One of the most famous border towns, Mexicali is the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California. Situated on the U.S.-Mexican border, Mexicali is located across from the city of Calexico, California. Established in 1903, this city offers a myriad of attractions along with plenty of things to do. From its traditional cuisine to its cultural venues, Mexicali attracts thousands of visitors annually.
Mexicali enjoys a population of 689,775 people making it the second largest city in the state. While the city has a reputation for its educated populous, it also boasts one of the highest standards of living in the country. Mexicali has attracted many international companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle, but it is also one of Mexico’s most popular border towns for tourism and the northernmost city of all of Latin America.
The Valley of Mexicali is one Mexico’s most fertile, so it isn’t surprising that agriculture continues as a major industry for the city. The valley also contains a generous water supply that makes it one of the largest irrigation hubs in the whole country. Like elsewhere in northern Mexico, Mexicali has an arid and hot climate—during the summer, temperatures may become hotter than anywhere else in the country! Its surrounding landscape is famed for off-roading, hiking, mountain-climbing, and camping.
Mexicali shares its history with the rest of the Baja Peninsula and this corner of northwestern Mexico. Hunter and gatherer peoples made their way to the region thousands of years ago. Over time, some indigenous groups began to practice small-scale agriculture. Because of its remote location, the area remained greatly isolated even after the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-1500s. While some missionaries attempted to settle in the region, these attempts were largely thwarted by hostile native tribes, the hot desert climate, and the difficulty of traversing mountains. The Jesuits found a bit more success by the end of the eighteenth century; however, the Spanish largely ignored this rugged corridor of these northern lands until the early nineteenth century. At this point, settlers began to discover the rich agricultural lands of the Mexicali Valley. Farmers began to arrive in droves and the city of Mexicali was founded in 1903.
Because of the many technical products produced by the city’s manufacturers, Mexicali has been dubbed “the silicon border.” Consequently, many business travelers visit the city annually; however, tourism in general is a major industry for Mexicali. Visitors come to shop for artisan-crafted handicrafts, silver, and even pharmaceuticals which are far less expensive than in the U.S. The city boasts many cultural venues as well as fine restaurants and hotels.
Things to See and Do in Mexicali
Chinatown: Mexicali boasts a large Chinese population so it isn’t surprising that their Chinatown, called La Chinesca, is one of the most celebrated centers of Chinese culture in Mexico. Many of the Chinese here hail from Hong Kong and Guangdong. A wide range of Chinese shops and cuisine are available in this popular part of Mexicali.
Sierra Juarez: The mountains of the region are a popular draw for many outdoor enthusiasts visiting Mexicali. People visit to climb, rappel, camp, hike, and even go cave-exploring.
Catedral de Guadalupe: As the oldest cathedral in Mexicali, this attraction is a must-see site. It is located on the Bulevar Morelos.
Calzada Lopez Mateos: Regarded as the city’s main avenue, this street attracts many shoppers and diners to downtown Mexicali.
Plaza de Toros Calafia: This bullring is one of the most popular in northern Mexico and draws an international audience to witness its exciting events.
Teatro del Estado: As one of the city’s primary cultural venues, this theatre features many dramatic and musical performances throughout the year.
Museo Regional de la Universidad Autonoma: The museum’s collections and exhibits recount the regional history of the landscape with many renowned artifacts from the various historic eras of northern Mexico.
Eating in Mexicali: The capital city is renowned for its many fine restaurants. Many specialize in authentic regional cuisine, but it’s also possible to find many international cuisines in the city as well.