When I tell people in New York that I am from South Texas, it’s usually apparent that they have no idea what that means, or how it sets me apart, other than I might be a Republican (I’m not), I might have had some good Tex-Mex in my time (yes, certainly) and I probably knew who Selena was before she died and was played by J. Lo in a movie (yes).
I also have grown up around colonias, which the New York Times wrote about today. “Colonias” is a nice word for South Texas shanty towns. They are mostly along the border, but, in fact, they are everywhere in South Texas. Growing up in Corpus Christi I knew lots of poor people, but my closest encounter with true colonia residents was after college, as a local newspaper reporter covering medical and health issues. From time to time, I needed to visit people who lived either in a colonia, or one step up (a home with indoor plumbing and electricity, but with residents too poor to afford those services). It was not hard to see how poverty exacerbated preventable, treatable health conditions; I won’t ever forget a woman I met who was dying of cervical cancer.
At any rate, I found the timing of the NYT article interesting; just last night, I was thinking of colonia residents while I watched “60 Minutes,” which aired a report on Nicholas Negroponte, a wealthy technology guru who has started a program called “One Laptop Per Child.” Children in poor countries — not the U.S. — will be provided with a durable, cheap but highly capable laptop in order “to ensure that all school-aged children in the developing world are able to engage effectively with their own personal laptop, networked to the world, so that they, their families and their communities can openly learn and learn about learning.”
OK, fine. I’m all for children learning, especially poor children. But the program ended on a sour note for me. The reporter turned to the camera, and said, “Would you like to get your child one of these new laptops? Negroponte says they will be for sale soon, but you’ll have to buy two: One for your kid, and one for a kid in a poor country.”
What about the poor kids in our country? Don’t they deserve free laptops, too?