Nogales is located 60 miles south of Tucson, Arizona and 140 miles north of Hermosillo, Sonora on the Arizona-Sonora Border. In 1650, Jose Romo de Vivar became the first European who is thought to have visited the Nogales area. Early in the eighteenth Francisco Eusebio Kino, the Italian missionary, established several missions around Nogales, notably at Tumacacori, Huevavi, and Cibuta. The city of Nogales was officially founded in 1882 along a north-south rail line to promote trade between the United States and Mexico
The U.S. Consulate General in Nogales was established in 1886. It was closed for budgetary reasons in 1970, but reopened in 1998. Visitors to Nogales are often surprised by the terrain, expecting flat desert and instead finding pleasant rolling hills. The name "Nogales" refers to a now extinct stand of black walnut trees found in nearby hills, most of which are still covered with a native oak. The river valleys glisten with the leaves of huge cottonwoods, green in the summer and golden in the fall. The riverbeds are usually dry but torrential summer rains often fill them to overflowing, closing roads and washing out bridges. The weather in the western deserts can be dramatic.
Long a vital entry point into the US from western and northern Mexico, Nogales has grown in the past 20 years from a pleasant small town to a booming factory town, its growth fueled by NAFTA maquiladora factories which assemble primarily US made parts into goods exported around the world. There are approximately 90 factories in Nogales, and another 50-100 in other border communities along the Arizona/Sonora border. These factories have caused tremendous growth with many residents of central and southern Mexico moving north to seek employment. These factories account for 35,000 jobs in Nogales, and another 35,000 elsewhere in the consular district. The produce industry has also grown tremendously with 60% of all winter produce consumed in the US and Canada passing through Nogales, Sonora and processed in Nogales, Arizona. Most of the produce comes from areas in Sonora and Sinaloa. Cattle ranching, mining and small farms still comprise an important part of the economy of the region. Nogales is also a major border crossing for Americans going south for the winter into Mexico and to the Pacific beaches year round.
Sonora has traditionally been a relatively prosperous state with a well-developed middle class. The capital of Sonora, Hermosillo, is a bustling and growing commercial and industrial center of almost a million people. Unofficial estimates put the population of Nogales at 250,000. Agua Prieta and San Luis Rio Colorado, two other important border cities in this consular district are also large and growing. Puerto Penasco, a shrimp fishing port and vacation destination for Arizonans located at the top of the Gulf of California, has become a major resort and residence for Americans. The history of northern Sonora is inextricably linked to that of Southern Arizona beginning with Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit priest who first brought European farming ideas and Christianity to the region. The churches he established are still functioning and form a tour route for those interested in Spanish colonial churches. The pleasant towns which have grown up around these churches (two of which are in Southern Arizona) form the heart of the region. Commercial and family ties between Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona are very strong and make this a unique region united culturally and historically.
The climate has dramatic temperature changes but can usually be described in two phrases: warm and sunny in the day, cool at night. The summers are hot but the nights cool off. Winter nighttime temperatures dip into the 20’s and 30’s but the days usually warm up to the 60’s and 70’s. It is very dry except in the summer rainy season in July and August. Shorts and T-shirts are the summer dress, sweaters and jackets in the winter. It snows on occasion, although old-timers say less and less due to the increase in cars and concrete.