[mek-si-kal-ee; Sp. me-hee-kah-lee]
Mexicali, city (1990 pop. 438,377), capital of Baja California state, NW Mexico, across the border from Calexico, Calif. Once noted chiefly as the center of a cotton- and cereal-raising area, it has experienced extensive construction of foreign-owned assembly plants called maquiladoras; the items produced in such plants include consumer electronics.

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.



In pre-Columbian times, the Río Colorado (Colorado River) delta was inhabited by a centuries-long succession of Yumano tribes. When the Spanish first stumbled upon the delta after traversing, with great difficulty, the Sonoran Desert's Camino del Diablo ("Devil's Road"), a sophisticated Río Colorado culture was cultivating squash, melons, peas, and five colors of corn: yellow, blue, white, red, and blue-white. The Native Americans also possessed an impressive knowledge of medicinal herbs and employed desert plants like mesquite and agave in a wide variety of uses. Like their neighbors the Kiliwas, the Cucapás' numbers were greatly reduced by Spanish evangelization in northwest Mexico.

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.

Building of an agricultural empire

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.

Chinatown, Mexicali

Mexicali has one of North America's largest overseas Chinese communities, the local Chinese live in La Chinesca or Chinatown in Spanish, located on Callejon Chinesca, between Avenida Reforma and Avenida Juarez. Most of the residents of Chinese-Mexican and other east Asian heritage are descendants of people who came in the late 30's to work the farmland on the valley (thus, owning it), during the rule of President Porfirio Díaz (leading to the "Asalto a las tierras" war, since no Mexican people owned land); some came on from the U.S. side to reside with family members, or some were denied US citizenship and settled down in the early 20th century. An estimated 100,000 residents have some Chinese ancestry, and Mexicali has a major concentration of Chinese Mexicans as well Mexicans of east Asian descent (see Asian Latin Americans.) Mexicali has a thriving Chinese-Mexican culinary industry in its restaurants and grocery stores, one of three major hubs of North American Chinese cooking after San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada.

Boroughs (delegaciones)

The municipality of Mexicali is divided into 1 city area and 14 administrative boroughs (delegaciones, in Spanish) of which the city of Mexicali occupies 3 beside the city area. These boroughs offer administrative services such as urban planning, civil registry, inspection, verification, public works and community development and are served by a Delegado Municipal (Municipal Delegate).


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.

Silicon Border

Silicon Border is a high-tech manufacturing park currently under construction near the border with California. The aim of the manufacturing park is to capitalize on Mexicali's proximity to Silicon Valley to lure some of the lucrative semiconductor manufacturing market to Mexico. The Mexican Federal and Baja California governments have committed over $2 million to the project. Additionally, former President Vicente Fox offered 10 years of tax-free status to any firms that locate in the park and invest $1 billion or more. The cost of a single semiconductor manufacturing plant can top $1.5 billion.

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.

Natural resources

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.


Mexicali also relies on tourism as a medium revenue, and visitors cross by foot or car from Calexico in the United States every day. Restaurants and taco stands, pharmacies, bars and dance clubs are part of the draw for the city's tourists. Many shops and stalls selling Mexican crafts and souvenirs are also located in walking distance from the border.

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.

Air travel

The city is linked to other Mexican cities by the Mexicali International Airport, which serve the city itself and the surrounding towns.


The residents of Mexicali (Mexicalenses) call themselves "Cachanillas" (due to a local plant, the cachanilla, used by the Cucapah tribe to build shacks) and are from culturally diverse backgrounds, and it is among the most ethnically diverse cities in Mexico, with people from various Native American, European, African, (east) Asian, and Middle Eastern origins.

In 2004, there were 11 theaters in the city:

  1. Teatro del Estado.

  1. Teatro al Aire Libre del Centro Comunitario Estudiantil.
  2. Teatro de Casa de Cultura de Mexicali. Idem.
  3. Teatro del CREA
  4. Teatro Universitario de Mexicali, it is mainly used for UABC ceremonies and occasionally for plays.
  5. Teatro al Aire Libre de Rectoría
  6. Teatro del Seguro Social that was inaugurated in the 1970s.
  7. Teatro al aire libre del Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior CETYS unveiled on September 2006.
  8. Teatro del Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior CETYS.
  9. IMAX Teatro in The Sol del Niño Museum
  10. Centro Estatal de las Artes with multiple teather and convention center

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.


