Background: Mexican-Americans in California in the 19th Century (2023)

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Introduction: Timeline

  • before 1821 Spanish colony
  • 1821-1846 Mexican colony
  • 1846 Bear Flag Revolt
  • 1846-48 Mexican-American War
  • 1848 Gold discovered
  • 1848 California becomes part of US
  • 1849 Constitutional convention in Monterey
  • 1850 California becomes state
  • 1850-54 California capitals in Benicia, Vallejo
  • 1854 Sacramento becomes California capital

I 1822-1846: The "Golden Age Of Ranchos"

Background: Prior to 1821:

1. Origin of Ranchos: Prior to 1821, Spain granted huge tracts of land as a reward to 20 military brass, hoping they would settle land and keep it safe for Spain. The requirement was that the land holder herd at least 2,000 cows and hire cowboys to tend them.)

2. Mexican pioneer story to match the Pilgrims: In 1775-76, while the Revolutionary War was beginning, 200 Mexican people of both sexes and all ages walked from Mexico City to California via Arizona. In just over 2 months, they walked 1600 miles! In the subsequent 17 days, they walked 400 additional miles, from LA to Monterey. Only one person died en route, a woman giving birth.

Overview: Californios 1821-1848:

Mexicans had lived in California since late 1700's and were well established but sparsely settled on far-flung ranchos. A few lived in towns (pueblos) that grew up near the former forts (presidios) and churches (missions). Californios (Mexican citizens living in California) became accustomed to running local governments without interference from a central authority, much like the Town Councils did in New England. In the process, Californios developed a taste for self-government, as well as frustration about their lack of representation in the governing body in faraway Mexico. Influenced by the same 18th century enlightenment philosophers that inspired the Yankee revolutionaries, the Californios favored a republican government. They did not understand capitalist enterprise, however, but favored an aristocratic, feudal-style agricultural economy based on honor, trust, and trade without money. In the early 1800's Anglo and Euro immigrants began to move to California. Californios were uneasy about the Yankees, who married their daughters, were not Catholic, and whose capitalism and land-grabs threatened the rancho way of life. But until the Gold Rush, Yankee numbers were small enough to present little actual threat.

1. Feudal-style system of Ranchos:

  • Native or ex-soldier laborers
  • Village of workers outside adobe house of owner
  • Laborers not slaves but cannot own land and are kept poor, in fact, like serfs
  • Mexican govt. in 1834 gave mission land (800 million acres) to 600-800 Mexicans
  • Rancho owners ruled themselves and largely ignored faraway Mexico govt.
  • Federation of nobility; loyalty and honor important
  • Festivals called fiestas were temporary 'equalizers' of nobles and serfs

2. Political power republican- in theory -- in practice more like an oligarchy of the landowners: There were town councils of elected reps and a California legislature of elected officials, but they almost never convened. Government instability and rivalry among leaders contributed to political unrest. There was a frequent turnover of governors appointed by Mexico. The years between 1830-40 were very inharmonious but without open warfare.

3. Social and class differences. Elite (between 5-10% of total population) rancheros controlled the government, economy, and culture. They called themselves Spaniards to create a myth of cultural superiority but most were mestizos. The Mexican (non-Indian) population was ca 6,000 in 1846. The large majority (everyone not a landowner) lived in coastal towns and settlements adjacent to ranchos.

4. Men who were not rancheros: worked as subsistence farmers, skilled vaqueros (cowboys), or in trades related to herding. Most people in pueblos (towns) owned small private lots and homes, grazed and farmed the adjacent common land (ejido) granted to all. Men who did not live at a rancho or work as cowboys were often hired for seasonal work in rodeos (roundups) and matanzas (slaughters). At the bottom of society were the remaining mission Indians (ca 15,000 in 1834). The Indians did the most menial labor on ranchos and were often little more than slaves, paid in scanty clothing and alcohol. Some rancheros (rancho owners) treated Indians well but most did not. Many Mexicans intermarried with Indians.

5. Women: on the northern frontier of California, Sonoma County (the location of the rancho in Luckless Gulch,) women worked hard and were keystones of the family. Even wealthy rancheros' wives worked all day, overseeing domestic duties, household production (weaving, making clothing, candle-making, etc.), and the production of some agricultural crops. In fact, the ranchero's wife often worked far harder than her husband. In towns, women often worked on a family farm and also earned wages as low level domestic servants or teachers.

