Story behind California’s Largest Cities
The two largest and busiest cities in California are Los Angeles and San Diego. Both cities are acclaimed in their own rights. But with great cities come rich histories. Let’s dive into how Los Angeles and San Diego became the great cities that we know today.
Los Angeles: The City of Angels
Before celebrities and the movie industry flocked to Los Angeles, also known as L.A., it was the home to its first known settlers, the Tongva and Chumash tribes. A Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, discovered the southern area of California while on an official military expedition for the Spanish Empire in 1542. On August 2, 1769, Gaspar de Portolà and Juan Crespi discovered the site of Los Angeles.
The Spanish era of Los Angeles contributed to its Roman Catholicism. This period built the first mission and communities that were devoted to the religion. In fact, the name Los Angeles came from the name of its original Spanish community “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula”. This translates to “Town of Our Lady, The Queen of Angels of the River Porciúncula”.
In 1821, New Spain separated from the Spanish Empire. With this, the community moved on to be a part of Mexico. However, the Mexican influence lasted only until the end of the Mexican-American War.
The Americans won over battles and took control from the Californios, the descendants of Spanish ancestry that ruled over the area. Their victory led to the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, 1847, which surrendered the territory to the United States.
Under the Americans’ rule, oil was discovered in the city in 1892. This led to the state’s success in being the country’s largest oil producer. This success attracted more residents to the city of Los Angeles.
In 1910, Hollywood, which was then a separate neighborhood, merged into Los Angeles via vote. The film industry had already been booming during this merge. The merge focused the world’s film industry within Los Angeles, which resulted in the star-studded city we know today.
San Diego: The Birthplace of California
When the Europeans first discovered the state, they set foot on the San Diego Bay. This is the reason why San Diego is known as the birthplace of California.
The first inhabitants of San Diego were the Kumeyaay Native American people. It was discovered by Portuguese born explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. After landing 1542, he named the area “San Miguel” and claimed it for the Spanish Empire. In 1602,
Sebastián Vizcaíno arrived on the flagship San Diego to map the California coast. His flagship later became the namesake of the city of San Diego. Despite his successful expedition, however, the Spanish did not colonize the land yet.
It was in May 1769 when Gaspar de Portolà founded Fort Presidio of San Diego near the San Diego River, making it the first European settlement of the state. Later that year, Franciscan friars founded Mission San Diego de Alcalá which drew in more people into Alta California.
When Mexico separated from Spain in 1821, San Diego became part of the Mexican territory. Here, they attempted to extend their power over the coastal territory of Alta California. But it was conquered by the United States during the Mexican-American war. The signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga in 1847 surrendered San Diego to the United States.
At this time, the town of San Diego was at the foot of Presidio Hill. Since it was several miles from the water, there were several attempts to move the town. In 1850, William Heath Davis proposed the constructions near the Bay shore to create New San Diego. In 1867, Alonzo Horton moved to the bayside area. He encouraged the move due to the convenience of being near water for shipping. Several residents and businesses agreed and thus created “New Town.” New Town became the center of economy of the city while the original settlement became what is known as Old Town today.
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