Childhood Influences on Hideyoshi and Ddol Bok

Mother with children

Mother with children

In most western cultures today, a child’s only job is to play and learn about the world around him. However, this is not the case in the epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, and in a number of episodes of the Korean television drama, Tree with Deep Roots. In both of these mediums, one can identify the need for discipline and respect within the family or community.

Hideyoshi, the main character in the novel, and Ddol Bok, an important character in the Korean television series, both grow up to be respectable soldiers. And yet, due to their impulsivity as children, it is a surprise to everyone when they succeed as adults. Their success later in life is a direct result of the influence their parents have had on them.

Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa

Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa


The epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, explicitly shows how a young Hideyoshi who, while living in Japan during the feudal era, is thought to be an ungrateful and troublesome child. Because, in Japanese culture, it is the duty of the sons to continue the family lineage in a proper way, the young Hideyoshi worries his parents (Kumagai 138). Those who know him call him “monkey,” an animal often thought to be of a mischievous nature, consistently see him as that: a child up to no good (Yoshikawa 2). And, at first, he lives up to his name. In the beginning of the novel, Hideyoshi is constantly getting in trouble whether it be for fighting with his sister or getting fired from a job. However, a change slowly comes over Hideyoshi, and it is because of the parental figures in his life that he is able to change.

One man who is very important to Hideyoshi is his father, Yaemon; and therefore it is no surprise that he is part of the reason for Hideyoshi’s success as an adult. Yaemon is described as a man who was once a low-ranking samurai, or a “foot soldier.” Though he was not a samurai, or a high-ranking one for long, due to an injury that left him crippled. Hideyoshi looked up to his father immensely. Despite his discourteous actions toward his mother and sister, he always respects his father, addressing him as “sir” (Yoshikawa 9). As a young six-year-old boy, he wants to grow up to be a samurai like his father. Hideyoshi dreams of becoming a samurai when he grows up and his father shares this dream: “Hiyoshi was his only son, and Yaemon rested impossible hopes in him” (Yoshikawa 10). It is this influence from his father that helps Hideyoshi to grow up to be the respected samurai he was. However, while his father encourages him, allowing him to play with a sword, Hideyoshi’s fervor worries his mother.

Hideyoshi’s mother, Onaka, has helped Hideyoshi to recognize the importance of family later in his life. While she believes her son can help to restore the family name, does not wish for Hideyoshi to follow in the footsteps of his father: “No matter what my husband says, Hiyoshi is not going to become a samurai, she resolved” (Yoshikawa 7). But because her authority in the house decreases not only as Hideyoshi grows older but also when she remarries, he does not honor her wishes. As a child, Hideyoshi received numerous beatings from his stepfather. One time, “Hiyoshi’s mother tried to stop him,” but Hideyoshi’s stepfather, Chikuami, simply yelled at her and she began to cry (Yoshikawa 13). Because Hideyoshi’s mother was unable to protect him as a child, he feels the need to protect her when he grows up, asking his wife to take of Onaka and insisting that Onaka move to live closer to him.

The last parental figure that influences Hideyoshi when he grows up is his stepfather, and the way he does so is in direct relation to Hideyoshi’s strong work ethic. Even though, Hideyoshi’s mother remarries after his father dies, in Japanese culture that does not mean the two have a new family (Isono 39). Hideyoshi’s dislike for his stepfather is clear, and, in the text, it is frequently mentioned that Chikuami drinks a lot, “Chikuami had grown tired of trying to wipe out their poverty. He sat around drinking sake,” (Yoshikawa 20). His stepfather’s drinking has so much of a influence on Hideyoshi that when he becomes an adult and begins drinking sake himself, he is constantly wary of how much he drinks for fear of turning into his stepfather. Chikuami, however, also helps to teach Hideyoshi to work hard, “Chikuami drove Hiyoshi hard. But after being sent home from the temple, he worked hard, as if he had come back a different person” (Yoshikawa 21). This work ethic can later be seen in Hideyoshi when he rises through the ranks under Nobunaga and eventually takes control himself.

