Father JunÃÆÃâÃâÃÂpero Serra, a Catholic priest, and
Captain Gaspar de PortolÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¡, a soldier, establish 21 missions along the
coast of present-day California. Each mission is approximately 30 miles
(or a day's walk) apart. The priests attempt to convert the approximately
150,000 natives to Christianity, while the soldiers protect the territory
from the Russian fur traders to the north. Deadly diseases brought by
the Europeans kill thousands of the Native American inhabitants of the
The newly independent nation of Mexico makes Alta
California, as the California region was called, an official territory
1830's and 1840's
Attracted by an abundance of resources, waves
of American settlers begin to come to California, although the land
is officially Mexican territory.
The Mexican-American War ends with the signing
of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which gives the U.S. official ownership
of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Colorado
and Wyoming. The great majority of Mexicans living in California at
the time are granted U.S. citizenship.
Following the discovery of gold along the American
River in northern California, a "gold rush" brings hundreds of thousands
of Americans, Mexicans, and people from other parts of the world to
California. While California benefits from the influx of people, the
Native American population, which was estimated at 150,000 in 1845,
decreases to 16,000 by 1900. Most natives die from diseases introduced
by the multitude of new settlers.
On September 9, California officially becomes
Mexican immigration to California increases in
response to the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Due to the war,
an economic crisis has struck, and Mexicans come to California in search
of better opportunities.
The Mexican community of East Los Angeles is terrorized
during the "Zoot Suit Riots." From June 3 through June 7, thousands
of U.S. servicemen attack Mexican youths dressed in "zoot suits," flashy,
colorful suits that were fashionable at the time. The attacks stem from
a fight between sailors and a group of Mexican Americans occurring on
June 3, during which a sailor is seriously injured. The attacks on the
Mexican-American population are widely reported by the Mexican and Latin
American press and strain war-time relations between the U.S., Mexico,
and Latin America. Press coverage raises the awareness among Americans
and Latin Americans of the prejudice and injustices that Mexican Americans
face in the United States.
Cesar Chavez founds the National Farm Workers
Association to obtain better wages and working conditions for grape
pickers and other farm workers. In 1965, the NFWA organizes a boycott
of California grape growers. By 1970, most grape growers sign contracts
with the unions. Chavez continues to organize California farm workers
through the 1970s.
Governor Ronald Reagan creates the Career Opportunities
Development Program, the first of its kind in the nation. This is California's
first program to advance the employment and participation of minorities
in institutions funded by state money. By the 1970s California is leading
the nation in the development of affirmative action programs. Thousands
of California Latinos benefit from the program through employment and
According to 1990 Census, Latinos make up more
than 25 percent of the population of California, although undocumented
immigrants may make this population much larger. Projections show that
from 1990-2010, the Latino population of California will double.