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. Zoso

    No, I dont have a weight problem...I have a problem with whiners that can't take care of themselves or their kids they can't seem to stop from having....birth control is alot cheaper then yet another mouth on the gov't payroll...it's bleeding hearts like yours that come up with yet another excuse for these lazy slobs...why doesn't she get a job? If she's so poor, why keep having kids she can't afford? Why not clean off your porch and yourself? You can eat really healthy for just as cheap as you can eat fat greasy foods, but of course healthy foods need to be prepped and cooked, not just thrown in the microwave....and that would be too much work...I don't feel sorry for these lazy slobs..take a shower and get a job...

    September 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    Scottish get a grip. I've lived in the inner city and I grew UP on casseroles concocted from Campbell's Soup and a bag of frozen broccoli.

    Yes, it was prepared by a human being related to me and we also ate leftovers. Next thing you'll tell me is that they can't eat Campbell's soup because nobody gave them a can opener. Or soup is just SOOOO high in sodium!!! it would kill the poor children of Texas. You can't though because I am a healthy product of Rice a Roni, Hamburger Helper, Campbell's Soup, and Macaroni 'n Cheese. And apples are cheap. It's just the pesky problem of going to the trouble of washing it and taking a bite.... so difficult for our "poor" inner city folks.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scottish Mama

    @Zozo they are not whining only you about their weight. You did not read the article as most here did not. If you will not read the whole article, read the last line.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. muffdiver

    Give me a break!!! Same old cr@p!!! Illegals, recycled illegals and anchors!!! No responsible husbands/mates paying bills, diapers!!! Women, a free for all with different last name kids and daddies long, long, long gone!!! Naturally welfare only, with obese single mom couch potatoes, who all have hand to mouth habits keeping up with the marias, while drinking gallons of soda and eating boxes of potato chips, tortilla chips, corn chips, popcorn, doughnuts, twinkies, pan, churros, ice cream in front of novella tv!!!!!

    September 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      You got all that from a picture? Cause you surely did not read the article.

      September 24, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • tx

      I live near the border and this is the most accurate description of the mothers down here that I have ever read. They are disgusting to look at. They pop out so many kids without even thinking about the short term responsibilities, much less the long term. Then they expect everyone to take care of them.

      I went to a Gucci store in south texas recently and on the counter was a pamphlet in Spanish only giving instructions to get government benefits. In a GUCCI STORE. Do the math here, folks. I have no sympathy any more.

      September 24, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Scottish Mama

    Your right you are what you eat!

    September 24, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  6. awesome

    I think you're RIGHT. lol happy now?

    September 24, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. labandme

    Well by the looks of those two ladies, they aint starving.

    September 24, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. paul

    Keep on voting Republicans people, the whole USA will be like that soon!

    September 24, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  9. Northeasterly

    If you listened to the Republican debates, when they asked about what the audience would cut, and what percentage, those people crowed "education...40%". Does that tell you something? People having kids they can't afford?..that's what ignorant people do. Who keeps underfunding education and vilifying educators, who have spent their own money for supplies in all of the 17 years I have had kids in schools, whom, by the way, I raised as a single parent after divorce, with no child support. Think about it...who wants the people in this country to be unable to think for themselves–and who is demanding that teachers teach to tests instead of teaching why and how. Ignorant people are much easier to manipulate. The Pol Pot regime killed all the intelligent people in Cambodia, because it was the quickest way to gain control of the people. Just pay attention to how the big Corporations, who now own the the Republican Party for all practical purposes–(did you ever think we'd have a crazy like Michelle Bachman running for President?)–just watch how they kill them off in this country. People are going for it like a herd of buffalo over a cliff. Sad to watch, but if people don't wake up they'll be living in a third world country; at least I'll be dead. I did all the right things, went to college, got a graduate degree in a specialized field where I should have worked the rest of my working life. Now I worry daily if I will be able to survive. And they want to cut Social Security and Medicare even more. I worked 40 years for that. And, yes, I do know people on welfare who have nicer clothes, a better car, big screen TV's , Iphones and much better self esteem than I do–that EBT card seems to be a real self-esteem builder–but how can we say it's their fault? The right wing group in this country insists on cutting education and planned parenthood. More and more of the money you make–if you're even lucky enough to find a job–will go to pay for expanding third and fourth generation welfare recipients. War and prisons are big business.and guess who gets wealthy off them? They sure aren't going to volunteer their kids for the front lines, and they've got millions to spend on lawyers to keep them out of prisons. Now you're starting to wake up. The American Dream is gone unless enough people stand up and put and end to this..