Ddol Bok, a character in the television series, Tree with Deep Roots, can be described as an impulsive and undisciplined child, similarly to a young Hideyoshi. In terms of family in Korea, sons have been thought to bring good fortune (Chin 54). However, Ddol Bok’s impulsivity as seen through his interactions with the adults and other children in his life, lead many in his life to believe otherwise. Despite a lack of belief in Ddol Bok, when we meet the grown up Ddol Bok, who now goes by Chae-Yoon, we see that he has since learned to control those impulses and think rationally. Like Hideyoshi, this change is a result of parental influence.

Ddol Bok interrogating another child

Ddol Bok interrogating another child

Ddol Bok’s preference for impulsivity is apparent the first time we meet him. In episode one, he is beating a child much bigger than himself (Yoo 1). Immediately, as viewers, we wonder what happened to spur this attack. While we do not receive the answer to our question, we are able to assume that despite Ddol Bok’s size, the other children are afraid of him mostly due to their unwillingness to intervene and the larger boy’s inability to fight back. We then find out that the reason Ddol Bok is attacking the larger boy is to learn who made fun of his father (Yoo 1). While we are thrown into the middle of the scene rather than starting as the beginning, based on Ddol Bok’s aggressiveness, we can assume that he did not ask the other kids respectfully first and instead immediately resorted to aggressive means, showing his impulsivity. Ddol Bok’s “act first, think later” attitude can even been seen in his interactions with the adults in his life.

Ddol Bok is fiercely protective of his family, as seen in his reaction to hearing someone made fun of his father. Despite his inability to control himself, his protectiveness can be tied to his success as a soldier later in life. In a scene in episode one, we meet Ddol Bok’s father who is being picked on by the other slaves. Ddol Bok rushes in and immediately begins beating the man who was putting makeup on his father, tackling him to the ground and punching him repeatedly, even though the man is clearly many years Ddol Bok’s senior (Yoo 1). Though the man was wrong to make fun of Ddol Bok’s father, Ddol Bok shows his impulsivity by storming into the scene and attacking the man without asking any questions. When the fight is broken up by a master, who demands an explanation, Ddol Bok shows restraint for the first time and is able to properly explain why he was beating the other man (Yoo 1). However, that restraint does not last, for one wrong comment from the man who put makeup on his father and Ddol Bok is once again attacking him, showing his impulsivity. Despite Ddol Bok’s lack of restraint as a child, as viewers, we witness an clear change in him as an adult due to his father’s influence.

In the first episode of the television series,we see Ddol Bok’s change from impulsive child to calculating adult. We quickly learn that Ddol Bok, or Chae-Yoon, has a desire to kill the king and is attempting to find the best way to do so (Yoo 1). In one scene, we witness Chae-Yoon come across the king in what appears to be a stroke of luck. Based on what we know of the young Ddol Bok, it would not have been surprising to see Chae-Yoon attack the king and strike him down. However, Chae-Yoon stops and thinks about the probability of his success, commenting how he’d have an 80 percent chance of success, or 70, and so on, ultimately concluding that he would be unable to kill the king in that instant due to the arrival of his guard (Yoo 1). This moment of reflection contrasts what we have seen of Ddol Bok as a child. The reason for this moment of reflection is not only because he knows he will only get one chance to get revenge for his father, but also because he sought a master to teach him how to fight. Chae-Yoon deeply respects this master and desires to use his teachings properly; in other words he does not wish to mess up when he kills the king.  The clip below shows how Chae-Yoon does not act on impulse, but rather takes time to think about his actions.

Both Hideyoshi and Ddol Bok could be described as impulsive and troublesome children. However, they grow up to be successful. The reason for their success is because of the adults in their lives, such as Yaemon, Onaka, Chikuami, Ddol Bok’s father, and Ddol Bok’s master. Whether these adults served as an example of who the children wanted to become or of who they didn’t want to become, or even a reminder of their goals in life, each of them greatly influenced the young Hideyoshi and Chae-Yoon.




Chin, Meejung, et al. “Family Policy in South Korea: Development, Current Status, and Challenges.” Journal of Child and Family Studies (2012): 53-64.
Isono, Fujiko. “The Family and Women in Japan.” The Sociological Review (2011): 39-54.
Kumagai, Fumie. “Families in Japan: Beliefs and Realities.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 12.1 (1995): 135-163.
“Episode 1.” Tree with Deep Roots. Dir. Jang Tae Yoo. 2011.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. New York: Kodansha, 2012.


