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Founded the 14th of March 1903, its name comes from the anagram MEXI-co and CALI-fornia, which in an inverse way also generated the name of Calexico, access door to the state of California and frontier with Mexicali.

In pre-Columbian times, the Río Colorado 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 Sonora 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 Indians 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 missionization 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.

The Building of an Agricultural Empire

After the Jesuits left, the Spanish and later the Mexicans had little to do with northeastern Baja, perceiving it as an untamable, flood-prone desert delta. Around the time of the American 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 valley acres 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 American 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 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. After a major 1905 rainfall, the channel dug from Arroyo Alamo 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.

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 the 14 of March of 1903, and it 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.

The Mexicali Valley is the agricultural heart of the state, with more than 200,000 irrigated hectares. This valley is responsible for some of the biggest crops in Mexico, including wheat and cotton. With an ensured supply of water, Mexicali has become an important exporter of sparagus, broccoli, green onion and radish 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 50's, the Mexicali Valley became the biggest cotton producing zone in the whole country. Production increased even more in the mid 60's reaching more than half a million parcels harvested in just one year.

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Mexicali Beaches 

Mexicali has beautiful beaches to offer at San Felipe. These beaches are at the edge the warm waters of the Sea of Cortes. 

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HOTELS - LODGING: visit our sponsor before they visit you

There are several first class hotels with facilities for conventions. Most of Mexicali's cheaper hotels can be found in the older streets around the border. Not that there are any great bargains here - indeed, if you're looking for somewhere to stay Calexico is arguably better value, with several motels charging around $30. Try for example the Don Juan Motel, 344 4th Street East, between Hefferman and Heber (619/357-3231; $35-50), or the El Rancho (619/357-2458; $25-35) opposite.

In Mexicali, there are a couple of cheap and fairly decent places:

The youth hostel, Coahuila 2050 at Salinas Cruz (65/57-61-82; $6) - take the blue-and-white "Tercera" or "Once" bus from the local bus stand

6 de Septiembre, Altamirano 353 (65/52-60-70; $12-18), just south of Mateos.

The Hotel del Norte, Madero 203 just off López Mateos (65/52-81-01; $35-50), is one of the first things you see as you cross the border; it looks better than it is.

The Imperial, Madero 222 (65/53-67-33; $25-35), just beyond

Plaza, Madero 366 (65/53-63-33; $25-35)

In the next block, are simpler places, but better value. For the same price as the Del Norte

Hotel San Juan Capistrano (65/52-41-04; $35-50)

Reforma 646, not much farther from the border, is a far better deal - a rather bland business hotel with a decent restaurant.

The Motel Azteca de Oro, de la Industria 600 (65/57-21-85; $18-25), right by the train station, is comfortable and handy for transport: the Camionera is only about ten minutes' walk away up López Mateos.

More expensive hotels are mainly on the outskirts, particularly along Juárez - the modern, international-style Lucerna, for example, at Juárez 2151 (65/66-10-00; $50-75). One exception is the new Crowne Plaza, near the Centro Civico on López Mateos at Av. de los Héroes (65/57-36-00; $100+).

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Mexicali has excellent malls and a wide variety of restaurants being particularly famous the Cantonese cuisine, important part of the heritage that the city has from China.

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The growing importance of international trade is being attended with more infrastructure. An example of this is the new commercial custom which will start to operate in July of 1996 accommodating a great number of freight transports which move constantly between Mexico and the USA. Mexicali is also connected to other cities of Baja California and the interior of Mexico through highways.

Mexicalli has two international airports: one outside of the city and the other one in San Felipe, on the shores of the Sea of Cortes. The rail service is available to the interior of the country and it is also connected to the South of California.

Mexicali's Central Camionera (65/57-24-10; guardería) is 4km from the border on Independencia at Anahuac, close to the new Centro Civico development and not far off López Mateos. To get there, take a "Calle 6" bus from the local bus stand off Mateos. Altogether well over fifty buses a day head south (20 to México), and there's at least one local service an hour to Tijuana. Golden State has an office at the station: 3 buses leave daily for LA via Palm Springs. On the other hand, you'll have far more choice, and save a few dollars, if you walk across the border to Calexico's Greyhound station.

The train station is just off López Mateos, not quite as far out as the Camionera; buses and colectivo taxis heading up Mateos will take you there. The "express", first-class train leaves for Guadalajara at 10am daily, arriving some 34 hours later. The second-class slow train leaves at 9:50 p.m., and takes about ten hours longer - tickets for both are sold at the station an hour or so before departure. You can reserve - advisable for first-class during holidays - by calling 65/57-21-01, ext 221.

Flights to México and Acapulco leave daily from the airport 20km east of town.

Border Crossing, The Mexicali border crossing is open 24 hours and, except at morning and evening rush hours, is usually relatively quiet, the procedures straightforward. Remember to visit Migración if you're travelling further on into Mexico. In Calexico, Imperial Avenue leads straight to the border, lined with handily placed auto-insurance offices, banks and exchange places that offer almost identical rates to those in Mexicali; the Greyhound station is just one block from the frontier on 1st St.

It's possible to get a Golden State bus from LA to the Central Camionera in Mexicali: the bus only comes as far the border, where they bundle you into a taxi for the rest of the journey. The airport lies some 20km to the east. Fixed-price taxis and minibuses bring passengers into town.

Broad avenues lead away from the frontier: straight ahead is López Mateos, which will eventually take you straight out of town, passing close by the train and bus terminals on the way. To the left, off López Mateos and following the covered walkway from the border, you find yourself on Madero, which, along with parallel Reforma, is the main commercial street downtown. The local bus stand is at the back of the small market just up from the border - a couple of blocks up López Mateos to the right. Taxis wait at ranks around the junction of López Mateos and Madero.

Information , The tourist information booth (nominally Mon-Fri 9 a.m. -1 p.m. & 3-6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. -1 p.m.) right by the border seldom seems to be open; the main office (Mon-Fri 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.; 65/57-25-61) is a very long way down López Mateos at Camelias, a journey not worth making unless you have some special reason. There are several banks and casas de cambio very close to the border - Bancomer, on Madero, is closest, Banamex a couple of blocks up Madero near the post office.

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Mexicali has the State theater, art galleries and a regional museum which helps to preserve the history of the city, the thermal springs of the Guadalupe Canyon, the Cucapah Sierra, the salt fields of the Laguna

During October you'll find a few cultural activities - live music, dance, cockfights and the like - taking place as part of the Fiesta del Sol; at any other time of year you can fill an hour browsing the local history exhibits at the free Museo Regional de la Universidad de Baja California,on Reforma at c/L.

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If you look for sports, Mexicali has a wide variety to offer the whole year. The "Aguilas" baseball team is part of the professional winter league. If you like bullfighting, you can find a brave matador in Plaza Calafia. There is also boxing and wrestling. But the most electrifying international event in the region is the world famous off-road race "Baja 1000" organized by SCORE international.

If you look for something more relaxing, how about golf? Mexicali offers a professional 18 hole course