Thursday, November 19, 2009

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #8): Mexicali, Baja California Norte

We’ll finish the Mexican Pacific League portion of our Road Trip by heading north from Hermosillo towards Arizona on Highway 15 until turning left at a fork that puts us on Highway 2. We’ll follow Highway 2 through Caborca and come right up to the Mexico-Arizona border at the town of Sonoyta, then head west along the border through a natural reserve and the city of San Luis Rio Colorado before crossing into the state of Baja California Norte and stopping in Mexicali, a city of 575,000 on Mexico’s border with California.

Historically, Mexicali is a fairly “recent” city, developed as a center for area farmers 100 years ago. After becoming the capital of Baja California Norte in 1915, it grew as a place for North Americans to engage in illicit activity as the 20th Century progressed (like many border towns). The economy expanded further as foreign companies established maquiladoro factories in Mexicali. Maquiladoros are common in Mexican cities along the USA border, and are built primarily by North American companies who seek to take advantage of Mexico’s lower labor costs while having close access to the USA market. Maquiladoros account for much of Mexicali’s burgeoning population. Across the border lies Mexicali’s twin city of Calexico, California. Both share a 24-hour border crossing.

While Mexicali is not the tourist draw Tijuana has become to the west, there are still local points of interest. It has the Mexico’s largest Chinatown (La Chinesca), and there are a large number of shops and restaurants in a triangular area near the border. In the former state governor’s mansion on Avenida Alvaro Obregon lies the Galeria de la Ciudad, which hosts art works from many Mexican artists. Mexicali is also home to the University of Baja California, which features a regional museum featuring exhibits of paleontology, archeology, ethnography, landscape photography and missions of Baja California. The annual Fiesta del Sol in October is one of the year’s highlights. Still, Mexicali is not a textbook example of a traveler’s paradise. It is very hot during the summer, gets below freezing during the night in winter, and in general is not tourist-oriented despite being one of the most prominent border crossings between the USA and Mexico. Millions of people have passed through Calexico and Mexicali, but few of them have stayed overnight.

Mexicali’s baseball team is called the Aguilas, or Eagles. The Aguilas were formed in 1976, and are in their 34th winter in the MexPac, having won three LMP pennants and a Caribbean Series championship in 1986 under legendary manager Ben “Cananea” Reyes. Their home stadium, Estadio Casas GEO seats 15,000 fans around a symmetrical field measuring 330 feet down the foul lines and 400 feet to straightaway center. Mexicali hosted the 2009 Caribbean Series, becoming the northernmost venue in which the tournament has ever been held.

NEXT WEEK (Stop #9): Chihuahua, Chihuahua

No comments: