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Resources / Recursos

Want to learn more? This page features articles, links and other resources that we found helpful.

What is a Colonia? and Frequently Asked Questions about Colonias courtesy of the Texas State Government.

Articles for Download:

La Vida en Las Colonias de la Frontera/Life in the Colonias on the Border by Irasema Coronado, University of El Paso, Texas

Entrapment processes and immigrant communities in a time of heightened border vigilance by Guillermina Gina Nuñez-Mchiri

Political Ecology of Colonias on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Human-Environment Challenges and Community Responses in Southern New Mexico by by Guillermina Gina Nuñez-Mchiri

Environmental Health Training of Promotoras in Colonias Along the Texas–Mexico Border, a Field Action Report

Media Resources: Documentary work relating to Colonias

“Forgotten Americans”: a compelling portrait about the residents of U.S. neighborhoods called colonias, from December, 2000. This documentary, by nationally recognized filmmaker Hector Galán, captures the hope that grows from these colonias where the streets have no names and often there is no running water or electricity.

“Maquilapolis”: As a million other maquiladora workers produce televisions, electrical cables, toys, clothes, batteries and IV tubes, they weave the very fabric of life for consumer nations.  They also confront labor violations, environmental devastation and urban chaos — life on the frontier of the global economy.  In MAQUILAPOLIS, Carmen and her colleague Lourdes reach beyond the daily struggle for survival to organize for change:  Carmen takes a major television manufacturer to task for violating her labor rights.  Lourdes pressures the government to clean up a toxic waste dump left behind by a departing factory.

“Erasing every trace of us”: Juárez Colonia Lomas del Poleo residents in Ciudad Juárez tell stories of violence, intimidation and murder at the hand of the Zaragoza Fuentes family, a powerful group of binational developers on the U.S.- Mexico border. Read more about the situation at

Additional Literature

Irasema Coronado and Kathleen Staudt (Ed.s), Fronteras No Más: Toward Social Justice on the U.S.-Mexico Border. (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002). Fronteras No Mas treats the U.S.-Mexico border as an opportune space in which residents address their common interests in a clean environment, better wages and trade, and respect for human rights. Since NAFTA, more transnational institutions and policies have emerged, facilitating the growth of civil society, such as community-based and nonprofit organizations. Yet cross-border organizing remains a challenging and complex version of local politics: residents live and work within a region of vast economic equalities and markedly different governments. The authors offer a civic blueprint on ways to enhance cooperation, given the continuing interdependence of this North American space at the border.

Angela J. Donelson and Adrian Esparza, The Colonias Reader: Economy, Housing and Public Health on the U.S.-Mexico Border Colonias. (University of Arizona Press, 2010). The colonias of the U.S.–Mexico border form a loose network of more than 2,500 settlements, ranging in size from villages to cities, that are home to over a million people. While varying in size, all share common features: wrenching poverty, substandard housing, and public health issues approaching crisis levels. This book brings together scholars, professionals, and activists from a wide range of disciplines to examine the pressing issues of economic development, housing and community development, and public and environmental health in colonias of the four U.S.–Mexico border states.

Rebecca Dolhinow, A Jumble of Needs: Women’s Activism and Neoliberalism in the Colonias of the Southwest. (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) Many immigrant communities along the U.S. border with Mexico are colonias, border settlements lacking infrastructure or safe housing. A Jumble of Needs examines the leadership of Mexican women immigrants in three colonias in New Mexico, documenting the role of NGOs in shaping women’s activism in these communities. Ethnographer Rebecca Dolhinow, who worked in the colonias, uncovers why such attempts to exercise political agency are so rarely successful.

Peter Ward, Colonias and Public Policy in Texas and Mexico. (University of Texas Press, 1999) Today in Texas, over 1500 colonias in the counties along the Mexican border are home to some 400,000 people. Often lacking basic services, such as electricity, water and sewerage, fire protection, policing, schools, and health care, these “irregular” subdivisions offer the only low-cost housing available to the mostly Hispanic working poor. This book presents the results of a major study of colonias in three transborder metropolitan areas and uncovers the reasons why colonias are spreading so rapidly. Peter Ward compares Texas colonias with their Mexican counterparts, many of which have developed into fully integrated working-class urban communities.

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