City (pop., 2000 est.: 550,000), capital of Baja California (Norte) state, northwestern Mexico. It lies in the Mexicali Valley, an extension of the Imperial Valley of the U.S., in northeastern Baja California. It extends across the Mexico-U.S. border to Calexico, Calif. Its name, formed from the first two syllables of Mexico and California, was chosen as a gesture of international friendship. Its economy is chiefly based on tourism and the processing and distribution of cotton, fruits, vegetables, and cereals. It is the seat of the Autonomous University of Baja California.
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Mexicali, is the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California. Mexicali is also the seat of the Municipality of Mexicali. Founded on March 14, 1903, Mexicali is situated on the U.S.-Mexico border adjacent to Calexico and is the northernmost city in Latin America, located at .
The link is emphasized by the way each city's name combines the words "Mexico" and "California." To the East of Mexicali lie the states of Arizona (USA) and Sonora (México), to the west lies the municipality of Tecate, and to the South lies the municipality of Ensenada.
Among the major Yumano groups in the region were the Cucapás, who navigated the difficult Río Colorado on reed rafts. Today Cucapá descendants inhabit a small government-protected corner of the delta near the junction of the Hardy and Colorado rivers. For the most part, the Indians work on agricultural ejidos or fish the rivers, although many have migrated to Mexicali. Few indigenous customs survived both the Spanish and Mexican eras; both the Kiliwas and the Cucapás continued to practice cremation rituals, for example, until they were banned by the Mexican government early this century.
After the Jesuits left in the 1780s, the Spanish and later the Mexicans had little to do with the northeastern corner of the Baja California peninsula, perceiving it as an untamable, flood-prone desert delta. Around the time of the U.S. Civil War, a Yale geologist, while surveying a route for the Southern Pacific Railroad, wandered into the delta and discovered what the dwindling population of Yumanos had known for centuries: the 2.5 km thick sediment was prime farming soil. The sediments extended far to the west of the river itself, accumulating in a shallow basin below the Sierra de Cucapá. All it needed was the addition of water to become an agricultural miracle.
In 1900 the U.S.-based California Land Company received permission from the Porfirio Díaz government to cut a canal through the delta's Arroyo Alamo, thus linking the dry basin with the Colorado River. To attract farmers to the area, the developers named the basin the Imperial Valley. In March 1903, the first 500 farmers arrived; by late 1904, 100,000 acres (405 km²) of valley were irrigated, with 10,000 people settled on the land and harvesting cotton, fruits, and vegetables. A collection of huts and ramadas that straddled the border was named Calexico on the U.S. side, Mexicali on the Mexican side.
Seeing that the equally fertile Valle de Mexicali lay undeveloped, another U.S. land syndicate, the Colorado River Land Company, moved in. Led by Harry Chandler, then publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the syndicate controlled some 800,000 acres (3200 km²) of northern Baja and in 1905 began constructing a Valle de Mexicali irrigation system. Instead of using Mexican labor, as the Imperial Valley developers had, Chandler imported thousands of Chinese coolies or ditch diggers.
After a major 1905 rainfall, the channel dug from Arroyo Alamo (or Rio Hardy) ended up diverting the entire outflow of the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley, taking Mexicali with it; unknowingly, the syndicate had tapped into one of the river's original routes. The Salton Sink, a dried-up remainder of the Sea of Cortez, became the Salton Sea virtually overnight. By 1907, a hundred new ponds formed where the river briefly flowed and gave more irrigation abilities for the Imperial valley on both sides of the US-Mexican border.
Neither the U.S. nor Mexico wanted to take responsibility for the growing New River created by Chandler's mistake. As both valleys became increasingly inundated, the Southern Pacific Railroad stepped in and, to protect its tracks, dumped a sufficient amount of rock into the river to head the Colorado back into the Cortez, leaving a canal to the Valle de Mexicali. From then on, both valleys became highly productive agricultural centers.
Mexicali was born on 14 March 1903 with Manuel Vizcarra as the town's first authority and assistant judge (juez auxiliar). Mexicali is now the capital city of Baja California, the 29th state of Mexico. Shortly after the first irrigation canals were built, most of the land was bought by the Colorado River Land Company from the USA The company developed commercial crops and became almost a monopoly until it was decided to sell its land to Mexican farmers in 1936 and 1937. Previously, they gave land to European, East Indian, Arabian and Japanese farm hands instead of local Mexicans.
The Imperial Valley (in Mexico, El Valle de Mexicali or Mexicali Valley) is the agricultural heart of the state, with more than 2,000 square kilometres of irrigated land. This valley is responsible for some of the biggest crops in Mexico, including wheat and cotton. With an ensured supply of water, coming under the ground from a canal in the United States, Mexicali has become an important exporter of asparagus, broccoli, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas, peppers, radishes and tomatoes for the whole world.
Cotton became the most important crop of the Valley and it helped to develop the dressing and textile industries. In the early 1950s, the Mexicali Valley became the biggest cotton producing zone in the whole country. Production increased even more in the mid-1960s, reaching more than half a million parcels harvested in just one year.
