History of California
Due to the long period in which it was settled by people of different cultures and origins, pre-Columbian California was one of the linguistically and culturally most diverse areas in the wider region. It is thought that this area had more than 70 separate groups of indigenous Native American peoples. These peoples had significantly different cultures and social organization; some lived in tribes, while others had bands or chiefdoms. These groups had a vibrant coexistence and interaction.
The first records of a European exploring these lands are mentioning the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo going far enough to the north to reach the Russian River in 1542. Almost 40 years late, Francis Drake, a famous English explorer, claimed a certain part of the coast for England in 1579. The Coast was mapped in 1602 by a Spanish explorer.
US and Canadian settlers began coming to this land in the 1820s. They needed to use different trails in order to traverse the inaccessible mountains and deserts surrounding this region, which made this journey rather difficult and dangerous. At approximately the same time, Russia was exploring the region and managed to establish a trading post at Fort Ross. Missionaries from Spain were diligently setting up missions in what they called Alta (Upper) California as well as small towns. In the end they managed to establish 21 missions along the coast. Since 1821, when Mexico achieved independence from Spain, this land was a Mexican territory for some 25 years. The land was mostly used for ranches. Mexican Government took control of the previously Spanish missions and secularized them by 1832.
In 1846 the settlers in the area rebelled against the Mexican control of the land and the Bear Flag Revolt began. Once the rebellion was successfully completed, the rebels at Sonoma raised the flag that looked much like the today’s California flag with a star, a bear, a red stripe and an inscription that read ‘California Republic’. The only president of that short lived Republic was William B. Ide, who was a crucial element in the revolt.
The same year that the revolt was raised, the Mexican-American War started. It is then that the US Navy began the occupation of the California, which capitulated after one month of siege. In 1847 Americans were given control over California by the treaty of Cahuenga. The region was then divided between US and Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the war, left California in the hands of the US, and allowed Mexico to keep control over the Baja Peninsula.
In the 1848, California was estimated to have less than 15,000 inhabitants that weren’t native to the land. However, this has quickly changed with the arrival of over 300,000 settlers by 1854 when the gold was found in California and the Gold Rush began inflaming the passions and hopes of people from all over the world. In 1850 California was admitted as a free state to the US.
Native populations of the region suffered tremendously under the waves of new settlers. They were being murdered, enslaved, forcefully moved to other parts of the region, and stricken by a number of diseases that they haven’t had immunities to. Government helped with the funding of militias that were supposed to protect the settlers from the local populations of Native Americans. There were several terrible massacres of Native American people in this period such as Old Shasta Massacre and Yontoket Massacre. After the initial battles, Native Americans were confined to underfunded reservations that didn’t have enough agricultural potential to give them the opportunity to provide for themselves. Even American historians didn’t hesitate to describe the actions of the government as genocide.
From 1777 until 1835, while this region was under Spanish and Mexican control, the seat of Californian government was Monterey. It is also where the Constitutional Convention of 1849 was held. One of the issues that was discussed there was the establishment of a new capital. First options that were tried out were San Jose, Vallejo and Benicia, but neither of those seemed to be suitable. It is in 1854 that it was decided that the capital will be located in Sacramento.
First Transcontinental Railroad that was made operational in 1869 did a lot to facilitate the transportation in these parts, which were previously notoriously difficult to traverse. The railroad crossed Sierra Nevada Mountains at the Donner Pass. This has brought a new wave of settlers who soon realized that with proper irrigation, this region offered incredibly fertile soil. They soon started growing huge quantities of cotton, wheat, vegetables and fruit. The most important agricultural region was, and still is Central Valley.
The migrations to this region were further facilitated by the completion of important highways systems in the early 20th century. This included Route 66 and Lincoln Highway. This has made this region the most populous area in the US, which prompted further development of the infrastructure and educational system.
The gentle climate and varied geography of the region, as well as cheap land in this region attracted filmmakers who in 1920s decided to establish a system of studios in Hollywood. Several decades after that, Stanford University encouraged the development of what is now known as Silicon Valley which gave another substantial influx to the California’s economy that was already doing quite well with the agriculture and Hollywood.
