SGarza.Anna History

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June 13, 2007, at 12:44 PM CST by -
June 13, 2007, at 12:44 PM CST by -
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'+'''History of Organization'''+'

Yards are filled with rusted cars no longer running. The smell of sewage is present in the air. Children play with the trash that litters the area instead of jungle gyms and swing sets. There is no electricity. The only running water available is water flowing in a creek nearby. To the many residents of Nueces County, this is the description of a third world country. Unfortunately, to the occupants of the more than 100 colonias within our county, this is their description of home.

In a definition provided by the Texas Office of Secretary of State website, a colonia is a area along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as portable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary hosing. Many state and federal agencies provide a definition much like this one with little if any differences. What always remains the same is the lack of infrastructure, access to safe and sanitary living conditions, and the economic distress the individuals and families endure who aspire to achieve the American dream.

Founded in 2004, the South Texas Colonia Initiative (STCI) is credited with providing assistance to the residents of colonias in Nueces County; however, founders Lionel and Juanita Lopez have been aiding residents of the subdivisions for over twenty years. It is the mission of STCI to advocate for and assist colonia residents by breaking the cycle of poverty, helping people help themselves, and encouraging cooperative and collaborative partnerships. For many years to the state of Texas these neighborhoods were invisible; the communities virtually did not exist. Persistent interactions between STCI and state officials led to Texas finally passing legislation recognizing the subdivisions in Nueces County as colonias. Furthermore, State Senator Hinojosa credits STCI and director Mr. Lopez with helping to pass legislation preventing developers from taking advantage of prospective colonia residents. However, by no means is the work of STCI finished. STCI plans to continue its work with political advocacy for residents. Now that the communities, collectively known as Nueces County Colonias, have been formally recognized by the state, Court meetings have been organized to develop a long-term plan of action to meet the needs of the colonias.

Mr. Lopez has spent years gaining the trust of colonia residents, with residents often calling him for assistance with the challenges they face. STCI plans to continue providing help to the colonia residents so long as the need continues to exist. Together, the residents and STCI search for solutions to their problems with the hope that one day they, too, can have the American dream with the same rights to water, electricity, and sanitary living conditions.