The rural communities often found in New Mexico’s deserts are the product of a complex set of circumstances concerning the economy, immigration, subdivision law, codes enforcement, public infrastructure, and public health. Some of the communities have ties with colonies established by Spanish conquistadores and Spanish land grants. Others have developed more recently and depend on modern technology to extract water from aquifers deep in the earth. These rural developments are often bedroom communities that are dependent on local metropolitan statistic areas (MSAs) for government services and jobs. The fact that the nineteenth century historic communities also take advantage of modern technology means that they are generally quite similar to those that may have developed more recently. Doña Ana County now contains about 37 of these desert communities, all of which have a unique background which has contributed to their presently diverse characteristics; the communities are commonly referred to as colonias.
With regard to what is often an extensive history behind the communities, the word “colonia” is a relatively new term. It was first used in a 1977 document from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. The word has since become the most common way to refer to the rural communities and has become a matter of federal concern. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the federal government define a colonia as a community that “(1) is in the state of Arizona, California, New Mexico, or Texas; (2) is within 150 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, except for any metropolitan area exceeding one million people; (3) on the basis of objective criteria, lacks adequate sewage systems and lacks decent, safe, and sanitary housing and (4) was in existence as a colonia before November 29, 1990 (USC § 1479(F)(8)(1994).
A community that satisfies these four conditions qualifies for federal and state aid as the population and local government work to build infrastructure, clean up pollution and public health problems, and implement regulations to stop the proliferation of third-world conditions. More will be posted about the colonias in general as research in this area advances. For more, email the Health and Human Services office, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 575-525-5833. You may also want to look at the profiles of each individual community as those are also completed. Or, conduct your own research by looking up more specialized resources.