Baja California is a land of intrigue. It truly has it all when it comes to stirring the soul of an adventurer. Rocky and rugged yet stunningly beautiful coastlines, arid landscapes and picturesque sand dunes dotted by imposing mountains combined with friendly, hard working and vibrant people are what make Baja California a place you will want to return to over and over.
Before the Spaniards arrived, the peninsula of Baja California was inhabited by three major ethnic groups: the Cochimí in the north, the Guaycura in the central section and the Pericú on the southern cape. Archaeological artifacts suggest that these tribes inhabited the peninsula and Cedros Island as early as 9,000-10,000 years ago. Their descendants still live in Baja California, primarily on the northernmost part of the peninsula.
While the Baja Peninsula (originally thought to be an island) was explored by Spanish explorers Hernan Cortez in 1535 and Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 it wasn’t until 1695, that a Jesuit priest named Juan María Salvatierra established the region’s first permanent Spanish settlement, the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto, which quickly became the peninsula’s religious and administrative capital. Its success enabled other Jesuits to introduce more missions throughout the area. A total of 23 missions would be constructed over the next 70 years before the Jesuits, expelled in 1767, were replaced by the Franciscans under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra.
The independence movement in Mexico began in 1810, but Baja California’s involvement was minimal and while the Spanish presence on the peninsula consisted primarily of missions, the missions were closely linked to the Spanish crown. The end of Spanish rule in Mexico spelled the end of the missions’ administrative authority as well. After gaining its independence in 1821, Mexico established Baja California as a federal territory. In 1832, the governor converted all the missions into parish churches.
The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) had major repercussions in Baja California. The war began after Mexico refused the United States’ offer to buy California, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming. In the treaty ending the war, Mexico gave in to U.S. demands and ceded the vast territory in exchange for $15 million.
Today Baja California offers a unique landscape, a blend of time long forgotten mixed with a vibrant culture and industrial modernization. Thankfully it has not been over developed and much of Baja’s raw beauty is still on display today. The state’s economy is bolstered by agriculture, manufacturing , mining and tourism. The state is also well known as a tourist destination, thanks to its countless beaches and proximity to the United States.
- The peninsula of Baja California is 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) long, making it the world’s third-longest.
- Baja California is extremely biodiverse along its coasts. The Nature Conservancy calls the region “The World’s Aquarium” as the Gulf of California and Baja California’s shores are home to one-third of Earth’s marine mammal species.
- The U.S. border crossing at Tijuana is one of the busiest in the world, with about 50,000 cars and 25,000 pedestrians coming and going each day.
- Mexico has 34 UNESCO world Heritage sites
- The Caesar’s salad and famous beverage the margarita are said to have both been invented in Baja California.
- Ensenada, one of Baja’s municipalities, is considered the biggest municipality in the world.
* History CHannel – http://www.history.com/topics/mexico/baja-california