Mexicali, the capital of Baja California (Norte), is also the second largest city in Baja, with a population rapidly approaching one million. The permanent population is not readily known because of seasonal labor demands placed upon the area by the Imperial Valley in the United States. The population fluctuates greatly due to the ebb and the flow of immigrant workers.
Mexicali is a very prosperous city, especially when you consider that this major center of agriculture and industry is located in the middle of the very hot and very dry San Felipe desert.
Mexicali sits directly across the border from Calexico, California in the fertile Valle de Mexicali. For centuries, the valley was irrigated by the waters of the Colorado River. At the same time, the entire valley was being filled with nutrient-rich sediment.
Agriculture is the primary source of employment and income in Mexicali. Wheat, cotton, alfalfa, tomatoes, peppers and vegetables are the primary crops. Mexicali is also one of the world’s largest producers of geothermal power. The area is also home to over 200 maquiladora operations which produce an array of diverse products for major multinational corporations.
Mexicali is definitely one of the most racially diverse cities in all of Mexico. Many of its residents are direct descendants of railroad workers and Chinese laborers who were brought in to build an irrigation system in the early 1900’s. Mexicali is proud of the fact that “La Chinesca” is the largest Chinatown in all of Mexico. The city also boasts of having the most Chinese restaurants of any city in México and those in the know will tell you that the Chinese food offered in Mexicali is some of the best available anywhere, outside of China.
Many visitors who come to Mexicali from the US are on their way to San Felipe, located 125 miles south of the Sea of Cortez. Many travelers don’t even think of stopping in Mexicali. Maybe now that five years of major road construction, which left the city a driver’s nightmare, is finally over. Perhaps that situation will change for the better.
If you are driving from afar, you may want to spend the night in Mexicali and get an early start in the morning for the drive to San Felipe. There are some interesting things to do, great food and more than a few places of note to visit, should you wish to stay in Mexicali.
Plaza de la Amistad, with its beautiful Chinese pagoda is located just steps from the main border crossing. The plaza was built to honor Chinese immigrants who helped to define this city in the early days. Eighteen holes of golf at the Club Deportivo Campestre de Mexicali may be just the thing to help you unwind. Bullfights take place in the Plaza de Calafia bullring from March to December.
Hunting for pheasant and quail in the the fields that lay in the surrounding areas is also very popular here. The season starts at the end of August and continues through February. Just outside the city, 30 minutes west, are some terrific mountain bike trails, if you are so inclined. The Mexicali professional baseball team, The Aguilas (Eagles), hold games each season in the city’s stadium, October through January. All of which are night games, except on Sundays.