USDA undersecretary views
CHUD's colonias programs


On March 20 – 21, representatives from Texas A&M’s Center for Housing and Urban Development led a U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary on a tour of colonias near Laredo and Eagle Pass.

Nancy Montañez Johner, the undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, came to the Rio Grande Valley at the invitation of Oscar Muñoz, CHUD’s deputy director, so she and her department could meet colonias residents, assess the effectiveness of USDA’s services there, and see how they might be improved in the future. She was also interested in learning about CHUD’s Colonias Program.

“She was able to receive firsthand information from field workers, participants and elected officials, and gain new insights that will help her improve existing USDA programs under her jurisdiction,” said Muñoz.

Johner also had a chance to assess the role CHUD plays in improving the quality of life in the colonias and see the respect the program has earned from residents, local organizations, and elected officials at all levels, said Muñoz.”

Accompanying Johner on the tour were Muñoz, Jorge Vanegas, CHUD director; Tito Guerrero III, vice resident and associate provost for institutional assessment and diversity at Texas A&M; and other federal and state representatives.

Also assisting with the visit were Pete Lara, Jr., CHUD’s central region director; and Sara Buentello, CHUD program coordinator.

In Laredo, Johner and the group had lunch with CHUD promotoras, community health workers who operate in rural areas. The group also toured colonias and visited two community resource facilities that host CHUD’s programs and projects. These self-help and community resource centers, with the support from promotoras, play a critical role in the execution of CHUD’s mission to enhance the quality of life for colonias residents.

The group also met with U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, Raul Salinas, mayor of Laredo; and city and Webb county leaders.

In Eagle Pass, before touring the colonias, the group met with U.S. Congressman Ciro Rodriguez; Chad Foster, Eagle Pass mayor; and Jose “Pepe” Aranda, Maverick County judge. They also visited a residential facility for the elderly and a Maverick County food distribution site.

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USDA undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Nancy Montañez Johner was joined by CHUD representatives and government officials on tours of colonias. From left are Jorge Vanegas, Texas A&M University professor of architecture and CHUD director, Patricia Mancha, USDA office of strategic initiatives, partnerships, and outreach acting director, Chad Foster, mayor of Eagle Pass, Johner, Maverick County Judge Jose “Pepe” Aranda, Tito Guerrero III, Texas A&M Vice President  and Associate Provost for Institutional Assessment and Diversity, Oscar J. Muñoz, CHUD deputy director, and U.S. Congressman Ciro  Rodriguez.

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