Geography and Climate of California
California has Oregon on the north, the Pacific Ocean on the west, Baja California on the south and Arizona and Nevada on the east. It covers an area of 160,000 square miles, which makes it the third largest state in the US. Its enormous Central Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges from all sides, with the Cascade Range on the north side, Sierra Nevada on the east, Tehachapi Mountains in the south and coastal ranges on the west. The central Valley has incredible agricultural potential and produces a third of total food produced in the nation.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is the essential water supply for the entire state. Through a serious of pumps and canals, water from the Delta is transported all over the state, providing drinking water for somewhere close to two thirds of the population of the state, or 23 million people, as well as supplying farms west of San Joaquin Valley with water for irrigation.
The Sierra Nevada range can boast the highest peak in the contiguous states. It is Mount Whitney with the height of 14,505 feet. This range is also where the famous and beautiful Yosemite Valley is located. It also the location of the Sequoia National Park that is full of these majestic trees that have been determined to be the largest living organisms on the surface of the Earth. The enormous Lake Tahoe, which California shares with Nevada, is also in this region.
Somewhere around 45% of the state’s surface is forested. The number of species of pine that can be found in California far surpasses the number of other states. Except for the Alaska, California is the state with the largest forested area. California White Mountains are a home to several oldest trees of their species, particularly, a 4,700 years old Bristlecone Pine can be found in that area.
The sheer size of forested areas, as well as large diversity of the terrain gives California very interesting plant life. This is caused by no less than six life zones, including Upper Sonoran and Sonoran, zones that are covering some coastal parts and deserts, as well as Arctic, Canadian, Hudsonian and transition zones, all with different types of animal and plant life. Along with many other types of plants adapted to a life in the desert, the famous Joshua tree can be found in the Mojave Desert which belongs to the Sonoran zone. One of the most interesting plants in the transition zone are the giant sequoias, some of which are thought to be more than 4,000 years old.
The southern part of the state is mostly covered in deserts, notably the Mojave Desert in the south-central portion of the state, and Death Valley to the northeast of it. The lowest and the hottest place in the US is the Badwater Basin in the Death Valley which is located at 282 feet beneath the sea level. This makes California the state with both the highest and the lowest points in the contiguous US. The southern part of the state gets somewhere around a half of its water supplies from the Colorado River which forms the southeastern border with Arizona. California is a part of the so called Ring of Fire which means that floods, tsunamis, droughts and landslides are not a rarity in this state. It also has some volcanoes and often suffers from earthquakes. Because of the great diversity of plant and animal life it is not surprising to learn that California has 118 animals and 181 plants on the endangered list.
Most of the state has a mild Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and cool winters. Farther from the coast the differences in summer and winter temperatures start increasing. There is more rainfall in the northern parts of the state. The climate of the northwestern California is temperate, while the Central Valley also has the Mediterranean climate like the coast, but with greater temperature extremes. In Sierra Nevada and other ranges, the climate is mountainous, with snowy winters and moderately hot summers.
California’s mountains are creating a rain shield that caused the formation of the deserts. The higher deserts in the east of California usually have cold winter and hot summers, while the lower deserts in the south of the state have milder winters. Death Valley is considered the hottest place in North America. It was there that the highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere, 134 F, was recorded in 1913.The lowest temperature in California of -45 F was recorded in 1937.
Economy of California
The GSP of California in 2010 was $1.9 trillion, meaning that it was larger than GSPs of all the other states in the US. California alone is contributing 135 of the nation’s total gross domestic product. However, despite the impressive GSP, the Chief Executive Group has classified California as the worst place for doing business in the US in terms of taxes, workforce quality and living environment.
The five most important and largest sectors in California are education health and other services which in 2008 created 18% of the state’s GSP, real estate and rental and leasing – 17%, trade transportation and utilities – 16%, government – 12% and manufacturing which was responsible for 10%. Since 2010 this currently has had fifth largest unemployment rates in the nation, with 12.5% unemployed people. This is a significant increase from 2007 when the rates were 5.9%.
