A town that sits at the Mississippi River's confluence with the Ohio River—the lowest point in Illinois—has lived through its share of boom and bust, flooding and racial strife. But it's a small, hearty place that knows how to survive.
The city has a lot to brag about, and the residents aren't shy about sharing. They are proud of the fact that a local high school offers four advanced placement classes. They are also excited about their downtown, where two buildings built in 1906 still stand. They also boast that Cairo is the only city in America with a town square with a zoo, museum, library and a historic hotel.
And, like any small town, they have a sense of humor. The citizens are also aware that pronunciation is key for a city that has struggled to get on its feet, both geographically and economically. When riverboat gambling became legal in Illinois in 1990, the city hoped that it could revitalize its struggling economy, but the state awarded the license to Metropolis, about 40 miles northwest on the Ohio River.
The city was also plagued by a series of devastating floods, including one that swept through in 1937. It also had to deal with a rise in racial tensions, which culminated in lynchings in 1909. It's no wonder that the city has had its fair share of ups and downs, but it continues to fight for its survival.