El Centro is a city in and county seat of Imperial County, California, the largest city in the Imperial Valley, east anchor of the Southern California Border Region, and the core urban area and principal city of the El Centro metropolitan area which encompasses all of Imperial County. El Centro is also the largest American city to lie entirely below sea level (−42 feet or −13 meters). The city, located in southeastern California, is 113 miles (182 km) from the major Southern California city of San Diego and near the Mexican city of Mexicali.
The city was founded in 1906 by W. F. Holt and C.A. Barker, who purchased the land on which El Centro was eventually built for about $40 per acre ($100 per hectare) and invested $100,000 ($2,700,000 in 2017 dollars) in improvements. The modern city is home to retail, transportation, wholesale, and agricultural industries. There are also two international border crossings nearby for commercial and noncommercial vehicles. El Centro's population was 42,598 at the 2010 census, up from 37,835 in 2000.
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