El Cajon is a city in San Diego County, California. Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, the city has acquired the nickname of "The Big Box". Its name originated similarly, from the Spanish phrase "el cajón", which means "the big box" or "the drawer." It is bordered by San Diego and La Mesa on the west, Spring Valley on the south, Santee on the north, and unincorporated San Diego County on the east. It includes the neighborhoods of Fletcher Hills, Bostonia, and Rancho San Diego.
During Spanish rule, the government encouraged settlement of territory now known as California by the establishment of large land grants called ranchos, from which the English word ranch is derived. Land grants were made to the Roman Catholic Church which set up numerous missions throughout the region. In the early nineteenth century, mission padres' search for pasture land led them to the El Cajon Valley. Surrounding foothills served as a barrier to straying cattle and a watershed to gather the sparse rainfall. For years the pasture lands of El Cajon supported the cattle herds of the mission and its native Indian converts.
Cajon Valley Union School District operates public elementary and middle schools. Grossmont Union High School District operates public high schools.
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