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Changes in the Imperial Valley

Just over 100 years ago, California's Imperial Valley was mostly desert. Spanish settlers called it the “Valley of the Dead.” Now the area might be called the “place of many new lives.”

In 1901, workers completed a canal that brought water from the nearby Colorado River into the valley. The river water was used to irrigate crops. By 1915, the valley had 300,000 acres of farm and ranch land.

People from Many Places

The Imperial Valley drew many immigrants who wanted to work on farms. Over time, people from China, France, Greece, Japan, India, Mexico, and the Philippines all settled there. Others moved from places in the United States. Because the valley is on the Mexican border, the greatest numbers of immigrants in the Imperial Valley are from Mexico.

Mexicali, Mexico, lies across the international border from the Imperial Valley. For many years, Mexicali residents have come to harvest crops in the Imperial Valley. Over the generations, many people from Mexicali have moved to the United States.

Studying for Different Work

Though most people from Mexico come to work during certain seasons, those who stay in the Imperial Valley would like to find work they can do year round. Public schools and state colleges in the Imperial Valley have started programs where students learn skills to become teachers, scientists, or engineers.

A program called MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) has given high school students like Paulina Cisneros new ideas of what they can do. “The program got me excited about math and science,” she said. Now Cisneros wants to be an engineer. Her success, and the success of other students in the region, will help this “place of many new lives.”