Somewhere around a quarter of California’s economy comes from international commerce. The state has exported goods in the worth of $127 billion in 2006, $134 billion in 2007, and $144 billion in 2008. Electronics and computers make up about 42% of the value of exported goods.
Agriculture is another important aspect of California’s economy; sales of farmed goods have drastically increased in the last three decades, from $7.3 billion in 1974 to $31 billion in 2004. These advances couldn’t even be halted that in that time the amount of land that was farmed has decreased by 15%. The fact that farms and ranches still managed to generate products in the value of $36.2 billion is attributed to technological advances in farming. Per capita income in the state was $38,956 in 2007, which made it eleventh in the nation. However different areas of the state have major differences in per capita income. While Central Valley is rather poor, Silicon Valley and some of the coastal cities can boast the largest per capita incomes in the US. It was recorded that in 2010 there were 663,000 millionaires living in the state.
Population of California
It was determined that between 2000 and 2009 the population of California has had a natural increase of 3,090,016 people, with 5,058,440 babies being born and 2,179,958 people dying, and that international migrations caused an increase of 1,816, 633 people. In 2011, California had 37,691,912 people, which was a 1.2% increase from the last year. Los Angeles County has been the most populous county in the US for several decades, and it alone has a larger population than 42 of the US states. It is estimated that in 2010 there was 7.3% illegal aliens in the state, which places California in the third place in the US when the percentage of illegal aliens is considered.
The population of California was estimated to consist of 40.1% of non-Hispanic white people, 17.5% Hispanic white, 13% Asian, 6.2% African American, 1% Native American, 4.9% multiracial, 0.4% Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, while 37.6 are Hispanic or Latino people of any race. The major ancestry groups were Mexican – 30.6%, German – 9.8%, Irish – 7.8%, English – 6.9% and Italian – 4.3%. It was estimated in 2008 that this state has the largest minority population in the nation, which is making up 57% of the total number of inhabitants.
Some 57.6% percent of residents consider English to be their first language, 28.2% are speaking Spanish, 2% Filipino, 1.6% Chinese, 1.4% Vietnamese and 1.1% speak Korean. There were also 70 Native American languages that were at once point spoken in this area. In 2008, 31% of the population were the adherents of the Catholic Church, 18% of Evangelical Protestant and 14% of mainline Protestant. In 2006 the total Jewish population of the state was estimated at 1,194,190 people.
California Government and Legislature
California is a Republic with three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch has the Governor at the helm and a number of officials who are elected for four year terms, and may only be re-elected once. The legislative branch has two bodies, the Senate with 40 members whose terms last for four years, and the Assembly with 80 members who serve two years terms. Senate members cannot serve for more than two terms, while Assembly members may serve up to three terms. Finally, the judicial branch consists of courts of California and the highest authority court, the Supreme Court of California. California has the largest judiciary in the US with 1,600 judges. Death sentence is still active in California, and this state has the largest Death Row in the nation, but the executions are currently on hold as the human rights issues are being examined.
Transportation in California
California has one of the best developed transportations system in the US, and it is responsible for a large portion of the state’s revenue. Different parts of the state are well connected by the vast system of freeways, expressways and highways. California Department of transportation is in charge of their maintenance and building of the new roads. Due to the large increases in population, the roads are in rather bad condition despite the effort that is invested in their maintenance.
San Francisco can boast one of the, not only state’s, but also national landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge, that was with its span of 4,200 feet the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built in 1937. It has to this day remained an impressive sight, and is attracting a lot of attention from tourists.
The state has a number of commercial and passenger airport, the most important of which are San Francisco national Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. California is, naturally, not lacking in sea ports either. The combination of already giant complexes of the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles is the largest seaport complex in the state, and somewhere around a quarter of all the container cargo in the US goes through this complex. Another important port responsible for the most of the containers that come from the Pacific Rim is the Port of Oakland.
Amtrak California is responsible for the rail travel between the cities. This mode of transport is becoming increasingly popular and the records for the number of passengers are constantly being set. Construction of the California High-Speed Rail that would span 700 miles was approved by voters in 2008, and the funds in the amount of $9.95 have been set apart for the construction of this rail.