    September 24, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. Northeasterly

    I've been reading all these comments, and, wow...can't we just look beyond these people in the picture and think about all the factors involved in how this happened in the first place? Besides the fact that education has been continually defunded, and if you really listen to what is said, the blame is being placed almost entirely on teachers, and, of course, parents and kids are just eating that up! This is what the rRepublican Party does, they try to get people talking about petty things and get poor people pitted against each other so they don't stand a chance of seeing what is really happening. These people just want to have a simple, happy life. I envy them for being far removed from all the advertising we're constantly bombarded with: Buy this now! You deserve this! Every Kiss begins with Hay! First they take away their chance to develop the ability to reason and decide with facts instead of hearsay, and then they present all these lies to get people to focus on constantly needing to buy things instead of enjoying family, friends, discovery and learning, and the basic, simple things in life. Their goal is to create wealth for themselves. That's it. Greed takes over, and there's no end to it. It's easier for them to throw money at these people. Educating them and giving them access to planned parenthood would be cheaper, but they don't care, because the middle class pays for it. It serves their purpose and makes money for them in the long run, an they can easily get the middle class and the poor working against each other and fighting for the last scraps until they have us right where they want us. On our knees, and finally serving them tea and wiping their behinds.

    September 24, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. Arrrrgh

    Funny how we spent billions in US funds to build sewers for Iraqis and Afghans but zero on our own citizens.....

    September 24, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. gung hoe

    @chris what is it sir hat makes you so angry I along with you work very hard for my money I own and operate a roofing co money doesnt come much harder than mine Oh ya I preach the word of our lord and savior jesus christ on sunday for fun What mama is doin chris is the work of the lord she has her christianity on her sleeves chris But chris you cant see that because you are blind to the love of the lord Which makes me feel so very sorry for you

    September 24, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Having an opinion makes me "angry?"
      Well, if a delusion can make you brave enough to spew your dogma..

      September 24, 2011 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Al

    I'm going to go to Canada with nothing, have 4 kids and then complain that the countries doing nothing for me. If CNN doesn't write an article about that, I'll know they aren't being political. But the fact is, they've had several articles on the front page of their website essentially deriding Governor Perry. You can do that with anyone, anywhere, easily, including Democratic candidates, which they never do...

    September 24, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Sigh!

      Yeah. Oh, please, tell us when you are leaving. The people of this country who have a heart will breath a healthy sigh of relief that a bigot like you has finally left the country. Maybe you can take more with you?

      September 24, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • HStepper

      Well Perry sucks but not for after school programs. I don't see why you need an after school program in a community such as the one above. If they're out of a job and staying home they can take care of their own kids after school.

      September 24, 2011 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • HStepper

      @Al CNN is just trying to clarify RPerry's position on the matter. Politicians have a way of saying one thing for votes at election time and doing another thing for votes before election time. He might well dump them after the presidential elections.

      September 24, 2011 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      The truth is that if you go to Canada regardless of how wealthy or poor your community you will always have access to an affordable after school program. There's no such thing in Canada as going without the basic essentials. The authorities and especially the police and social services know that it's more costly to take care of kids wandering around without parental support, getting hurt and into trouble than to put together an after school program with snacks, recreation, the arts. American is just so way behind the rest of the world. No wonder it's so violent and so poor.

      September 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen H

      I lived in Edmonton, Canad for two years, lived in a very nice neighborhood. My kids went to a junior and a senior high there. Much worse than the schools we have been to in the US. Very poor facilities. No proper cafeteria, no auditorium for the school play (they had to rent a theater which did not have enough seats), a terrible music program, no musical inst they charged for my son to attend his own graduation!!! And the year we left, that province had a surplus of 4.2 BILLION dollars (because it sells oil to Americans).

      September 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Arrrrgh

    So my ancestors came here waving spears and riding mammoths? THAT IS SOOOOO F$%KING COOL!!!!!!

    September 24, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. MEME

    You guys should at least look into these peoples' lives first rather than pull out the "Yuh, they're lazy and dumb," card before you speak. Unless you were from a poor place and really built your lives up rather than being born into a nice and secure family and automatically putting yourselves into that position, open your eyes first and look around you for once.

    September 24, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • justin

      They're lazy... look at the property. Too lazy to clean. They're dumb... They haven't figured out a way to better their social status, or even brush their own hair for the cameras. Smart and hard working people don't look or live like them. They will never do better than they are now. It's not societies fault, it is their own.

      September 24, 2011 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
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