El Centro California
El Centro is the largest city in Southern California's Imperial Valley. Irrigation projects have turned this former desert into some of the most productive agricultural land in the US. At the beginning of the valley's development in 1905 - the entire flow of the Colorado river was briefly and accidentally diverted into the Imperial Valley. This flood created the Salton Sea. The Imperial Valley is flat and hot year round. Much of the valley, including El Centro is below sea level. Agriculture in the Imperial Valley is highly engineered, capital intensive and very profitable. Much of the land is in large holdings and owned by corporations or people living outside of the valley. The farms in the valley depend on the labor of countless low paid workers, many of whom are from Mexico and many of whom are not in the US legally. El Centro used to have a much bigger agricultural processing industry than it does today. I suspect that produce that was once canned or processed in El Centro is now shipped directly out of the area for processing. The valley functions as a sort of internal colony. It supplies raw materials and profits to those that control it's land. Meanwhile those that live in the valley are often impoverished. The Imperial Valley has had the highest poverty rates and highest unemployment rate in the state of California in many recent years.
El Centro has a unique and interesting downtown shopping area. Almost all of the buildings in the 4 block district were built from the 1910s to the 1950s. Most of them cantilever out over the sidewalks. I don't know if they were originally built this way or if the street was widened at some point and the sidewalks cut through the buildings. In either case it gives the district a cozy feeling and provides much needed shade. Downtown has suffered from customers lost to a new mall and developments on the edge of town but most of the store fronts on Main street were still occupied in 2013. El Centro's historic train station which had been abandoned for many years has been demolished. Several historic industrial buildings East of the Railroad tracks from downtown also seemed to be headed for demolition.
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