Calexico, California

Calexico, seen from the International Space Station, is situated north of the Mexico–US border.

Calexico (/kəˈlɛksɪk/) is a city in southern Imperial County, California. Situated on the Mexico–United States border, it is linked economically with the much larger city of Mexicali, the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California. It is about 122 miles (196 km) east of San Diego and 62 miles (100 km) west of Yuma, Arizona. Calexico, along with six other incorporated Imperial County cities, forms part of the larger populated area known as the Imperial Valley.

First explored by Europeans in the 18th century, Calexico began as a small tent community which was ultimately incorporated in 1908.


The name of the city is a portmanteau of California and Mexico. The originally proposed names were Santo Tomas or Thomasville. Mexicali is a similarly named city directly across the international border from Calexico, its name being a portmanteau of the words "Mexico" and "California".


The expedition of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza traveled through the area some time between 1775 and 1776, during Spanish rule. The trail through Calexico was designated as a historical route by the State of California.


Calexico began as a tent city of the Imperial Land Company; it was founded in 1899, and incorporated in 1908. The Imperial Land Company converted desert land into a fertile setting for year-round agriculture. The first post office in Calexico opened in 1902.

Early settlers of Calexico

2010 earthquake

On April 4, 2010, the El Mayor earthquake caused moderate to heavy damage throughout Calexico and across the border in Mexicali. Measuring 7.2 Mw, the quake was centered about 40 miles (64 km) south of the U.S.–Mexico border near Mexicali. A state of emergency was declared and officials cordoned off First and Second streets between Paulin and Heber Avenues. Glass and debris littered the streets of downtown Calexico and two buildings partially collapsed. The Calexico water treatment plant sustained severe damage.


Calexico City hall and SDSU-Imperial Valley Campus Aerial

According to the United States Census Bureau, at the 2010 census, the city had a total area of 6.2 square miles (16 km2), all land. Calexico is located 230 miles (370 km) southeast of Los Angeles, 125 miles (201 km) east of San Diego, 260 miles (420 km) west of Phoenix, and adjacent to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.

Calexico's location provides easy overnight trucking access to all those transportation hubs plus the ports of Long Beach, California, and Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

Calexico is served by State Routes 98, 7 and 111, with direct connection to Interstate 8 (5 miles north) and State Route 86. There are eighteen regular and irregular common carriers for intrastate and interstate truck service to Calexico.

Rail service is provided by Union Pacific Railroad, and connects with the main line to Portland, Oregon; Rock Island, Illinois; Tucumcari, New Mexico; St. Louis, Missouri; and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Within city limits is Calexico International Airport, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection check-point for private passenger and air-cargo flights entering the U.S. from Mexico. Private charter services are also available there.

General aviation facilities and scheduled passenger and air-cargo service to San Diego International Airport, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, and other points are available at Imperial County Airport (Boley Field), located 17 miles (27 km) north.

Bird's-eye view of Calexico during the early 20th century


Calexico has a subtropical hot-desert climate (BWh), according to the Köppen climate classification system. In December 1932, the city experienced a rare snowfall. Rainfall usually occurs in the winter months of December, January and February. Although summer is extremely dry in Calexico, there are occasional thunderstorms. In 2008, during the months of July and August there were several heavy thunderstorms that let down large amounts of rain and hail. Summer rainfall in the city is infrequent. During winter time, Calexico is sometimes affected by winter rain showers.

The summer temperatures in Calexico are very hot, with most of those days having temperatures at or above 100 °F (38 °C). However, the hot desert climate seen in Calexico is actually not unusual for similar parallels, seen in Baghdad, Iraq for example.

The area has a large amount of sunshine year round due to its stable descending air and high pressure.


Historical population
2019 (est.)39,8253.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

The 2010 United States Census reported that Calexico had a population of 38,572. The population density was 4,596.7 people per square mile (1,774.8/km2). The racial makeup of Calexico was 23,150 (60.0%) White, 134 (0.3%) African American, 204 (0.5%) Native American, 504 (1.3%) Asian, 21 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 12,920 (33.5%) from other races, and 1,639 (4.2%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37,354 persons (96.8%).

The Census reported that 38,472 people (99.7% of the population) lived in households, 100 (0.3%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 10,116 households, out of which 5,759 (56.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 5,767 (57.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,319 (22.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 595 (5.9%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 316 (3.1%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 61 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships, while 1,200 households (11.9%) were made up of individuals, and 675 (6.7%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.80. There were 8,681 families (85.8% of all households); the average family size was 4.09.

The population was spread out, with 12,011 people (31.1%) under the age of 18, 4,262 people (11.0%) aged 18 to 24, 9,332 people (24.2%) aged 25 to 44, 8,559 people (22.2%) aged 45 to 64, and 4,408 people (11.4%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males.

There were 10,651 housing units at an average density of 1,269.3 per square mile (490.1/km2), of which 10,116 were occupied, of which 5,430 (53.7%) were owner-occupied, and 4,686 (46.3%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.1%. 22,155 people (57.4% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 16,317 people (42.3%) lived in rental housing units.


The City of Calexico operates under a City Council/City Manager form of government. The City Council consists of five Council Members, elected to overlapping four-year term. The Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem are chosen from among the five council members and rotate on an annual basis.

The Mayor presides at council meetings, where all official policies and laws of the City are enacted. The members of the Calexico City Council set policy and appoint commissions and committees that study the present and future needs of Calexico.

The other two elected officials in the City of Calexico are the City Clerk and City Treasurer. Each of them is elected directly by the voters and serves a four-year term.

The Calexico branch of the Imperial County Superior Court system was officially renamed on Saturday, December 19, 1992 in honor of Legaspi family members Henry, Victor and Luis Legaspi as the Legaspi Municipal Court Complex.


