"The counties of South Texas are among the nation's poorest, and their jumbled subdivisions, known as colonias, home to 400,000 Hispanic-Americans, can certainly look the part. Since the 1950s, developers have carved small lots from mesquite woodlands and floodplains, selling them to workers with the promises that utilities, sewers and paved roads would follow. They rarely did, and for decades the colonias were seen as hopeless slums."
"But now a different picture is emerging. After years of protests by residents, belated regulation by the state, and an influx of aid from government and private groups, more than two-thirds of the colonia dwellers in six border counties finally have access to water lines, safe sewage disposal or both, compared with a small minority just 15 years ago, according to a report by the state in December."
"Through frugality and hard work, in a process known as incremental building that is rare in the United States but common in the Third World, families are transforming hovels into homes, one wall and window at a time."