Third World in Texas: Myths and Realities
Colonias are unincorporated communities that lack water, sewage, and other critical infrastructures. Mainstream data uses only broad geographical indicators to identify such areas, e.g., zip/area codes, county lines/districts, and regions or areas defined by many groups. Texas currently has five definitions for Border and seven for “Colonias.” Using these variables to create a snapshot of a Texas Colonia/Rural area leaves much to be desired. 2,333 Colonias have currently have identified along the Texas/Mexico Border, with an estimated population of over 500,000, where (88 to 97%) are American citizens, half under the age of 21. Statistics paint a very bleak picture of these marginalized communities. Oscar will tell a slightly different story—a story of community engagement (City of Alton), community development (CHW Training academy), medical stereotypes (Hidalgo study GIS tracking), and the status of research in these areas.
Oscar Muñoz’ mission in life is to help unleash the leadership capacity of people and strengthen communities living in some of the most challenging circumstances here in Texas and internationally. For more than 14 years he has implemented and directed diverse programs encouraging the human development that is key to sustainable community development. As Director of the Texas A&M Colonias Program, Oscar leads a growing team of more than 60 staff, with three regional offices and more than 40 community resource centers along the Texas border. Through this program, residents of the colonias have emerged as community leaders by continuing their education to help secure a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Oscar also leads the Texas A&M Water Filter Project, an interdisciplinary collaboration dedicated to the production, distribution, education, and research of appropriate technology and point-of-use ceramic water filters. The project primarily serves colonia residents, and rural and international communities in Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico, and Guatemala. Participatory community development is central to the Colonias Program. The Texas A&M Training Academy builds the capacity of colonia, rural and urban residents to become TDSHS certified Promotoras/es or Community Outreach Workers, bringing a wealth of programs and resources to some of Texas’ most remote communities.