Helping Future Generations


Child Eating McDonalds, Unattributed

This photograph emphasizes the common stereotype that fast food is causing obesity in American children. This image displays two young boys, who are overweight eating McDonalds.   While obesity rates are growing in the U.S, educating American children in school could help instill healthy eating habits and improve society’s health.

As obesity has transformed from a problem to an epidemic in the United States, and prevention appears to be the most effective solution, future obesity rates could be reduced by implementing programs at schools that focus on promoting the importance of nutrition and fitness in younger generations.

Publicizing information about nutrition and fitness in school environments would be beneficial. School environments have become a place that promotes physical inactivity and increased consumption of unhealthy food.  “Focusing on this environment will help increase awareness to children at a young age in order for them to stay informed of the importance of nutrition and exercise” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  It would further educate students on current obesity-related problems, encouraging them to make healthy lifestyle choices. If young children are exposed to issues on obesity and are aware of the importance of remaining healthy, future obesity rates are predicted to decrease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  In order for school programs to be most effective, a focus must be placed on prevention.  Despite the improvements that still need to be made, several schools around the country are beginning to take action.

This school in particular has already seen compelling improvements in their students’ health.  The principal has made an active effort to set aside time each day to focus on the children’s fitness and nutrition. These two factors have been proven to be advantageous in preventing obesity. Because of the progress this school has made, they have earned national recognition. Programs similar to this one could be beneficial in other schools around the country. It has the potential to help prevent obesity rates from further perpetuating. Due to the fact that students spend a large amount of time at school, school environments affect the way children develop habits around healthy lifestyle choices.

“The school food environment has the potential to have a large impact on children’s and adolescents’ diets because they consume a substantial proportion (between 19 and 50 percent) of their total daily calories at school” (Story, Nanney, and Schwatz  73).  Keeping this in consideration, children do not have their parents there to monitor what they eat while at school. Despite the fact that parents may try to teach their children to make healthy eating choices, children are often inclined to follow their peers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  If unhealthy food choices are easily accessible, commonly consumed, and cheap in nature, it is likely students will take advantage of the unhealthy options due to the convenience and cost.

School food choices can be split into two different sections: federal lunch and breakfast programs, and foods and beverages sold outside the formal meal plan, such as those in vending machines. The latter of the two sections is commonly known as competitive foods because they compete with the nutritionally regulated school programs. A direct correlation has been recognized between competitive foods and obese students; the more competitive foods readily available results in a higher number of overweight students.  “33 percent of elementary schools, 71 percent of middle schools, and 89 percent of high schools had a vending machine, school store, canteen, or snack bar where students could purchase food or beverages” (Story, Nanney, and Schwatz 73). Although eliminating competitive food completely has previously resulted in complications, a high percentage of parents believe schools in particular must find alternative solutions that improve the health of their children.

An experiment was conducted that found parents cited schools more often than health care providers. These parents believe it is the schools responsibility to reduce obesity. “Up to 65% of parents feel schools should play a major role in efforts to curb obesity. The majority of US children are schooled outside the home, thus the education system provides an established infrastructure for targeted implementation of childhood public health interventions. Schools offer access to children, the facilities requisite for classroom or physical education interventions, and the personnel capable of being involved in such efforts” (Kropski, Keckley and Jenson) The ideal school based prevention program would reduce obesity rates in future generations by facilitating permanent improvements in nutrition and fitness. Prevention has shown to be the most cost effective and efficient option; this makes it evident that prevention programs have the most potential to improve obesity rates in children and future generations (Kropski, Keckley and Jenson).

