEM, just keep complaining about your own state of life. Because it's nobody else's problem, and it isn't the rest of us who should be taking care of your kid in ANY WAY.

      If I had to choose between having my dad around sitting on the couch collecting food stamps and unemployment BUT there when I got home from school- or my dad gone on a truck for several days at a time to provide food, a roof and insurance for his family that nobody made him have or remain responsible for... it would be the latter. Because he deserves the respect of someone who did what was right, but difficult, rather than wrong and lazy.

      September 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Trolleyfish

    The legacy of Rick Perry.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Showmeyerpapers

    Not only have illegal invaders slit the throats of the working man they are responsible for 75% of the crime here in denver radioreference dot com monitor police and ems frequencies for yourself they must have killed 250000Americans in the last 50 years look at lapd online all most wanted 95% spanic

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

    So she raised her 4 children and now her daughter lives with her with her own kids. Really? And I bet neither of them work. No fathers around, either, probably. Sell that refrigerator, even if it's junk it could be worth somehting. And is that cable I see running over the door?
    These people are proabably undeducated and are not willing to move somewhere else that may provide a better life, so they are going to stick around with others. I know it's hard in this economy to find a job but there are jobs out there. Being from Texas I know the Valley has jobs, albeit low paying farm jobs, but jobs none the less. Illigals come across and work the fields and eveyrthing else because American's won't because it doesn't pay enough. I've worked jobs that don't pay enough until I found something that does. It's not that hard. And that medium income number is because IT'S THE BORDER REGION!!! McAllen is not that big of a city so it's not going to be making millions of dollars and having big companies.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul R.

    I don't suppose this has ANYTHING to do with Rick Perry running for president, does it. So transparent. Meanwhile, America has been waiting for the tough look into Illinois politics for three years now.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Showmeyerpapers

    K LET me clear something up for you genius the first people here were the CLOVIS they were WHITE of eastern european descent hunted mammoth and mastadon on north america when the continent was one so STFU!

    September 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cboy

    I live in TX and have never heard of this place. CNN had to basically go to Mexico to write this NON-story to make the economy of TX look bad only because TX has not suffered as bad as some other parts of the country and I am sure to undermine Perry's run at the whitehouse. Poverty is everywhere, but TX is overrun with ILLEGAL's–and please do not give me that crap that we were all illegal once. No we were not, when all those folks came over, the US was nothing more than a new country and very fews laws concerning immigration, and in the early 1900's, immigrants came over and applied for citizenship like everyone should. Have any of you bleeding hearts ever been to another country? Well, if you have, you will note that you need a valid ID at all times-NO questions asked, you will also note that you will NOT receive free medical care, child care, food stamps, welfare checks, etc. Most countries do not allow foreigners purchase property and we can only stay in the country for a limited time. I have no issues with someone wanting to come to the US and better themselves, but our tax dollars should NOT go towards what I have already stated. Does anyone realize that our tax dollars pay for the illegal alien to have their children in our hos[itals. They walk out of the hospital with no bill, a bag full of diapers, formula, clothes, and a completed application for childcare, foodstamps, doctor follow up care, welfare application, all for FREE. But if a US citizen has a child and cannot pay the hospital bill, they receive nothing more than a kick in the ass on the way out the door, a bill for thousands of $ and a future of bad credit, collection calls and bills, interest thru the roof, and the insant stigma of being a cheap skate! Do not get me started on the school system and the Illegals–I do not know how it works in other states, but here in TX, our property taxes pay for the schools, so that means if you do not own a home, you are not paying into the system. So take a guess who might be paying for all those expenses and think about who is NOT. Every freakin' day another kid comes to my door asking me to buy this and buy that for their band, their volleyball, baseball, choir, science project, etc. Let's take a guess where the $ goes to? If you can't guess, then you are a liberal. Look in the mirror, if you see your hand held out, then you are spoiled ass liberal that thinks the government and everyone else OWES THEM something. I grew up poor and I have been unemployed–more than once and I would never take unemployment checks; I did something unusual to most people, I went out and worked a job that I really didn't want to take. If that didn't pay the bills, I had to get rid of things, like my cell phone, cable and I didn't eat sometimes. I even worked 2-3 jobs sometimes. But now I own 2 companies and I make a good living. But I worked for it and I worked hard. I make over 250K, but I do not think I am rich, sure it is more than someone making 50K, but I took the risk and put MY $ into the business. So can anyone else. It takes sacrafice. Most people today do not have a clue what that word means.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      CBoy, I'm from Texas as well and I have to say you hit the nail on the head. My mom worked two jobs after she got divorced and we had to make due. I joned the military right out of high school too make my own way. She eventually moved to my grandparents place with my brother, living on some of their property in her own house, and drove to work every day. I am the first in my family to ever go to college, ON MY OWN! We've never had to rely on the government for anything, ever. After I go married and had kids we received WIC, but that was all. I am not back in the military, serving MY country, for my family and friends. If these illegals want to be citizens, then EARN it. Join the military (after learning English,) and quit sucking up my tax money.
      But as far as this story, looks like both of those women could work. It's pretty sad when a grown daughter like that lives at home with her (apparently) single mom. Guess mom was young when she had kids and then daughter took after her sicne they look close in age. You would think that daughter would say, I'm my own person. This is my fault that I had kids and can't afford them. But then again, that would mean common sense.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnLI

