27 N.M. L. Rev. 33 (1997)
Memories and Miracles - Housing the Rural Poor along the United States-Mexico Border: A Comparative Discussion of Colonia Formation and Remediation in El Paso County, Texas, and Dona Ana County, New Mexico

handle is hein.journals/nmlr27 and id is 41 raw text is: MEMORIES AND MIRACLES-HOUSING THE RURAL
POOR ALONG THE UNITED STATES-MEXICO BORDER:
A COMPARATIVE DISCUSSION OF COLONIA
FORMATION AND REMEDIATION IN EL PASO COUNTY,
TEXAS, AND DONA ANA COUNTY, NEW MEXICO
NANCY L. SIMMONS*
The first resident bought land there in 1990. He lived in a cobalt blue adobe
house he was building by hand. The developer named the community
Recuerdos, Spanish for memories. The popular story is that after a year
there without running water, the first resident re-named Recuerdos El
Milagro, meaning miracle. Five years later, over a dozen families lived
there, and several more wanted to move to El Milagro, but could not acquire
the necessary permits.
Now, primarily due to the efforts of a grass roots organization known as the
Colonias Development Council (CDC),' El Milagro, New Mexico, has
running water, the beginnings of a community-wide septic system, and, most
importantly, a local organizing board. El Milagro does not qualify for federal
assistance, however, because it does not meet the federal legal definition of
a colonia.2  Moreover, although El Milagro was the subject of litigation
against the developer by the New Mexico Attorney General, the consent
decree has yet to be fully implemented.3
I. THE MEANING AND CONTEXT OF THE WORD COLONIA
The word colonia in the Spanish of Mexico means neighborhood. In Texas
and New Mexico, colonia has several connotations, all of them referring to the rural
housing which dots the border region and is inhabited by Mexican immigrants and
their children.5 The United States (U.S.) government has given the word colonia
* Nancy L. Simmons is in private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She serves as counsel for the
Colonias Development Council, and does legal work for the residents of El Milagro, Las Palmeras, and Fair Acres
(Rio Grande Estates) in Dofia Ana County, New Mexico. She is the founder of the Grass Roots Justice Center,
which is dedicated to providing legal assistance to grass roots immigrant groups in New Mexico and El Paso
County, Texas. She also teaches a class on Rural Community Development and the Law at the University of New
Mexico School of Law. As a Fulbright Scholar during the Fall of 1996, she taught American Jurisprudence, relying
on the legal problems of colonia residents for context, at the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez.
This article is dedicated to the residents of El Milagro, New Mexico.
1. The Colonias Development Council (CDC) is a non-profit corporation, created as a result of work done
by local communities in conjunction with the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces in New Mexico.
2. See 42 U.S.C. § 1479(0(8) (1994); see also infra notes 6-7 and accompanying text.
3. See Consent Decree and Stipulated Permanent Injunction, State of New Mexico ex rel. Udall v.
Andareed, Inc., No. CV 94-4614 (N.M. Dist. Ct. filed Apr. 11, 1996).
4. Colonia is defined as a city district in CARIos CAsTILLO & OTO FERDINAND BOND, UNIvERsrrY
OF CHICAGO SPANISH DICTIONARY 84 (4th ed. 1987) (revised and enlarged by D. Lincoln Canfield). See infra
Part l.A for a discussion of the origins of the word colonia.
5. Dr. Duncan Earle, Ph.D., at Texas A & M University, provides several examples of popular,
institutional, and academic descriptions of colonias, including immigrant shantytowns and environmental racism
(popular definitions); a response to the loss of public housing, rural settlements, and the result of lack of
regulation in Texas or consumer fraud (institutional definitions), self-help housing, the result of the globalizing
economy, the subsidy of industry's labor costs, and creations of the farm labor migrant stream (academic

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