Colonias in Texas (in California)

The term "colonia" in Spanish means a community or neighborhood. These residential areas are found with 50 miles of U.S.-Mexico border and they commonly lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing; unemployment rates are commonly several times the state averages.
Colonias can be found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, but Texas has both the largest number of colonias and the largest colonia population. Approximately 400,000 Texans live in colonias. Overall, the colonia population is predominately Hispanic, essentially Mexican; 65 percent of all colonia residents and 85 percent of those residents under 18 were born in the United States. There are more than 2,294 Texas colonias, located primarily along the state's 1,248 mile border with Mexico.
State # Counties # Colonias Colonias/County
California 1 11 11.0
Arizona 10 56 5.6
New Mexico 11 141 13.3
Texas 30 2,294 76.4

Source: -- change the state abbreviation to get information for each state

Border Colonia Geography Online provides lots in information about colonias in Texas. Get maps of colonias for each border county in Texas. The maps below for El Paso County come from this source.

Hispanics represent 72 percent of the El Paso's population of 607,000. Across the international border, Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities, has with over 1.2 million people.

Percent of Hispanics in El Paso County, TX, by block group.

The absolute number of Hispanics in El Paso County, TX, by block group, clearly shows the concentration of colonias in the large rural areas.

Hispanics of Mexican descendent are concentrated on the dry uplands beyond the Rio Grande River valley, east of Interstate 10, and along Highway 62.
Colonias of El Paso, Texas
More than 400,000 people live in colonias on the Texas side of the US-Mexico, about half of which live without water and sewage lines. In El Paso County alone, 80,000 people now live in over 200 known colonias built on land that was never zoned for residential uses. And in 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) exported their jobs across the border to Mexico, thousands of people were forced to seek affordable housing in these colonias, further and further from established infrastructure. While some older colonias now have these basic services, thanks to state and federal government grants, other colonias lack basic public services, which county governments fail to provide.
Read a complete article on this topic.

The colonias are concentrated in the south and east. The area in the red box is shown on the map to the right.

The southern colonias, shown here, were visited and photographed, particularly Dairyland (C on the map below) and its colonia neighbors (A and B), some of which are not even identified on this "official" map.


Colonias Dairyland is adjacent to large dairy farms, where huge piles of manure are concentrated in feedlots (see photo to the right). The smell and flies during the summer, in particular, adds to "environmental racism" of these places.

In addition, a large municipal garage dump is located on the road to these colonias, Darrington Road (see below.




A large municipal garage dump is located on the road to the colonia on Darrington Road. Source for air photos:
A new county-created cemetery is located on High Campus Road which connects with Temperence Street, to the north of Dairyland.

The small number of graves are in the back section, where the brush has been cleared. The grey lines are gravel roads.

To see more, click on the cemetery photo.

All the road names in this colonia contain the word, "Colonia."
Several features are distinctive from the air photo (to the right):
1) large lots, half-acre lots are common, 2) many empty lots, 3) absence of trees, lack of irrigation, and 4) elongated structures, which are trailers -- Colonia Tierra Drive has 11 "visible" trailers alone; other trailers are "hidden" from view because structures have been built around and over them.

View photos of the houses along Colonia Tierra Drive. All the houses have access to electricity; some houses are substantial while others are very simple. Collecting and re-using materials for house construction and fences are common. Do-it-yourself house construction is the norm where incomes are low and unemployment is high.