Once considered a sleepy, neglected and troubled "border town", Mexicali has seen great potential of economic growth and improved living standards in the 1990s in part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) economic boom. Now Mexicali is progressing more than ever and is one of the fastest growing cities in the Mexican nation, especially an event to dedicate the population mark at one million on the city's 104th birthday (March 14, 2007).
The city itself had a 2005 census population of 653,046, whereas the municipality's population was 895,962. It is the 13th largest municipality in Mexico as of the Census 2005 with population estimates exceeding one million alone. The population is constantly growing due to the number of Maquiladoras in the area and migrational aspects, like seasonal labor and the constant in-and-out flow of immigrants to the U.S. or into Mexico.
In its beginnings Mexicali was an important center for cotton production for export until synthetic fabrics reduced the worldwide demand for the fiber.
Currently horticulture is the most successful agricultural activity with scallion, green onion and asparagus being among the most important crops. Cotton and wheat are still cultivated but with government price guarantees and subsidies making wheat farmer protests an annual event. There is an annual agribusiness fair in March drawing interested people from all over Mexico and the United States called Agrobaja
The current prospects for economic growth in Mexicali rely on in-bond and assembly plants, mainly for export, including companies like Sony, Selther, Daewoo, Mitsubishi, Honeywell, Paccar, Vitro, Skyworks Solutions, Cardinal Health, Bosch, Price Pfister, Gulfstream, Goodrich and Kwikset. Mexicali is also home to many food processing plants such as Nestle, Jumex, Bimbo, Coca-Cola and Sabritas.
There are joint efforts on behalf of the Baja California government and the private sector to attract more companies to Mexicali based on a cluster strategy focusing on the regions' strengths of qualified labor, abundant energy and water supplies, a pro-business environment and its location on the California border.
Mexicali is considered among the most prosperous cities in Mexico, although US tourists can observe the level of poverty in rural villages surrounding the modern, upper-middle class enclave of Mexicali proper. The North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 that eliminated most trade restrictions between the two nations offers Mexicali an economic boom in the next decade.
California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has repeatedly promoted cooperation with the project in his radio addresses.
The proximity of two new power plants is a major aide to this project, as manufacturing semiconductors requires a high-quality electricity supply. As the project grows, it is slated to receive a dedicated power plant. Further infrastructure improvements associated with Silicon Border include a new highway (under construction) and an additional border crossing.
In spite of its arid desert location Mexicali is watered through a system of aquifers in the valley. Under a 1944 water treaty the city is "...guaranteed [an] annual quantity of 1,500,000 acre-feet (1,850,234,000 cubic meters) [of water] to be delivered..." from the Colorado River. However, a proposed concrete lining in the United States on the All-American Canal would cut off billions of leaked gallons of water, which is used to irrigate onions, alfalfa, asparagus, squash and other crops in Mexicali.
On the nearby Volcano, Cerro Prieto, presides a geothermal plant, from which electrical energy is generated.
Also many residents from California, Arizona and Nevada look for medical and dental services in Mexicali, because they tend to be less expensive than those in the United States.
Mexico's drinking age of 18 (vs. 21 in the United States) makes it a common weekend destination for many high school and college aged Southern Californians who tend to stay within the Calzadas Justo Sierra, Benito Juarez and Francisco L. Montejano.
Mexicali is also home to several pharmacies marketed toward visitors from the United States. These pharmacies sell some pharmaceutical drugs without prescriptions and at much lower costs than pharmacies in the US. Many medications still require a doctor's prescription, although several accessible doctor offices are located near the border as well.
As well in the musical side, Mexicali hosts one of the most important events in Progressive Rock in the world: Baja Prog. As of the early 1990s (the first concert was held in 1997), Baja Prog has always been in the eyes of the world for being an event gathering the best music groups of the progressive rock scene. This show was created and still organized by local musician and member of the band CAST Alfonso Vidales Moreno. This massive event, gathers tourism from all over the world.
In 2004, there were 11 theaters in the city:
Mexicali also has the Baja Prog festival, a series of progressive rock concerts that take place during four consecutive days in springtime. It is hosted by CAST, a progressive rock band from Mexicali.
The Azules de Mexicali is a professional Mexican baseball team which plays in the North Sonora League, the main supporting league of the "LMP".
Mexicali young baseball players through the Little League program had played three times the Little league World Series in Williamsport, PA. USA. First time in 1985 Felix Arce Little league representing the West of United States and 2005 and 2007 the Seguro Social Little League representing Mexico.
Mexicali possesses a diversity of shopping malls, the most visited being Plaza La Cachanilla, located just a few minutes away from the US border. The mall hosts a variety of shops, which sell a wide array of things, ranging from cheap Mexican curiosities to expensive imports. The Plaza La Cachanilla also represents a common place for people to socialize, especially during summer days when the weather reaches high temperatures, many families come and spend the day inside the air conditioned mall.
Just about everything for recreation can be found in Mexicali, including pool halls, bowling alleys, traditional cantinas, car clubs, full contact strip clubs, movie theaters, museums, a zoo, a state university, a convention center, supermarkets, and fast food restaurants.
A mall called Galerias Del Valle is in the works.