Colonia communities, which host forgotten Americans, lack essential services such as portable water, adequate wastewater and solid waste disposal, adequate drainage, and adequate paved roads. The aim of this study is to investigate five key aspects of the colonias in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), which include the total count of colonias in the valley, their susceptibility to public health hazards, flooding occurrences, the transformations that have occurred over the past two decades, and community resilience. This research utilizes two datasets, namely the Colonia Database from the Texas Secretary of State and the community resiliency estimates from the Census Bureau. Geographical information systems (GIS) methods are employed to analyze the spatial and temporal distribution of colonia communities. The principal results reveal that colonia communities host 14% of the RGV’s total 1.37 million population. About half of the total colonia population resides in Hidalgo County, followed by Starr, Cameron, and Willacy counties. About 87% of the total colonia communities exist in census tracts characterized by low or very low community resiliency. Furthermore, 26% of the total colonia communities experiencing flooding after rainfall are in tracts with low or very low community resiliency. This study provides the major conclusion that while there have been slight improvements in the colonias’ susceptibility to public health risks within the past two decades, there still remains significant developmental work. Without tackling these challenges, achieving meaningful progress in community resilience becomes a daunting task. Applying an environmental justice lens to the issues faced by colonia communities helps shed light on the systemic inequalities and injustices they experience.
Kyne D. A Bird’s-Eye View of Colonias Hosting Forgotten Americans and Their Community Resilience in the Rio Grande Valley. Geographies. 2023; 3(3):459-476. https://doi.org/10.3390/geographies3030024
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