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Women were also folk healers, curanderas.**

Women worked alongside men in the fields and pastures in a collective environment that required all family members, including children, to contribute food to the household. Men controlled the secular and religious institutions and dominated the families, but women ran the house, educated the children, and had property rights, both private and community, that Anglo women did not have in American states during this era.

** I did not know this when I wrote Luckless Gulch, but Estrella's talent as a folk healer of animals is in keeping with a Mexican tradition of female healers

6. Social unity: in spite of distance and divisions, Californios were tightly bound to each other. Families had to rely on each other; few ever lacked food, shelter, or basic needs. "God parents" kept bonds among families of all classes, often across classes. Respect, patronage, and hospitality codes helped to preserve unity. Californios were also tied by bonds of religion and language, plus shared cultural heritage.

7. Self-sufficiency of ranchos: cheese-making, tanning of sheep and calf skins; weaving of blankets or other cloth; wine-making; grain-raising, grinding, and baking; amassing tallow and hides for trading. Field crops were grown for use on the rancho, rarely for trading.

II June 14, 1846: Increased Yankee Immigration And Anti-Mexican Bias Lead To The "Bear Flag Revolt,"

The 'revolt' was a raid by a handful of soldiers (not all Americans, or members of the US Army). They were directed by Captain John Fremont of the US Army, who was on an official trip to conduct land surveys, and who acted without the knowledge or authority of his commanders. Captain Fremont was staying at Sutter's Fort (Sacramento) when he heard rumors that there was soon to be a war against Mexico. Fremont decided to launch the war himself. He ordered a small group of soldiers to raid Vallejo's home in Sonoma, kidnap Vallejo and a few other Mexican Army officials, and imprison them at Sutter's Fort. Fremont kept the men locked in a room so small they couldn't move about freely, for 6 weeks, without a chance to talk to their captor. Fremont was later court-martialed for his unlawful assault; though he managed a presidential pardon and is often portrayed as a hero for his initiative in the 'revolt'.

During Vallejo's captivity, Vallejo's wife, Francisca and children were trapped in their house, while the Bear Flaggers raided their pantry, fields, and stables, and quickly drank away Vallejo's large wine cellar. Francisca stoically fed the Bear Flaggers as well as a large number of frightened neighbors who sought protection under her roof. Word of the raid spread through northern California, and three friends of Vallejo set out to bring food and comfort to Francisca, but Fremont saw them en route to Sonoma and ordered his men to kill them. This murder inflamed racial hatred - in both directions.

The Bear Flag revolt was barbarous and unlawful and did nothing to advance California's entry into the United States. It was a particular irony that Fremont targeted Vallejo, a staunch American ally and advocate for California statehood.

The Bear Flag revolt was unnecessary at any rate, for unknown to the Bear Flaggers, the US had already declared war against Mexico on May 13, 1846. But the news took until mid-July 1846 to reach California. Vallejo's family rejoiced when the bear flag came down in front of their house, and the US Flag was raised. Finally, on August 1, Vallejo was freed. The Vallejos, great fans of the US, assumed that their lives would now return to normal, and that they would work hand-in-hand with Yankees in California (mostly military personnel at this time) to create a new, republican government.

Vallejo wanted the US to make California a state, but some Mexican-Americans opposed the change. A series of skirmishes between Mexican and American soldiers dragged on for almost two years and finally ended with the capitulation of Mexico and the subsequent treaty of Hidalgo, ceding California to the US on February 2, 1848.

Mexicans welcomed provisions in the Treaty of Hidalgo to protect existing property rights of Mexican-Californians; but these were later erased by Congress.

III 1848-1850: Interim In Which California A 'Part' Of The US But Not Yet A State And Had No Government Or Laws

Summary: The same years that were the first two years of the Gold Rush were also, by a strange and unfortunate coincidence, the two years when California was not yet a state, and had no elected government or laws. (The California "Governor" at this time was a military appointee and had no real role.) While the US Congress argued for years about California Statehood, Vallejo and other Californios joined with other California leaders, and took matters into their own hands. The held a convention to determine California's status and create an interim government. Most importantly, they wrote a State Constitution.

  • Sept-Oct 1849: Monterey Constitutional Convention had 8 Californios representatives; the last time until the late 20th century that Latinos in California played a major role in California state politics
  • Californios contributions: women's property ownership rights; laws to be published in Spanish and English; civil liberties
  • Vallejo served on four committees. Vallejo was one of the most qualified people present, having read and studied the US Constitution and Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice. He offered to pay out of his own pocket for three commissioners to draft a basic code of laws for California's new government.
  • October 13, Monterey Constitution signed. At this point there were four weeks for candidates to campaign for election to the new California Senate created by the Constitution
  • On November 13, 1849, Vallejo was elected a State Senator. He served on 7 committees and was gone from home most of the time for several years, working to make the new State government a success. Meanwhile, his farm and personal finances suffered greatly, as squatters stole his land, livestock, and crops, and the new-arriving Yankee lawyers declared his land grants invalid.

