YUMA — Other than for the occasional movie, meal or ballgame, I hadn’t spent much time in Yuma.
That changed several months ago after my mother moved into an assisted-living facility here. Now I spend at least one day a week on this side of the Colorado River, so I’ve started to get a more complete picture of the city and its people.
And though they are similar in population and various other demographics and only 50 miles apart, Yuma and the Imperial Valley are deeply different in many ways.
While the Imperial Valley population is spread among four larger cities spread over about 30 miles and several small towns that stretch the area even more, most of the Yuma area is centered on the city itself and a few small towns around it. This gives it a lot more of a real city feel. Because of that, Yuma nearly bustles, at least at certain times.
Along with that almost-city feel, Yuma comes across as a cleaner, neater place than Imperial County. People in Yuma seem nowhere near as likely to just dump whatever they don’t want any more in whatever open space is most convenient, as is too often the case in the Imperial Valley. Yes, there are swaths of scruffy areas in Yuma, but the problems of abandoned couches and discarded tires on roadsides, overgrown street medians and other eyesores are notably less than in our area.
From what I’ve seen and heard, there may be various reasons for that. With one large military base and another smaller one, Yuma gets an influx of people from around the country. Realizing that other than the tortuous summer months it is not a bad place to live, many military members retire in Yuma.
Having been around the country and the world, such veterans want to help their little city thrive, take pride in their homes and businesses and get involved in civic events and causes. The same thing has happened in the Imperial Valley, as some former Naval Air Facility El Centro sailors have retired and made contributions to making the Valley a better place. But our base is so small that there isn’t much personnel influx from it.
Yes, we also do have some members of the federal law enforcement field who make positive differences in the Valley, but the numbers of such federal agents are probably similar in Yuma.
Folks also appear to be out and about and doing stuff more often in Yuma than the Imperial Valley. Valley people, including many of my students, are mainly intent on making money to get that nice car and showy house, with enough money left over for a nice shirt/dress and some new chanclas for when they invite friends and family over for a carne asada. While that is a lovely practice, and I’ve relished countless such parties myself, it doesn’t do a lot for community involvement and nightlife.
There also seems to be less grousing about the area in Yuma than in Imperial County. Many people in Yuma take pride in being Yumans. Many Imperial County residents complain about their home area and claim they can’t wait to leave, although most never do. Imperial Valley natives often are the biggest grousers of all.
I’ve spent enough time in Yuma, though, to know it’s far from paradise. But I’ve also spent enough time in the city to see that if we took pride and had a sunnier attitude about our home area, and got involved in more community doings as Yumans do, the Imperial Valley would be a much nicer place in which to live.
Bret Kofford teaches English and communication at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. His opinions don’t necessarily
reflect those of SDSU or its employees. Kofford can be reached at