El Centro is a dry, dusty, agricultural center in the vast Imperial Valley, which is irrigated by the Colorado River. Although the name in Spanish translates to “the center,” El Centro isn’t in the center of very much except for several hundred square miles of flat irrigated agricultural land and surrounding desert. The city is 115 miles east of San Diego and only 12 miles north of the Mexican border.
Employment is dominated by agriculture, agricultural transportation, and some government jobs; farm workers make up a sizeable portion of the population. Combined educational attainment is among the lowest in the country. There have been mostly unsuccessful attempts to establish retirement communities in the area, but the valley is physically unattractive, has extreme unemployment, and little to do for retirees or those in the workforce.
The southerly latitude and negative elevation give important clues as to the climate of El Centro – hot. In fact, temperatures over 90 degrees are experienced during over half the days each year. Warm air is trapped and compressed in this mountain-surrounded valley, and the results can be made more uncomfortable by irrigation-sourced humidity. Winter weather, on the other hand, is pleasant, with moderately warm 70 and 80 degree days and desert-cool evenings.