Baja California (literally "lower California" in Spanish) is the northernmost state of Mexico. It is sometimes informally referred to as Baja California Norte to distinguish it from the Baja California peninsula, from which it forms the northern half, and Baja California Sur, which forms the southern half of the peninsula. Before becoming a state in 1953 the area was known as the Territory of Baja California Norte. It has an area of 71,576 km² (about 27,600 mi², or 3.57% of the land mass of Mexico. The state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Sonora and the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California, and on the south by Baja California Sur. Its northern limit is the U.S.-Mexico border, adjacent to the U.S. state of California.
The state has a population of 2,750,000 (2003 estimate), much more than the sparsely populated Baja California Sur to the south. Over 75% of the population lives in the capital city, Mexicali, or the most populous city in the state, Tijuana. Both these cities are close to the U.S. border. Other important cities include Ensenada, San Felipe, and Playas de Rosarito and Tecate. Baja California is not entirely Mestizo (Spanish and American Indian), the population includes small numbers of other European, east Asian, Middle Eastern and African descent.
The state's inhabitants are known as "Cachanillas," after the wild cachanilla plant which has a fresh aroma and was used by the original inhabitants to make huts. The first Mestizo colonies used these materials with dried mud. Originally, the term "Cachanillas" was applied only to the inhabitants of the Mexicali Valley, although there are tales of the term being used for inhabitants of Santa Rosalía in Baja California Sur. Composer Antonio Valdéz Herrera's work "Puro Cachanilla" (Pure Cachanilla) has made use of the term more common.
Europeans reached the present state of Baja California in 1539, when Francisco de Ulloa reconnoitered its east coast on the Gulf of California and explored the peninsula's west coast at least as far north as Cedros Island. Hernando de Alarcón returned to the east coast and ascended the lower Colorado River in 1540, and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo completed the reconnaissance of the west coast in 1542. Sebastián Vizcaíno again surveyed the west coast in 1602, but outside visitors during the following century were few.
The Jesuits founded a permanent mission colony on the peninsula at Loreto in 1697. During the following decades, they gradually extended their sway throughout the present state of Baja California Sur. In 1751-1753, the Croatian Jesuit mission-explorer Ferdinand Konščak made overland explorations northward into the state of Baja California. Jesuit missions were subsequently established among the Cochimí at Santa Gertrudis (1752), San Borja (1762), and Santa María (1767).
After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1768, the short-lived Franciscan administration (1768-1773) resulted in one new mission at San Fernando Velicatá. More importantly, the 1769 expedition to settle Alta California under Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra resulted in the first overland exploration of the northwestern portion of the state.
The Dominicans took over management of the Baja California missions from the Franciscans in 1773. They established a chain of new missions among the northern Cochimí and western Yumans, first on the coast and subsequently inland, extending from El Rosario (1774) to Descanso (1817), just south of Tijuana.
This article is licensed under the GNU
Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Baja California".