My research tells me that a Texas colonia is born when a real estate developer buys a crummy piece of land from an oil or gas company on the cheap after that land has been depleted of its underlying resources. Often the land is polluted with toxic waste from oil processing or sits on top of an oil or gas pipeline (which seems a dangerous place to live) and can’t be used for any better purpose. An eighty-acre parcel might be divided into five-acre spreads and sold off to slightly less wealthy individuals who subdivide their acreage into single acres and sell it again, and so on, until eventually, an impoverished individual or family can buy a plot that is 1/16th or 1/32nd of an acre. Each parcel is dead-set against its neighbors on all sides. Texas has made this legal in unincorporated areas of a county. In the beginning, crowding is not an issue.

A Colonia Pioneer in the Dry West

Already owners are running their own electrical lines fired by generators. Flags are hung with pride.

A Pioneer in a Wetter Eastern County

At some point, family moves in, both extended and multi-generational.

Playing in the Yard

Once crowding occurs, the compacted land floods in a heavy rain, causing sewage to fill the yards. Residents suffer high rates of tuberculosis, dengue fever, Lyme disease, cholera, hepatitis, salmonella, dysentery, asthma, leprosy, and more. Fortunately for the vampires who stalk these slums, they are not troubled by human disease, though as I recall, some diseases render the blood slightly less palatable. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona? Mumbai? Soweto? Who can tell?

An Adolescent Colonia

In the best of circumstances, a colonia will age into maturity, the owners having gradually improved their properties through their own hard work.

A Mature Colonia Outside a Texas City

This former slum resembles a rough, but serviceable suburb after decades. Most houses have been improved into real structures and the owners have put in some streets.


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