      You are full of yourself and full of something else to. How much did you invest in your business, and who did you live with while doing it...your mother? Do you know the majority of business startups fail? Did you have to deal with a mortgage, kids, health insurance? It's not that easy. Do you pay taxes on all your income or do you cheat? You sound like an angry self-absorbed jerk who is not happy.

      September 24, 2011 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. Chris

    They didn't mention what these fine ladies do for work. Oh wait, probably because they aren't going to bother with any of that silliness.

    If you have the kid, take care of the kid. It's YOUR responsibility. Why is it NOW that we have to listen to people whining that they can't afford a sitter? As if the rest of us couldn't tell that these specimens of Cultural Diversity couldn't afford a sitter. Yes, thanks, we all know that you can't afford a sitter. But we want to know. Are you ever going to realize that yourself or are you going to keep spawning every couple of years, only to complain more about what a cruel world your kids have been born into? I do feel sorry for your kids. Their own parents are idiots with no sense of personal responsibility, who expect strangers to care more for their kids than they, themselves bother to care. But do I want to pay for your kids' to be babysat?

    September 23, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lynn

    It is the working poor who are also suffering. Trying to uphold to a standard of living that allows them to blend in with the middle class. It is very stressful to spend most of your money on housing, a good vehicle, and insurance just so you can have them in a good school. It means not having much for food or extras. That is also being poor. This is something the Republicans and Tea Partiest idiots, especially the likes of Rick Perry, will never understand. I had my kids before we got in this situation. We were doing great until my husband became ill. I went back and got my college degree which does me no good in a job that pays a "woman's" wage while all the guys go out to lunch every day. It is a major struggle and I work very hard to keep our family of five afloat. So where is Rick Perry and the rest of them when I need help? I'm not a drain on the system because I don't qualify for welfare. I don't have a church, and my family can't always help. So where is this "help" supposed to come from? It should come in the form of decent wages and insurance for us. I have to pay $700 a month to stay on our COBRA plan when my husband lost his job. I can barely pay it each month. But without it, he would get no medical care. The fat cats are deluding our country and it is time for people to rise up with a strong arm in protest. Take back the American Dream for us, not them or the ones who won't work for it. The people who work so hard and follow the straight-and-narrow are getting screwed.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Lynn – I am from Texas and am a Conservative. My wife and I were working poor also, and we even had to file for bankruptcy after our daughter was born because my wife lost her job (fired) at a daycare because of the director thinking she was encroaching on her job. We are both college educated, she is a certified teacher. I am back in the military because of the economy, and because it is what I wanted to do. However, there are those out there who don't work, or do anything all day but watch Oprah or Dr. Phil, and sit there and feel bad because they have no money but don't want to do anything. I am a Christian and a Conservative and I feel sorry for those who have nothing and would love to help, but I have nothing extra to give. I feel sorry for those who work and are barely making, but don't feel bad for those who don't work at all, and live off the tax payer dollar and then whine about having nothing. That is the issue. These 2 ladies, a mom and daughter, live in a poor border area of Texas which, historically has always been that way. Have they thought about moving? Don't be blaming this on the Conservatives and Rick Perry, or saying that Christians don't see this going on. This has been going on for years. President Johnson started this mess with his welfare policy and it's just snowballed from there. This is both Liberals and Conservatives fault. But with more illegals coming across and the US welcoming them with open arms, they will keep coming and it will just keep getting worse. We are not obligated to provide services to those who are not willing to help themselves, and espeically those who are here illegally because they know that they will get everything a citizen would get. The 14th Amendment is only for LEGAL citizens. A Mexican crossing the border to have a kid is a Mexican resident, therefore so is the kid. If you go to Mexico and have a kid, is your kid a legal resident of Mexico? Absolutely not!! They would say that you are a US citizen so your kid is. The laws work both ways.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
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