My recent article on Mexican borders visible on Street View reminded me of a situation that’s long fascinated me. It came to the forefront as I viewed this image:
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Can you find the border in this image? Sure you can. That’s a silly question. The rural area north of this amazingly stark line is the United States just outside of Calexico, California. This town in Imperial County was incorporated in 1908 and has nearly 30,000 residents. A member of my extended family lived there as early as 1915 so wow, I have another instance of a relative figuring into the early history of a town. I didn’t realize that until just now. Even my ancestors seemed to have had an interest in geo-oddities. At least I come by it honestly.
The densely settled area immediately south of the line is Mexicali, the capital of Baja California, in Mexico. It is considerably larger that Calexico with nearly 700,000 residents. Both towns were laid-out by the Imperial Land Company, which had interests in colonizing the Imperial Valley on both sides of the border. I have no idea why two towns starting at the same time by the same company now differ so completely by population. That’s not the purpose for today, though.
I’m fascinated by the names. One is a portmanteau of California + Mexico and the other is a portmanteau of Mexico + California. The only way it could have been more perfect would be to make it Calexico/Mexinia or Mexicali/Calimexi. Nonetheless I appreciate that they’re adjacent towns with sort-of opposite portmanteau names that have their roots in the underlying geography. I suppose someone will point out that Mexico is a nation and California is a state so it’s not absolutely perfect symmetry. Nonetheless it feels rather remarkable.
I started to wonder if there might be similar examples elsewhere, either in the United States or places farther afield. I couldn’t find anything that approached Calexico/Mexicali personally but figure there had to be some equally amazing examples out there somewhere. The closest I found were two towns along the border between North Carolina and Virginia: Norlina and Virgilina.
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I have two problems with this example, though.
- They are not adjacent, nor even particularly close for that matter. It would take about an hour to drive between the two.
- They’re both portmanteaus but they don’t reflect the underlying geography symmetrically. Virgilina does combine Virginia with North Carolina. Norlina, however, just seems to be the front and back ends of North Carolina shoved together. Where’s Virginia? For that I think it would have to be Norlinia.
I stumbled across a fun page on Wikipedia while I was investigating this. Can you believe they have an entire list of border towns in the United States with portmanteau names? There are apparently people with even more geographic curiosity on their minds and time on their hands to do something about this than I. I’m glad they’ve gone through the effort though and I love their results.
My search came to an abrupt end right here. Is anyone aware of other adjacent towns that are named in a fashion similar to Calexico/Mexicali, or can we declare this a unique instance? Maybe somewhere in Benelux since they already seem to have that theme going for them? Let’s hear what you’ve found oh wise and wonderful 12MC audience.