Chinesca Mexicali Chinatown - The city claims to have the largest per capita concentration of residents of Chinese origin, around 5,000. While this does not compare to U.S. cities like San Francisco or New York, early in the 20th century Mexicali was numerically and culturally more Chinese than Mexican. The Chinese arrived to the area as laborers for the Colorado River Land Company, an American enterprise which designed and built an extensive irrigation system in the Valley of Mexicali. Some immigrants came from the United States, often fleeing anti-Chinese policies there, while others sailed directly from China. Thousands of Chinese were lured to the area by the promise of high wages, but for most that never materialised.
La Chinesca, or Chinatown, still survives near the border close to the intersection of Avenida Madero and Calle Melgar,although it is much smaller than in the past. However, Mexicali still boasts more Chinese restaurants per capita than any other city in Mexico, more than 100 for the whole town, most with Cantonese-style cuisine. Local Chinese associations struggle to preserve the arts and culture of the homeland through the sponsorship of Chinese festivals, calligraphy clubs, and language classes. However, much of Chinese cultural life here has blended with local Mexican and American traditions to create a unique, hybrid culture.
Like many Chinese restaurants outside of Asia, cooks here have adapted their native cuisine to local tastes. For example, restaurants here serve their dishes with a small bowl of a sauce that is similar to a generic steak sauce, common in Northern Mexico. In many of these restaurants, it is not uncommon to see Chinese men wearing stiff straw cowboy hats, meeting over hamburgers and green tea and speaking a mixture of Cantonese and Spanish. Along with burgers and chow mein, many restaurants here also offer shark-fin tacos.