Obesity is continuing to grow at an uncontrollable rate in the U.S. Implementing prevention programs in schools that educate young students of the importance of nutrition and fitness has the potential to decrease future obesity rates. These programs alone may not fully fix the rising issue of obesity, but it is a start.  “While the schools alone cannot solve the childhood obesity epidemic, it also is unlikely that childhood obesity rates can be reversed without strong school-based policies and programs to support healthy eating and physical activity” (Story, Nanney, and Schwatz 72). As the stereotype of the “lazy Americans” is continuously perpetuated, it seems evident that obesity needs to be addressed before the quality of life for millions of Americans needlessly declines.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and Overweight. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

Kropski, Jonathan,  Paul Keckley, and Gordon Jensen.  “School-based Obesity Prevention Programs: An Evidence-based Review” Wiley Online Library: Obesity A Research Journal 16.5 (2008): 1009-1018. Web 20 Oct. 2013.

Story, Mary, Marilyn Nanney, and  Marlene Schwatz. “Schools and Obesity Prevention: Creating School Environments and Policies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity.” Milbank Quarterly 87.1 (2009): 71-100. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

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A Nightmare of a Child.

Children from the Nightmare Before Christmas. 1993.

Children from the Nightmare Before Christmas. Tim Burton, 1993.

Tim Burton depicts his idea of children on Halloween night as being evil and mischievous.

This image is of three children. The characters are animated, so it is not completely clear at first that they are wearing masks. Upon further inspection, it can be collected that they are in fact wearing halloween costumes and at least one of them has already collected a piece of halloween-colored candy. From left to right, the children dress as a devil, a skeleton, and a witch. All three choices of costumes are meant to be scary, and all three costumes include masks which cover the whole face except for the eyes. We look down on the children from the perspective of a taller person, to better analyze their character, just as we do to trick-or-treater’s on Halloween.

There are various ways in which Burton makes it visually clear that these children are maniacal and not to be trusted. First, all the children are wearing masks, in order to protect their personal identity. This also provides the opportunity for them to hide their real expressions and makes it easier for them to lie or cheat. Both the devil and the skeleton have permanent smiles which creates an air of unease and mystery. The two masks are similar in that their facial expressions are smiling and happy, showing dissimilarity to their scary costume. 

Of the boys on the left, one’s eyes are not even visible, therefore making it more unclear what his intentions are. The eyes of the middle child are shifty and give the sense of being up to no good. The child dressed as a devil is stroking his chin in thought, as the middle child glances over at him with his terrifying grin. This is a clear sign from Burton that there is the beginning of a diabolical plan being dreamt up by the duo.

Meanwhile, the girl on the right is the only one who is making direct eye contact with the audience, she is the tallest of the trio, so it is safe to assume that she is the oldest and therefore holds the most authority. Her mask sports a permanent scowl, she holds her arms crossed and is turned slightly away, seemingly sizing us up in an intimidating manner. Her mask matches her body language, setting the tone for her personality which we can presume is bossy and mean.

One more thing which makes clear that Burton presumes the worst of children, specifically on Halloween, is the presence of candy in the hand of the center child. The addition of a lollipop suggests that sugar acts as the fuel which keeps the kids going on Halloween, acting as crazy and mischievous as ever.

It is plain to see that Burton created these children to seem especially evil and threatening despite their small stature.

The Nightmare Before Christmas. Dir. Burton, Tim. Touchstone Pictures, 1993. Film.

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Childhood Obesity: Who’s to Blame?


More and more children are becoming obese… What’s the reason?

The spike in weight gain that the current generation of children is experiencing is the fault of parents because they influence what their children eat, how often they exercise, and what values they have.

The life expectancy of each consecutive generation has been steadily climbing upward, until now. In some areas, up to a third of children are obese and the majority of them will grow into obese adults, which will lead to younger deaths. But do we blame our current society for making it easy to be inactive or making unhealthy food also the cheapest, most convenient food? No. Parents are those who should care the most about their child’s quality of life and life expectancy but recent studies show how detrimental parent’s actions can be to their children’s health.

Obesity in a child is directly linked to how he was raised because from a child’s first breath to the moment he reaches independence, parents are responsible for developing his eating habits. It is important to begin fostering proper nutrition early because people develop their food preferences and their general patterns of eating early on in childhood. Children are more likely to eat foods that they are exposed repeatedly early on in life (Lindsay 171). Parents need to realize that the foods and drinks their children are exposed to will remain embedded in their subconscious and affect their likelihood of being healthy.


