El Centro is a city in and county seat of Imperial County, the largest city in the Imperial Valley, east anchor of the Southern California Border Region, and the core urban area and principal city of the El Centro metropolitan area which encompasses all of Imperial County. El Centro is also the largest American city to lie entirely below sea level (-50 feet). The city, located in the far southeastern corner of California, is near the major Southern California cities of San Diego and Los Angeles to its west, Phoenix and Tucson to its east, as well as the Mexican city of Mexicali to its south.
Founded in 1906, W. F. Holt and C.A. Barker purchased the land on which El Centro was eventually built for about $40 an acre and invested $100,000 in improvements. As one historian of Valley life put it, "in only five months El Centro went from a barley field to a city...". It is home to retail, transportation, wholesale, and agricultural industries. There are also two international border crossings nearby for commercial and noncommercial vehicles. The city's population was 42,598 at the 2010 census, up from 37,835 in 2000.