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The Forgotten Americans

Filmmaker's Journal


Focus: Las Colonias
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September 15, 1999

Behind the scenes of the interviews.
We have completed filmmaking in the field.  We have captured the struggles and triumphs of colonia communities near Los Fresnos, Rio Grande City, Mission, Pharr and Brownsville, all in Texas.

We also spent a significant amount of time at the legislature tracking bills that would directly affect colonia residents, and filming colonia activists who testified in front of lawmakers about the living conditions in their homes.

We then followed many residents to their communities in the Rio Grande Valley and were able to capture a series of vignettes that truly tell the story of colonia life.

In the course of this intensive principal photography, we filmed a colonia near Brownsville called Sunny Skies that perhaps best illustrates how the county and colonia residents worked together to better their community. Sunny Skies housed 42 families who had no running water or sewer services. As in many cases, the developer skipped town without giving residents the proper title to the land.

Since the colonia was not platted and the residents did not have the proper legal papers, the water company and the county could not help the residents. It was the classic colonia nightmare. Residents recount tales of living day to day without water, sharing washing water, and pitching in to throw caliche on the road. Only one spigot, at the entrance to the colonia, serviced the families and many lived with the hope that maybe one day they would be able to connect their home to water.

After 10 years of waiting, all families in the Sunny Skies Colonias were finally connected to water last month.
It happened with the help of Cameron County, El Jardin, the Water Supply Company, Texas Rural Legal Aid and a newly formed Sunny Skies Corporation.

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