Monitoring food choices is not only important in the first few years but parents also have the responsibility of maintaining a healthy household until the child leaves the nest. In order to prevent weight gain, parents should limit the times they go out to dinner or order fast food and pizza. Unhealthy food should be limited and healthy low calorie snacks should be made readily available to kids of all ages. When kids come to the age where they have to eat meals at school, parents can pack them a healthy nutritious lunch rather than the convenient route of handing them 5 dollars and hoping they don’t spend it all on cookies.

Similarly to their responsibility to foster good nutrition, parents need to promote physical activity in their child’s life. Some may assume that it is part of the child’s personality, their natural likes and dislikes, if they enjoy being active. This is proven false by studies that show children are more likely to be active if their parents are (O’dea 300). Young children don’t know what exercise is or how to be active so they are fully relying on the responsible adults in their lives to promote safe opportunities for physical activity (Hills 54).


Parents who are active are more likely to have kids that are active as well.

If physical activity doesn’t seem like a factor in preventing obesity, read into the many studies that prove “physical activity is associated with lowering risks of accelerated weight gain and excess adiposity among preschool aged children” (Lindsay 172). Having a proven, studied method of prevention for a disease and then not utilizing it to its fullest potential is a reason that their children are growing wider. If exercise is a normal part of a child’s life, they will forever keep making good choices to protect that body. Parents however are main promoters of exercise and if they fail to do so, their children will have a greater risk of becoming obese.

In addition to simply enforcing how to eat and exercise, parents must also be role models in every aspect of health. One study showed that the likeliness that a child would be active increased when both of his parents were also active (Lindsay 172). When a whole family becomes involved in a fitness program, the changes are easier to make because the child will have endless outlets of support to turn to (Hills 154). Parents and older role models can greatly impact the life decisions that a child makes, and proven by studies, children will have a greater desire to be active if their role models are too.


Parents use television and video games as free babysitters.

Parents who are inactive can have the same effect. When parents watch two or more hours of TV a day, their children are twice as likely to be inactive than in families where parents make watching TV a special treat (Lindsay 173). Parents shouldn’t let children have TV’s in their bedrooms, however the majority of parents see TV as a free babysitter and a way to easily entertain their children with little effort so many are putting TV’s in their children’s rooms. About 68% of children have a television in their bedroom (Lindsay 174). Excessive TV viewing has been linked to weight gain so parents should be enforcing rules that limit screen time among their children.

Nutritionally, parents should practice what they preach in order for their children to latch on to the healthy behaviors they need to avoid becoming obese. A child will eat what and how their parents eat.

If a child notices that his dad grabs a snack every time he sits down in front of the TV, the child will do the same probably for his whole life. If a child notices that his parents eat heaping portions of “bad” foods, the child will know that this is normal and he will try to do the same to be like his parents.

Ultimately, if parents can establish healthy eating habits and a love for physical activity while also practicing the rules they preach, childhood obesity can be avoided. Hopefully parents will become enlightened with the knowledge that it is their fault that their children are becoming obese and once they accept that, they can take the necessary measures to reverse the epidemic and prevent it from happening again.

Works Cited:

Hills, Andrew (Editor), Neil King (Editor) and Nuala Byrne (Editor). Children, Obesity and Exercise. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Lindsay, Ana C. “The Role of Parents in Preventing Childhood Obesity”. The Future of Children, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 169-186. Princeton University Spring, 2006. Web. 30 Oct. 2012.

O’dea, Jennifer (Editor), and Michael Eriksen (Editor). Childhood Obesity Prevention: International Research, Controversies and Interventions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.


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Poverty in the South: Government Attention Needed

A broken down shack of a family in the South in Brownsville Texas. (2012)

A broken down shack of a family in the South in Brownsville Texas. (2012)

In the U.S. poverty in the South is an ongoing problem that needs the attention of our government. The South especially is hit hard with low paying jobs and few job openings. People are unable to pay their rent, unable to provide for their family, and unable to obtain necessities.

The Poverty Threshold is a measure of poverty in a specific area based on someone’s income rate. It is important that the government understands the threshold in order to alleviate the amount of poverty in the United States. According to the 2011 ACS (American Community Association), “Poverty rate measures the percentage of people whose income fell below the poverty threshold.About 48.5 million people or 15.9 percent of the U.S. population had income below their respective poverty level” (Census 1). In The United States poverty status is measured by determining the poverty thresholds such as family size, number of children, and the age of the head of the person in the family (Census 1).

