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Special Collections & University Archives: Colonias

Welcome to our LibGuide! Use the pages here to learn more about our department and research collections.

Background & Summary

Colonias Research Guide


This research guide provides general information related to the history of colonias in our region. The purpose of this research guides is to offer students historical context though access to primary source materials available from the UTRGV University Library Special Collections & Archives as well as highlighting relevant secondary (books) and external (websites) resources.


Colonias are economically distressed areas that often lack the most basic necessities, such as drinkable water, sewer systems, paved roads, and safe, sanitary housing. While colonias are found all across the state of Texas, the majority are found in counties that border Mexico. 

In the 1950s, small lots were sold at low prices, often with high interest rates to low-income individuals as Contracts for Deeds. These lots often lacked infrastructure and access to publicly provided utilities like electricity, water and wastewater. The Texas legislature began taking action in the late 1980s - 1990s, as awareness of the unsanitary living conditions in these economically distressed areas grew due in part to the actions of elected officials like Kika de la Garza, Alex Moreno, and Ruben Hinojosa.

As a result, Texas counties were required to follow certain guidelines before providing water and sewer funding to colonias and a department was created at the state level to oversee colonias. Between 2005 and 2007, the state legislature adopted the Colonia Classification System, created a progress-tracking system of state funded colonia improvement projects, and approved additional funding for improvements.

Primary & Secondary Source Materials

Colonias, Series 9 (Economy). Reference Files, ELIBR-0062

Collection contains articles, clippings, flyers, brochures, maps, and other ephemera collected by the Library Special Collections on topics concerning the Lower Rio Grande Valley Collection pertaining to the geographic region of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Many of these materials are protected by U.S. Copyright Law.

Associated City County Economic Development Corporation (ACCEDC) Collection, ELIBR-0089

The collection mainly consists of expenditure reports for houses and lots in Colonia Esperanza and Subdivision #1 in Elsa.

Eligio (Kika) de la Garza Congressional Papers, ELIBR-0078

The Congressional Papers of Eligio "Kika" de la Garza consist of approximately 425 linear feet of materials dating from 1965 - 1996. The bulk of the papers date from 1965-1980 and 1989-1996. The papers were created during Kika de la Garza's time as an elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 - 1996, representing the 15th Congressional District in South Texas.

Rubén Hinojosa Congressional Papers, ELIBR-0146

The Congressional Papers of Rubén Hinojosa consists of 291 linear feet of materials dating from 1997 - 2016. The papers were created during Rubén Hinojosa's time as an elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 - 2016, representing the 15th Congressional District in South Texas. The collection consists of legislative material as well as casework of local projects and issues.

Additional Resources

External Resources


The research guides compiled by UTRGV staff and students are intended to assist patrons who are embarking upon new research endeavors. Our goal is to expand their knowledge of the types of resources available on a given topic, including books, archival materials, and websites. In so doing, our compilers have taken care to include collections, digital items, and resources that may be accessed not only through UTRGV but also via other institutions, repositories, and websites.

We wholeheartedly respect the research interests of others. Therefore, please contact us if you wish to submit a resource for consideration, or if you have a question about or an issue with a specific cited resource.

Books from our Catalog

Databases for Primary & Secondary Sources: Mexican American Civil Rights

Quick Links

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