On September 9, 1850, congress admitted California as the 31st State.

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IV 1850-1900: The Gold Rush And Californios

Summary: Mexican-Americans' experience of the Gold Rush was very different from that of Anglo settlers. Most Californios felt overwhelmed by the surge of new people. While Anglos achieved remarkable economic growth, Californios suffered dramatic economic decline and became politically powerless. They lost their land holdings and with their land, their opportunity for self-sufficiency. In 1850, over 64% of Californios owned land worth more than $100 (in 1850 dollars). By 1860, only 29% owned land. In 1870, 21% owned land, and in 1880-90, only 5% owned land. Mexicans struggled to hold onto the only thing left: their traditional culture.

1. Gold Rush and the cattle industry: boom and bust

  • Ranchos initially did well due to the influx of the gold rush population who bought their beef, but success didn't last long. In an effort to supply the new settlers, Rancheros increased herds, which led to overgrazing.

Second, Anglos imported superior beef cattle from outside the state.

Finally, Anglos stole both cattle and land from Rancheros.

When the Gold Rush waned after a few years, there was a glut of cattle, lowering their value to almost nothing. And legal fees (to try to keep land that had been stolen) made it impossible for rancheros to buy supplies or pay workers. Desperate, rancheros who still owned any land deeded it away to get money, a process speeded by unscrupulous lawyers.

On top of everything else, floods in 1862 drowned cattle, followed by a 3-year drought. Rancheros couldn't afford US and California taxes suddenly levied on them, and once again borrowed money, at usurious interest rates.

  • Rancheros' longstanding land claims were usually declared invalid by unscrupulous government officials, lawyers, and the courts-all the way up to and including the US Supreme Court.
  • Result:

2. Californios in the North: gold rush destroyed any possibility of a smooth transition from Mexican to American state

  • Mexicans were driven from diggings, harassed and assaulted. 'Foreigner's Tax' and other discriminatory legislation and violence drove Californios away from the gold fields.

    Californios landowners were defenseless; the California Land Law of 1851 was designed to invalidate Spanish and Mexican land grants. Men such as Vallejo went all the way to the Supreme Court, where he lost his suit in one of the most discriminatory decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.

    • Anglo lawyers tricked Californios, who didn't understand the US law system, into signing leases that turned out to be mortgages they couldn't afford, then forced the Californios to pay the lawyers for land they already owned. Combined effects of litigation, squatters, unscrupulous lawyers and bankers threw nearly all Californios off their own land and reduced them to poverty.
  • Racial violence against Californios was commonplace, including lynching and mob action. A tiny handful of Californios bandits, such as the legendary Joaquin Murrieta, were cited as justification for violence against Californios in general.
  • Northern California society was transformed by Gold Rush so quickly that Californios had no time to adjust or respond in any systematic way.

3. In the South: Impact of Gold Rush slower, Californios society intact until 1860s

  • Fewer Anglos came south until 1860s. In the first few years of the Rush, Southern California Rancheros posted profits on cattle. But the painful decade of 1850-60 followed the same trend as in the North: Californios saw their region slowly invaded by 'foreigners' who didn't respect them. Anglo newcomers viewed Californios as 'backward,' standing in the way of progress and Americanization.
  • Violence in South: racial tension and violence erupted repeatedly between Anglos and Californios. Californios of all classes were unjustly treated. Mexican/Americans were seen as 'dregs of society' and white supremacy violence was directed at innocent Mexicans. To avoid violence, Mexican/Americans limited their contact with Anglos. Californios often voted as a block to defeat anti-Mexican candidates. Anglos responded by gerrymandering the Mexican communities to the point that Californios lost all influence. The last Mexican candidates in 1880 withdrew under duress. Mexican delegates were kicked out of the State Democratic Convention and treated with contempt. A few Rancheros who managed to hold onto land called themselves 'Spanish' to try to separate themselves from 'Mexicans'.

V After The Gold Rush: Californios And The Formation Of California Government

In spite of his mistreatment during the Bear Flag incidents, Vallejo remained a staunch supporter of American democracy and did everything he could to help form the new government. The first two capitals were on his land, at Benecia and Vallejo. He served in the first California State Senate and worked on seven committees.