One factor of the cause of poverty is where you are located throughout the Untied States. Poverty in the south is highly concentrated in Appalachia, The Mississippi Delta, and the southern “black belt.” These conclusions, which Samantha Friedman discusses in Spatial Inequality and Poverty among American Children adds weight to the argument that “poverty is influenced geographically by local industrial arrangement and high unemployment rates” (Friedman 91). Most of the poverty in the United States is located in the south because of the location and its lack of opportunities. Unlike parts of the rest of the country, the south is very rural and is not as industrialized and city focused like other places. Poverty in the south can be alleviated if the government steps in and potentially stabilizes the inequality in the land and the opportunities that the people have access to.

Below is a video about Poverty in the South and statistics of those who are curretnly in poverty.

Many people assume that if you have multiple jobs you are able to support your family, however, many American citizens are still not making enough money to fully provide for their families. One instance of a family who struggles to survive in the south is the Castros family who lives in Las Colonias, Texas. Maria Castro is a 12 year old girl who is part of a family struggling to live comfortably in Las Colonias, Texas.” Castro explains, “There is sometimes no electricity or running water, no sewers, drainage or streetlights, and no garbage collection. Trash in Las Colonias is burned. Most are without cell phones and computers.” Medicine and resources need to be more accessible and available to families such as the Castros who are impoverished and struggle with minimum wage jobs.

Below is a typical shack in Las Colonias, Texas.


American children are affected by local area economic opportunities available to their parents. High unemployment rates and underemployment rates directly affect children’s economic deprivation.

High unemployment rates and underemployment rates directly affect children’s economic deprivation. Susan Mayer discusses the implications and trends of poverty in the anthology, Consequences of Growing up Poor. Parents’ incomes directly influence children’s outcomes in life and their morals and values are affected. Female-headed families are consistently not as stable as families with a two-parent system. Similar to Mayer’s ideas, Samantha Friedman argues, “The increase in child poverty also has to do with the family structure and whether the families are stable and are geographically in a prosperous location” Whether or not families can provide for their children, directly impacts if their children will be impoverished not only when they are young but also in the future.

This is an image of children in Las Colonias living in extreme poverty. (2012)

This is an image of children in Las Colonias living in extreme poverty. (2012)

Family structure is a very significant factor when dealing with poverty in the south. Friedman believes that if the woman is the breadwinner for the family, poverty amongst children is much higher. When a woman is a single mother trying to work multiple jobs and is still unable to provide for their family, this indicates that the government needs to step in and figure out a way to provide her with a higher income rate.

Without the help and support from the government, society will inevitably continue to suffer through low- wage jobs and will be unable to support and provide for their family. In Peter Edelman’s article “Poverty in America: Why Can’t We End It” he argues, “Without the authority, the people not only suffer economically but they also need that power to protect and guide the mass” (Edelman 2). That power is what is necessary in the south in order to create a stable and working society. In order for change to occur, the government needs to be involved in regulating and helping the poor.

Women returning from a local food shelter.

Women returning from a local food shelter.

The government needs to be more involved in helping alleviate poverty in the south in order for people to be able to afford basic necessities and provide for their families. Poverty has been an ongoing issue for many years in the south in the United States. If the South wants to see change, the government needs to interfere and provide money and other regulations for income and unemployment rates.


Edelman, Peter. “Poverty In America: Why Can’t We End It?” New York Times. The New York  Times Company, 28 July 2012. Web. 14 Sept. 2012 < in america.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all>.

Friedman, Samantha. “Spatial Inequality and Poverty among American Children.” 2nd ed. Vol. 17. N.p.: Springer, 1998. n. pag. Print

Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959-2012. 2012, Census. Web. 23 October 2012.

Quinones, John, Ben Newman, and Roxanna Sherwood. “Hidden America: ‘Forgotten Ones’  Struggle to Survive in Texas’ Barren ‘Colonias'” ABC News. ABC News Network, 25  Apr. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. < struggle-survive-texas-barren-colonias/story?

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