Mexicali (pronounced ) is the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California, seat of the Municipality of Mexicali, and 2nd largest city in Baja California after Tijuana. The City of Mexicali has a population of 689,775, according to the 2010 census, while the population of the entire metropolitan area (including the municipality) reaches 996,826.
The city maintains a highly educated and skilled populace. Its standard of living is one of the highest in Mexico. As the city has modernized and become a cosmopolitan and international center in a desert region, it has maintained a sizable middle class. In Mexico, it is recognized for its substantial investment in education as well as its low unemployment levels.
Mexicali's economy was historically based on agricultural products, and to this day it remains a large sector of the economy. As time has progressed however, its economy has gradually gone from being agriculturally based to industrially based. Companies such as Mitsubishi, Autolite, Nestle, Coca Cola and Goodrich Corporation have built plants in the city and its metropolitan area. Silicon Border, a large industrial park that is a high tech manufacturing area, is located here as well. Its goal is to become a global center for semiconductor manufacturing. Mexicali's proximity to the United States has made the city a popular tourist destination with Americans from Arizona, California, and Nevada. The city is a well known sports city with many ball sports being popular in the region.
Founded on March 14, 1903, Mexicali is situated on the U.S.-Mexico border adjacent to its sister city Calexico, California, with which it forms a metropolitan region, Calexico-Mexicali. Mexicali also has the distinction of being the northernmost city in Latin America.
The Spanish arrived in the area after crossing the Sonora Desert's "Camino del Diablo" or Devil's Road. This led to the evangelization of the area by Catholic missionaries and also the population reduction of the native peoples. Today, indigenous Cocopah people still inhabit a small government-protected corner of the delta near the junction of the Hardy and Colorado rivers. These people mostly work on agricultural ejidos or fish the rivers, although many have migrated to Mexicali.
The early European presence in this area was limited to Anza's and subsequent Spanish expeditions across the Colorado Desert and subsequent travelers on the Sonora Road opened by them. Also the presence of the Jesuits who attempted to establish a mission at what is now Fort Yuma. They left after a revolt by the Yuma in 1781. After this, the Spanish had little to do with the northeastern corner of the Baja California peninsula, perceiving it as an untamable, flood-prone desert delta. Later in the 1820s, the Mexican authorities reopened the Sonora Road, peaceful relations being restored with the Yuma.
The Sonora Road provided a route for American fur trappers, and later American troops of Kearny and Cooke passing through the area during the Mexican American War. The annexation of most of Alta California soon was followed by the California Gold Rush that saw a flood of gold seekers from Mexico on the Sonora Road, especially from Sonora, and from the United States via the Southern Immigrant Trail. Herds of cattle and sheep were driven into California across this desert trail also.
This route became a U. S. Mail and stagecoach route in 1857 when the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line and in 1858 Butterfield Overland Mail route passed along the Alamo and New Rivers and established stations there including its New River Station in the vicinity of a Laguna along the New River in what is now Colonia Hidalgo, Mexicali in 1858. This mail route remained in use until 1877 when the Southern Pacific Railroad came to Yuma making it obsolete.
Later 19th century
In the mid-19th century, a geologist working for the Southern Pacific Railroad came to the delta area, discovering what the native Yumans had known for centuries: that the thick river sediment deposits made the area prime farming land. These sediments extended far to the west of the river itself, accumulating in a shallow basin below the Sierra de Cucapá. However, from this time period until the 1880s, the area was almost completely unpopulated, mostly due to its climate. In 1888, the federal government granted a large part of northern Baja state, including Mexicali, to Guillermo Andrade, with the purpose of colonizing the area on the recently created border with the United States. However, around 1900, the only area with any real population, aside from the Cocopah, were concentrated in Los Algodones, to the east of Mexicali.
In 1900, the U.S.-based California Development Company received permission from the Díaz government to cut a canal through the delta's Arroyo Alamo, to link the dry basin with the Colorado River. To attract farmers to the area, the developers named it "The Imperial Valley". In 1903, the first 500 farmers arrived; by late 1904, 405 km² (100,000 acres) of valley were irrigated, with 10,000 people settled on the land harvesting cotton, fruits, and vegetables. The concentration of small housing units that straddled the border was called Calexico on the U.S. side, Mexicali on the Mexican side. Led by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, one company controlled 800,000 hectares of land in northern Baja California by 1905, and began to construct the irrigation system for this valley. However, instead of using Mexican labor to dig the ditches, Chandler brought in thousands of Chinese laborers. Mexicali became culturally more Chinese than Mexican.
The Mexican side was named Mexicali (a portmanteau composed of "Mexico" and "California") by Coronel Agustín Sanginéz. Initially the area belonged to the municipality of Ensenada. The town of Mexicali was officially created on 14 March 1903 when Manuel Vizcarra was named as the town's first authority and assistant judge (juez auxiliar). On January 29, 1911, Mexicali was briefly "liberated" by the Liberal Party of Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. Mayor Baltazar Aviléz declared the municipality of Mexicali on November 4, 1914 and called for elections to create the first ayuntamiento or district council, which was then headed by Francisco L. Montejano.
Agricultural production continued to increase during the 20th century. Cotton became the most important crop and with it developed the textile industry. In the early 1950s, the Mexicali Valley became the biggest cotton-producing zone in the whole country and in the 1960s, production reached more than half a million parcels a year. Currently, the valley still is one of Mexico's most productive agricultural regions, mostly producing wheat, cotton and vegetables. The city of Mexicali is one of Mexico's most important exporter of asparagus, broccoli, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas, peppers, radishes and tomatoes to the world.
The government of the municipality was reorganized when the Baja California territory became the 29th state in 1953.
Today Mexicali is an important center for industrial production in the automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, metallurgical, and health services as well as manufacturing and exporting products to various countries.
The 2010 Baja California earthquake occurred at 15:40:40 local time (UTC-8), Sunday, April 4, 2010, reaching a magnitude of 7.2. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake struck 60 km south-southeast of Mexicali. The quake was felt strongly in the northern regions of Baja California and the United States-Mexico border, and was also felt in western cities such as Tijuana, San Diego, Los Angeles and parts of Arizona.