Empalme, Sonora

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Empalme is a city surrounded by a municipality located on the south-central coast of the Mexican state of Sonora. According to the 2005 census the population of the city was 40,630 inhabitants, while the municipality, which has an area of 708.53 km² (273.56 sq mi), reported 50,663 inhabitants. Except for its coastline on the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortes), the municipality is entirely surrounded by the much larger municipality of Guaymas.

In Spanish, the word empalme means "junction". At first, the community site was called Kilómetro Nueve because it was nine kilometers out of the port city of Guaymas. Then for a while it was called El Empalme meaning of course, the junction. The El was soon dropped.

Unlike other towns or cities in Mexico, Empalme was built completely by foreigners, specifically the Utah Construction Company under contract to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Very few native materials were used in the construction. The founders owned a major railroad, affording easy transportation of materials and personnel. The purpose of the settlement was to provide repair facilities for SP operations in Mexico, with a large shop and roundhouse. They still exist today, although unused; repair and maintenance now being done in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Hundreds of the homes built originally still exist in Empalme, their design and materials unchanged.

One native feature that the developers used was a tree known as Yucateco that grows to heights exceeding 100 feet. Hundreds of the young trees were bought from southern Mexico. Their common name implies that they are native to the state of Yucatán. These trees were well suited for the hot, humid climate of Empalme. They are still probably the most easily recognized feature of the town. In many places they cover entire streets for several blocks so that streets appear to be passing through a tunnel.


The economy of Empalme is based on agriculture, cattle raising, fishing and small industries. The salty soil and lack of water makes agriculture difficult. Main crops are wheat, melon, and squash. Cattle raising is modest with the 2000 census reporting more than 9,000 head. Due to the 30 kilometer coastline there is fishing with the catching of shrimp, shark, crab, and octopus, among others. Pollution and the heating of the ocean water due to the Thermal electric plant of Batuecas have reduced this industry in recent years. [1]

There is an industrial area nearby with small transformation industries. The main employer in the town continues to be the railroad repair facilities, which employed over 3,000 workers in 2000. [2]

In the tourist sector there is potential in the long coastline of sandy beaches, which has not yet been developed.


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Coordinates: 27°57′42″N 110°48′45″W / 27.96167°N 110.81250°W / 27.96167; -110.81250