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The Forgotten Americans

Classroom Resources


Focus: Las Colonias
Filmmaker's Journal
An Inside Look
A Colonia Experience
Build A Community  
Classroom Resources
Press Room

Discussion Questions

Grade Levels: 7-12

Overview: Students will discuss poverty in the United States and learn how one of the poorest communities in the country has been able to overcome what they lacked in city services such as water, sewer and electricity. All of the answers to these questions can be found in The Forgotten Americans video.

The first 15 minutes include a definition of colonias and some detailed statistics about colonia residents; the second 15 minutes include more specific demographic information, economic data, and information about children and schools; the third 15-minute segment includes specific information about concerns that residents have such as water and sewer system problems, and health problems; and the last 8-minute segment provides information about how colonia communities were organized to bring about change and the results of those efforts.


The students will:

  • Use The Forgotten Americans film and the PBS Web site to find information.
  • Demonstrate reading comprehension.
  • Demonstrate media literacy skills.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to discuss and learn about another culture.

General Questions:

  • What does the word colonia mean in Spanish?
  • When were the first colonias built?
  • Colonias were initially built for whom?
  • How many colonias are there in the United States?
  • Name the three states that have colonias?
  • What state has the highest number of farm workers?
  • Approximately how many people live in colonias along the Mexico-United States border?
  • What is one of the fastest growing areas in the United States?
  • How did NAFTA cause the growth between the Mexico and Texas border?
  • What state has the most colonias?
  • How do developers start a colonia?
  • Why have colonia residents had trouble proving ownership even though they had a "contract for deed" arrangement with developers?
  • What do developers say they will provide for colonia residents?
  • Why do people live in colonias?
  • What caused the growth of colonias?
  • What other areas of the United States can be compared to colonias?

Questions About Conditions in Colonias:

  • What is the average yearly income of a colonia family?
  • Where do migrant workers find work and what do they do?
  • What percentage of colonia residents are migrant workers?
  • How high is the unemployment rate in South Texas?
  • With what materials are most colonia houses constructed?
  • How many rooms does a colonia house start with?
  • How many years does it take for a colonia residents to build their dream home?
  • What types of land are colonias located on and how does that affect the quality of living?
  • What percentages of colonias are located in a floodplain?
  • What are the hazards of living in a floodplain?
  • What utility services are lacking in colonias and why?
  • What utilities do colonias’ residents share?
  • Why does one colonia resident have to change his bathroom fixtures every two years?
  • What is an outhouse?
  • What are some of the dangers of having an outhouse?
  • What are some of the names that developers give to colonias?
  • What are some of the difficulties experienced by residents of Green Valley Farms, Sparks, and Sunny Skies?
  • Name one of the largest colonias in South Texas? How many residents live there?



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