My first trip to Mexico did not take me to pristine beaches or ancient ruins.  Instead I ended up in Mexicali, a border city wedged between southeastern California and the Mexican state of Baja California.

The 130-mile drive started roughly at the Pacific Ocean.  Going eastward and down into the Imperial Valley, I got a fleeting glimpse of our southern border.  There were barren landscapes interspersed with solar farms and wind turbines; the lone dust devil spinning up a vortex of sand; and various border walls that formed a collective manifestation of the abstract line separating two nations.

Calexico, a border city of Mexicali

Border cities often have an adjacent twin city. Mexicali’s twin is the American city of Calexico. Both are a portmanteau (blended word) of “California” and “Mexico.”

Dust devil seen along Interstate 8

A small desert tornado, or dust devil, seen along Interstate Highway 8.

Mexico-US border wall

The Mexico-United States border, stretching 1,954 miles (or 3145 km) long, is the most frequently crossed border in the world.

But the scenery wasn’t all dismal.  There were touches of humanity to be found too.  Like the water jugs left in the desert, a quiet act of kindness extended to those in desperate circumstances.  And the smiles and hospitality that greeted us once we got past customs.

Water jugs in desert left by humanitarian groups

One of the water jugs left by humanitarian groups to prevent deaths of migrants due to dehydration. At first I didn’t realize what they were for. Once I understood their significance, it gave me pause.

Passing customs for entry into Mexico

Lives are inextricably linked in border cities. Visitors from the U.S. cross by foot and car into Mexicali every day.

Signs of medical tourism in Mexico

Many travel across the border to get affordable medical and dental services.

A street performer at road intersection in Mexicali

A jovial street performer appeared at a red light. The thermometer read 110 °F (or 43 °C), and it was only 9 o’clock in the morning.

Thanking street performer in Mexicali

Hola,” “Gracias!”

Vendor taking a siesta next to border wall between US and Mexico

Next to the long queue of cars going to the U.S., vendors can be found selling drinks, snacks, clothing, and souvenirs. Behind this stall is a metal fence which forms part of the border wall.


Where Exactly

Have you driven south of the border before?  Where did you go?  What was your experience like?  Share your thoughts and comments below!