He promoted an act for the protection of Indians and voted to postpone a bill to keep free Negroes from entering California. (While it's true that the Indian Act offered no help to Indians, it is also true that Vallejo carried on a genuine friendship with neighboring Indian chiefs, especially his closest friend, Chief Solano.)

He wrote a report on the derivation of California place names to make sure the old Spanish names were not replaced. He was asked to run for Lieutenant Gov. and would have been elected, but he had to leave politics to try to prevent his small remaining land holdings from disappearing.

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When squatters claimed his land and he tried to get it back through the US Court system, the court costs drained his money and he was forced to sell much of the land he was fighting to hold onto. Finally, the Supreme Court overturned many lower court decisions and denied Vallejo ownership of his lands on questionable grounds with no precedent. His son-in-law lobbied for a preemption bill, which passed the US Congress in 1863. This enabled Vallejo to keep his land---provided he paid for it, at a price he could not afford.

Having lost his vast rancho holdings and house in Sonoma, Vallejo moved to a hilltop house near Sonoma and lived modestly. He did jobs that servants had once done for him: mending fences, hauling wood, fixing holes in the roof. He got up at 5 AM to turn on machinery that piped water from his hillside spring to the town of Sonoma. This water works was his main income for the rest of his life. When his Sonoma house was taken from him, he arranged that it be turned into a public school for the children of the town.

Vallejo survived with immense dignity as a native Californian who insisted that the state's Mexican past was a rich legacy that deserved to be honored.

VI 1850-1900: Changes And Adaptations For Mexican/Americans

1. Formation of barrios - segregated neighborhoods socially, geographically, and politically separated from larger settlements.

Barrios started in the 1850s in Northern California, in the 1870s in Southern California. Only a small number of the once wealthy Spanish-speaking elite escaped segregation by becoming assimilated into Anglo society through marriage. Outside barrios, the general population was hostile to Mexican/Americans.

But barrios were also a haven for traditional customs. Barrios ensured the persistence of Mexican culture in California: Spanish language, religious practices, cultural and social activities, and family ties. Examples are barbeques, fandangos, and horsemanship contests. Religion helped sustain the Californios through faith and the many patron saints' celebrations. Mutual aid societies provided life insurance, loans, and medical insurance. More than 2 dozen Spanish language newspapers appeared in California between 1870-1910. Newspapers expressed pride, encouraged minority views, and denounced discrimination by Anglos. Though a majority of Mexicans could not read, those who did passed on the content of the papers. Ethnic pride contributed to the persistence of Mexican society.

2. Changes in occupations - by 1890, the pattern stabilized and persisted until 1930; Mexican Californians were confined to menial unskilled jobs, living close to poverty and bare subsistence.

  • Loss of cattle trade and related jobs.
  • Cheap labor force for new jobs: farm workers, cannery workers, teamsters, gardeners, seasonal migrant farm laborers, etc.
  • Loss of other cheap laborers: declining Indian population; Chinese excluded everywhere but SF
  • Hispanic California workers were locked into an occupational structure that restricted opportunities for advancement and perpetuated their poverty. They were indispensable to building California's economic prosperity but did not benefit financially.

3. Changes in familial roles and power. Women (and children as young as 6 years) were forced to join men in the workplace, which most likely had impacts on family relationships and power sharing (there are no sociological studies of this issue from this era). Men often had to leave the rest of the family behind as they went off to seasonal jobs far from home. Men were often killed in dangerous work. 31% of Mexican families were headed permanently by women in the 1880's; while countless more were headed by women on a seasonal basis.

VII Lasting Contributions Of 19th Century Californios

1. Location and names of cities. Also names of geographic entities such as rivers and valleys

2. Agricultural production

Many early crops and agricultural innovations stemmed from mission or ranchero agricultural practice and experimentation. California crops introduced by Mexicans include wine, olives, and oranges. Mexicans were the first to grow cotton in California, and nearly every kind of grain. Vallejo was the first commercial wine grower; and his direct descendants include Charles Krug, a famous wine producer. Vallejo also made contributions to the technology of viticulture.