Mexicali has many sites where people from all over the country visit, as well as visitors from United States and Canada, such as the bullfighting arena, Plaza Calafia, where many bullfights ("corridas") are organized along the year. Mexicali has also a professional 18-hole Golf Course "Club Campestre" where both national and international championships take place regularly. Beside the amateur leagues, there are a few professional sport teams which plays in different leagues.


Mexicali's basketball team is the Soles de Mexicali that plays in the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional (LNBP) of Mexico. They were the champions of the LNBP (2006-2007) season. Their stadium is the "Auditorio del Estado" located in the "Ciudad Deportiva de Mexicali".

Mexicali is also home to a 2007 Pacific Coast Basketball Circuit franchise, the Calor de Mexicali (The Mexicali Heat). Their stadium is the "Gimnasio de Mexicali" located in the "Avenida Reforma".

Mexicali is also home to a 2006 American Basketball Association franchise, the Centinelas de Mexicali (The Sentinels).


The "Ciudad Deportiva" also houses a football stadium where the Cachanillas de Mexicali, a Mexican third division football team plays.

The home of the Pioneros del Valle, also a Mexican third division football team, is located in the Mexicali Valley, near to Ciudad Guadalupe Victoria.


In addition, "Ciudad Deportiva" is the location of the "CasasGeo" stadium where the professional baseball team "Águilas de Mexicali" plays every season. The Águilas de Mexicali is a Mexican baseball team playing for the Liga Mexicana del Pacífico in Mexicali, Baja California. The team was founded in October 14, 1976. They have won the championship three times, 1985-1986 (coach Benjamin Reyes), in 1988-1989 (coach Dave Machemer), in 1998-1999 (coach Francisco Estrada). The team also won the 1986 Caribbean Series, played in Venezuela. The "Águilas de Mexicali" were formed in 1976 and have been a member of the Mexican Pacific League since. They are located in the border city of Mexicali, Baja California and have won three LMP pennets. Their brightest moment came when they won the 1986 Caribbean Series, only becoming the second Mexican team to take the title.

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.

American football

The team plays in the newly-built convention center, while local businessmen negotiate a deal for an American football team with the af2 under ownership of the Arena Football League in 2008. . The owners announced they made a new team, the Mexicali Borregos Salvajes but hasn't officially joined af2 but could play in the Mexican Pro American Football League in games against teams from across 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.


Mexicali is well known for its extreme weather. The highest temperature recorded in Mexicali was 52°C (about 125°F) in July 1995. Average July highs hover around 42°C (107°F). On the other hand, winter normals are quite low, with average January lows of 5°C (41°F) and a record low of -8°C (18°F) recorded in January 1949. The city received snow only once in recorded history, on December 1932.

Notable residents

Sister cities

External links



  • Manuel Vizcarra, Mexican judge, founded the city of Mexicali, Baja California on March 14, 1903
  • Rudolph Valentino, Italian silent era motion picture Hollywood actor, married Natacha Rambova in Mexicali, Mexico on May 13, 1922, his second marriage
  • Barbara Stanwyck, US film and television actress, lead role in "Mexicali Rose" film during 1929
  • Gene Autry, US performer, "Mexicali Rose" one of his popular songs
  • Dolores del Rio, Mexican film actress, one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, a sex siren, but struggled against the "Mexicali Rose" image, and suffered from discrimination.
  • Mexicali Shmoes, 1959 Looney Tunes cartoon directed by Friz Freleng, produced by John W. Barton of Warner Bros., has Jose and Manuel chasing Speedy Gonzales, and introduces Slowpoke Rodriguez, Speedy's cousin.
  • The Coasters, US doo wop and early rock and roll group, evolving from The Robins, song "Down in Mexico (in a little town called Mexicali)" in The Very Best of the Coasters
  • Grateful Dead, US psychedelia-influenced rock band, song "Mexicali Blues" in Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead
  • Aztec Brewing Company started in Mexicali before moving to San Diego, California.
  • La Cronica One of Mexicali's online newspapers (in Spanish).
  • La Voz De la Frontera Another of Mexicali's online newspapers (also in Spanish).
  • Radio stations from Mexicali on the Internet.


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