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Clean water is a prayer answered in El Paso’s colonias

Clean water is a prayer answered in El Paso’s colonias

By Nicole Chavez

EL PASO – After more than six years of negotiations with city, county and federal authorities around 300 families in two Canutillo colonias will have potable water running in their kitchens and bathrooms by the end of the year.

Schuman Estates and Mayfair Nuway are two colonias located just outside city limits in Canutillo, a small town west of El Paso. Residents have used well-water for more than 20 years because officials did not know there was a lack of running water in the Westside colonias. The lack of clean, running water has even caused skin problems for some residents.

[caption id="attachment_20142" align="alignleft" width="300"] Schuman Estates will have water access by the end of August. For Mayfair Nuway the construction will be complete in December. (Nicole Chavez/Borderzine.com)[/caption]

Schuman Estates and Mayfair Nuway are only two of the more than 100 colonias in El Paso County. Colonias are located in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California and especially 25 miles near the U.S.-Mexico border. Colonia residents are identified mostly as immigrant, low-income families. According to the Secretary of State, 64.4 percent of all colonia residents are born in the U.S.

Moving to a colonia is seen as an option for low-income families that cannot afford a monthly mortgage payment such as Suki Perez.

Perez, a native from Ciudad Juarez bought her property in Schuman Estates at the end of 1980s. She like many others paid for a piece of land miles outside the urban El Paso area in hopes of having a property of their own to build a home for their families.

“I wanted something spacious for my children. I used to lease and then I realized I could buy a little house. This was the best I found considering what I could afford,” Perez said.

When Perez and her children arrived to Schuman Estates it was only an empty piece of land in a dusty road and there was no electricity, water or sewer.

“I never bought a property before. When you are alone and no one gives you advice, you don’t know. After I owned it, they told me it needed an electricity pole to get all the other utilities and those will come later,” Perez said.

By buying a portion of land and building their houses in stages, residents are living their own version of the American dream. In most cases, people buy properties from private owners, who do not submit the proper documentation to provide water and electrical utilities. The property owners rarely even report that their land will be subject to residential use.

Once families move to a colonia, like Perez, they must face the reality that…

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