Mexicali is the capital and the largest city of the state of Baja California, Mexico. It’s located approximately 130 miles east of San Diego, California and is a US/Mexico border town with its sister city, Calexico, California.
Historically, Mexicali's economy has been based in growing agricultural products. To this day, agriculture remains a large sector in the economy, but as time has progressed, Mexicali has developed an economic base more heavily rooted in the industrial sector. Mexicali is an important center for industrial production in the automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, metallurgical, and health services sectors. Companies such as Mitsubishi, Honeywell, Nestle, Coca Cola and Goodrich Corporation all have built plants in the city and its metropolitan area.
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 and by late 1904, 100,000 acres of valley were irrigated, with 10,000 people settled on the land harvesting cotton, fruits, and vegetables. Farming communities on the border were called Calexico on the U.S. side, and Mexicali on the Mexican side. The Mexican side was named Mexicali by Coronel Agustín Sanginéz and it was officially created on March 14, 1903 when Manuel Vizcarra was named as the town's first authority and assistant judge.
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 country and in the 1960s, production reached more than half a million parcels a year. Currently, the valley is still 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 exporters of asparagus, broccoli, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas, peppers, radishes and tomatoes to the world.
Early in the 20th century Mexicali was numerically and culturally more Chinese than Mexican. The Chinese arrived to the area as laborers for the Colorado River Land Company, an American enterprise which designed and built an extensive irrigation system in the Valley of Mexicali. Some immigrants came from the United States, often fleeing anti-Chinese policies there, while others sailed directly from China. Thousands of Chinese were lured to the area by the (largely unfulfilled) promise of high wages. Since 2000, new migrants from China have come to Mexicali, with perhaps 90% coming from Guangdong or Hong Kong.
The Baja California territory became Mexico’s 29th state in 1953. Since that time, Mexicali has grown to a population of around 700,000, while the population of the entire metropolitan area (includes the outreaching municipality) has reached nearly 1,000,000 residence. It’s interesting to note that Mexicali has a “Chinatown, Mexicali” demographic and the city claims to have the largest per capita concentration of residents of Chinese origin.
Mexicali today is recognized for its sizable investment in education as well as its low unemployment levels. Spurring the investment in education is their very focused goal to become a global center for semiconductor manufacturing. Supporting that goal and keeping unemployment levels low is Silicon Border, a large industrial park and a high tech manufacturing area, which is located in Mexicali. With its highly educated and skilled populace, Mexicali boasts its standard of living as one of the highest in Mexico. The city is a modernized, cosmopolitan, and international center that, while it has a good many middles class residents, it has an even larger upper class population. While Mexicali is considered among the most prosperous cities in Mexico, visitors can observe its poverty in rural villages surrounding the upper-middle class enclave of Mexicali proper.