Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico

Agua Prieta is a bustling city of 70,000 located in the northeastern corner of Sonora, adjoining the southeastern Arizona town of Douglas.

The town’s origins date back to its proximity to the railroad constructed in the late 1800’s by the Phelps Dodge corporation to transport copper to the United States from its mine in Nacozari, Mexico.  It was originally established in 1899, but did not become a municipality with its current name until 1916.

Although the town has not been around as long as most Sonoran municipalities (which were typically founded centuries ago), it has a storied history.  Mexican presidents Plutarco Elias Calles and Lázaro Cárdenas both lived in the town, and it played a part in the Mexican Revolution – in fact it was once attacked by the forces of Pancho Villa (who famously rode his horse up the staircase at the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas).

Today’s Agua Prieta has several maquiladoras, or cross-border factories, that assemble a variety of products such as window blinds and auto seatbelts.  The factories draw many workers from all parts of Mexico.

Agua Prieta’s shopping district is within walking distance from the border, so many tourists choose to park in a nearby lot and walk across.  If you choose to drive across the border crossing to the shopping district (a couple of blocks south of the border), to make the return trip to the U.S. you’ll need to join the line of cars on the street bounded by the border fence, just to the east of the US border entry.  Just take an eastbound street for a few blocks (you may want to go quite a few blocks, as the line can be very long during the day and it’s easier to join at the end of the line than trying to cut in) and then take a northbound city street until you arrive at the return street (you’ll know you’re there when you see the yellow border fence).


Lodging in the Aqua Prieta and Douglas area