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More about Baja California

Baja California (state, Mexico) or Lower California, state in northwestern Mexico occupying the northern half of the peninsula of Baja California. The Mexican state is on the southern border of the United States, directly south of California. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Gulf of California and the Mexican state of Sonora, and on the south by the state of Baja California Sur, which occupies the southern end of the peninsula.

The northern part of Baja California has a climate similar to that of southern California, with rainfall ranging from 250 to 640 mm (10 to 25 in) per year. The rest of the state, however, receives very little rainfall and has few creeks or streams that run year-round. Vegetation in much of this region is characterized by desert plants, such as the giant cactus, although some areas are virtually barren. The Colorado River forms the eastern-most boundary with the state of Sonora. Constitución de 1857 National Park, located in the Sierra de Juárez mountains in the northern part of the state, protects temperate forests of pine and oak, habitat that is critical for local animal species such as puma, bobcat, and bald eagle.

All of Baja California’s major cities—Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California; Mexicali, the state capital; and Ensenada, an important coastal resort—are located in the northern quarter of the state. Tecate, a small city known for its beer-making industry, is located on the U.S. border. The population is largely mestizo—a mix of Native American and European ancestry—and many people are recent immigrants.

Baja California is an important site of assembly industries along the border with the United States, particularly between San Diego and Tijuana, where North American and Japanese investors own numerous plants. Fishing is also an important industry in the state, with lobster, shellfish, and tuna being some of the most prominent species. Agriculture, which depends on irrigation, is directed primarily toward markets in the United States, particularly California, for which Baja California has increased its production of organically grown foodstuffs. Economic and population growth in southern California have contributed to Baja California’s economy and millions of tourists cross from San Diego into Tijuana each year. Rapid development along Baja California’s northern border, however, has exacerbated serious environmental problems. Local leaders in San Diego and Tijuana often collaborate on efforts to resolve some of these difficult issues.

Baja California Sur, state in western Mexico, occupying the southern half of the Baja California peninsula. Baja California Sur is a sparsely populated region best known for its tourist resorts and sport-fishing. The state is bordered on the west and the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Gulf of California, and on the north by the Mexican state of Baja California.

The northern part of the state is typically hot and extremely arid, with vegetation typified by desert shrubs and cactus. The southern end of the peninsula receives significantly more precipitation, with tropical showers in late summer bringing about 130 mm (about 5 in) of rain on the coast, and 640 mm (25 in) in the mountains. Forests grow in the mountainous areas, and cotton, olives, sugarcane, and wheat are cultivated in the lowlands.

Agriculture, fishing, ranching, and tourism are all important economic activities in Baja California Sur. The ocean surrounding the peninsula has some of the richest sea life of all Mexico’s coastal states. The state is also a leading producer of salt, which is processed in Guerrero Negro, near the state’s northwestern border. The Compañia Exportadora del Sal operates a sophisticated, industrialized plant in this isolated region, exporting salt to Europe, the United States, and Canada. Much of the state’s agricultural production comes from irrigated lands located in the Santo Domingo Valley south of La Paz. A ferry connects Santa Rosalia, on the eastern side of the state, with the major mainland port in northwest Mexico—the city of Guaymas in Sonora state. Other ferries also run to the cities of Los Mochis and Mazatlán, in Sinaloa state, as well as to the resort community of Puerto Vallarta, in Jalisco state. Overland, the only major route is Highway 1, which runs from the tip of the peninsula, at San Lucas, to Tijuana, on the northern border across from San Diego, California.

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