Deep in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, just 43 miles from the Mexican border, Ajo enjoys wide open spaces and remoteness from the big cities. Creosote bushes, Saguaro cactus, Ocotillo and other exotic desert plants grow in and around the city. Ajo sits at the base of some low mountains, on the west, and a wide valley opens to the east.
The city began as a mining town, with the large, open pit copper mine which operated until 1983. The mine existed as far back as 1800, and was mined by Tom Childs beginning in 1847 and later by John Boddie. Phelps Dodge bought the mine in 1921 and operated it until its closure due to strikes and economic difficulties. With the mine out of operation, the local economy has suffered, but the town is reforming itself as a retirement community. Winters are warm and the heat of summer is extreme.
Ajo sports a beautiful plaza, lined with Spanish style markets, and two beautiful white churches at it's commercial center. The impressive facade of the Curley School brightens the opposite end of the street a few blocks away. Quaint residential streets lined with many Spanish style houses, landscaped with many unusual plants, criss-cross the city.
Arizona Highway 85 passes north and south through Ajo, leading to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the south, and to Gila Bend and Interstate 8 to the north. In the year 2000, the population of Ajo stood at 3,705. The name Ajo comes either from the spanish word for garlic or from the O'odham word for paint. It is pronounced Ah-ho. Many tourists pass through the town on their way to resort town Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point, on the Mexico coast.