In the state legislature, Calexico is in the 40th Senate District, represented by Democrat Ben Hueso, and the 56th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Eduardo Garcia.

Federally, Calexico is in California's 51st congressional district, represented by Democrat Juan Vargas.

The current mayor is Lewis Pacheco, and the mayor pro tem is Jesus Eduardo Escobar. The other council members are Bill Hodge, Maritza Hurtado, and Armando G. Real.

Calexico city vote
by party in presidential elections
YearDemocraticRepublicanThird Parties
201686.30% 10,2269.78% 1,1593.92% 465
201285.73% 7,15013.03% 1,0871.24% 103
200882.68% 6,68915.75% 1,2741.57% 127
200473.38% 3,47125.16% 1,1901.46% 69
200075.25% 3,55721.94% 1,0372.81% 133
199684.91% 2,78011.91% 3903.18% 104
199262.82% 1,80328.36% 8148.82% 253
198871.54% 1,62927.93% 6360.53% 12
198460.53% 1,16138.32% 7351.15% 22
198064.26% 1,20827.71% 5218.03% 151
197666.75% 1,26730.98% 5882.27% 43
197257.45% 1,12640.36% 7912.19% 43
196856.04% 94739.35% 6654.62% 78
196467.35% 1,21532.65% 589

In recent years, Calexico has overwhelmingly supported Democratic Party candidates for president. In seven of the last eight presidential elections, the Democrat has received over 70% of the vote.


Colleges and universities

San Diego State’s Imperial Valley Campus, located in Calexico

Post-secondary education is available at the Imperial Valley Campus of San Diego State University, and at Imperial Valley College (11 miles (18 km) to the north). In addition, there are more than 20 local agencies and programs providing vocational training which can be tailored to the specific needs of potential employers.

Public schools

The Calexico Unified School District serves city residents.


Grades K–6
  • Kennedy Gardens Elementary – Home of the Eagles
  • Allen and Helen Mains Elementary – Home of the Trojans
  • Rockwood Elementary – Home of the Rockets
  • Blanche Charles Elementary – Home of the Dolphins
  • Jefferson Elementary – Home of the Tigers
  • Dool Elementary – Home of the Cougars
  • Cesar Chavez Elementary – Home of the Lobos

Junior High Schools

Grades 7–8
  • Willam Moreno Jr. High – Home of the Aztecs
  • Enrique Camarena Junior High School – Home of the Firebirds

High Schools

Grades 9–12
  • Calexico High School 9th Campus - Home of the Bulldogs
  • Calexico High School – Home of the Bulldogs
  • Aurora High School – Home of the Eagles

Public charter school (Independent Study)

RAI Online Charter School— (K–12, tuition-free)

Adult education schools

  • Robert F. Morales Adult Education Center
  • Independent Studies Office

Private schools

Calexico Mission School, a Seventh-day Adventist Academy operated by the Southeastern California Conference in Riverside, CA provides private religious education in Calexico from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy (Home to the Bees), and Vincent Memorial Catholic High School (Home to the Scots), Roman Catholic schools operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, are also in Calexico.



Calexico is served by the privately owned Calexico Transit, LA Shuttle and Numero Uno Shuttle and the publicly owned Imperial Valley Transit for local transit. Calexico is also served by Greyhound Lines.

Freight rail service is provided by Union Pacific Railroad's Calexico Subdivision.


Calexico generally identifies as part of the larger Imperial Valley region, which includes the El Centro metropolitan area, as do the rest of the cities in the county.

Notable sites

  • Hotel De Anza (Hotel establishment notable for its history and having served celebrities and public figures)
  • Calexico Carnegie Library (Carnegie library built in 1918 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005)
  • US Inspection Station – Calexico (Historically used as the original port of entry during the early 20th century – was closed and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992)
  • Camp Salvation (Refugee camp established in 1849 by Lieut. Cave for emigrants coming from the Southern Emigrant Trail during the California Gold Rush – was registered as a California Historical Landmarks site in 1965.)
  • Camp John H. Beacom – a semipermanent camp named after Colonel John H. Beacom (6th infantry) garrisoned in Calexico during World War I for patrolling duties. The site was abandoned in 1920 according to cavalry journals.
  • Camp Calexico was another post used for patrolling duties by Colonel W. G. Schreibe and his infantry in 1914
  • Mount Signal Solar (One of the largest PV solar farms in the world)
Camp Salvation, Calexico

Red Ribbon Week:

Red Ribbon Week, a national observance dedicated to spreading awareness about the prevention of drugs and violence (especially in schools) originated within the city of Calexico during the mid to late 1980s as a tribute to DEA officer Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. Red Ribbon Week campaigns were pushed forward by Nancy Reagan.


The city media includes national public television stations, county-wide radio stations (some of which feature nation-wide or California state-wide programing), county-wide print publications such as Imperial Valley Press as well as a few locally managed general interest publications.

In popular culture

Film and television



  • A narcotics officer in Michael Connelly's The Black Ice is named after the town
  • Johnny Shaw's A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco novel series takes place in various parts of Imperial County including Calexico
  • In the novel Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy one scene is set on the Calexico/Mexicali border
  • Journalist and film maker Peter Laufer writes about the city in his books ¡Calexico!:True Lives of the Borderlands and Calexico: Hope and Hysteria in the California Borderlands (co-written with Markos Kounalakis)
  • The book Memories of Calexico: Curse or Blessing? by Antonio A. Velasquez compiles several anecdotes about Calexico
  • Jim Davidson's novel Postmarked Calexico makes references to the city

Notable people

See also

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Calexico, California, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.