  • Horticultural contributions include palm trees, many species of flowers
  • Introduction of animal husbandry, including: honey bees, cattle, Spanish horses

3. "Roman law" traditions brought by Californios. The Yankees brought "English," or case, law

Especially noticeable in municipal law, Californios contributions are seen in California laws related to community property, separate property rights of a wife, domestic relations, descents and distribution, trespass, and proceedings in action

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4. Religious and ethnic diversity

5. Sense of identity and legacy: Anglo Californians 'adopt' Mexican heritage

The Mexican period contributed more to California 'heritage' than anything the Yankees or foreigners brought with them in the Gold Rush or its aftermath. Sensing profit, Yankees began to celebrate and exploit the 'glorious' Rancho and Mission era they had recently vilified and exterminated.

  • Tourism: the first tourist push in California was to the Los Angeles area in the 1870's, and focused entirely on the 'romance of missions and rancho days'. The first tourist advertisements aimed to make brand-new train systems profitable by luring passengers. Later tourist promotion aimed to lure developers and commercial interests to settle in California and enrich the state
  • Yankees suddenly 'discovered' that the dons were romantic heroes, the same dons they had stereotyped as lazy, irresponsible men only a few years earlier.

Ramona, an 1884 novel by Helen Hunt, based on a romantic view of the rancho era, was an expose of the greed and corruption of Yankees who destroyed both the Indian and Mexican cultures. Ironically, this novel was exploited by Yankees for tourist purposes. Tours of "Ramona's California", pointing out fictitious places such as "Ramona's house" were popular and lucrative. Older Mexican Californians and the few remaining Mission Indians were exploited for public 'reenactments' on 'historic celebration' days. All of this was good for tourist promoters, but did nothing for Mexican Americans except to denigrate them once again, as 'remnants' of a bygone era.

6. American Cowboy traditions invented by Rancheros

  • Spanish horse breeds introduced as prized breeds
  • Horsemanship, competition based on horse skills and tricks


  • Ramada, Sp. patio or outdoor roof-trellis (sometimes with vines trained on it)
  • Remuda, Sp. 'exchange' (group of cattle horses from which cowboy can choose a new, or 'exchange' horse)
  • Rodeo: Sp. 'round-up', from process of gathering wild herds by circling around them; later used for circle-pattern of many rodeo races and tricks, such as barrel racing in a ring
  • chaps: Sp. Chaparreras, chaparral, landscape dominated by dense thickets of evergreen shrubs and small trees, such as in foothills of California-hot, dry in summer and cool, moist in winter
  • lasso: Sp. Lazo, from Latin word for noose
  • lariat: Sp. La reata, the tie (rope)
  • buckaroo Sp. vaquero (cowboy) [but verb 'buck' is from Old English word for deer or goat]
  • bronco-Sp. 'wild', meaning wild, bucking horse

7. Heroes

The great American historian, Bernard de Voto called Vallejo "the most considerable citizen in California". His attributes: he treated Indians with more respect than most men of his era; he was learned and self-educated (with 12,000 books in his home library). Vallejo was articulate, far-seeing, and reasonable, and focused on creating cultural and education institutions for California. He wrote the first comprehensive history of California, and solicited memoirs and accounts from many other early Californios to help the historian, H.H. Bancroft, build his California library and archives. He was a statesman and law maker without ambition for fame or glory, willing to lose money through his efforts at forming a government. He kept faith in constitutional democracy even after it had been misapplied by the US Govt to deprive him of his land, wealth, and position.

Other examples of Californios heroes:

  • Romualda Pacheco was a California governor, US congressman, and US minister to Guatemala and Honduras.
  • Jose Abrego was Mission Commisario, Mexican customs officer, Alcade (mayor) of Monterey, Treasurer of Territorial Finance, and when California became a State, a member of the California Assembly. Both men maintained large ranchos while serving in public office.

8. Food

Mexicans in the Gold Rush brought more appropriate food to the primitive mining 'camps' than Euro or Yankee immigrants; a tortilla can be cooked in seconds on a hot rock, while sourdough bread requires considerable time and an oven. Ironically, early settlers scorned Mexican food. Now Mexican food is the most popular 'ethnic food' in California, Texas, and many other regions of the US.

9. Mission architecture

Nineteenth century Mexican/American building design, as well as some construction practices, became widespread in California during the "mission revival" period in architecture. The Mission revival started in the 1880's, corresponding to the "romantic Mexican history" tourist craze.

The impact of the mission style remains strong today and is perhaps the only authentic California contribution to architecture. "Mission" style furniture is also very popular, often merged with elements of Craftsman furniture. (The "Craftsman" style dates from same era, late 1880s until 1920s, and also emphasizes simple lines and use of natural materials.)

The influence of Rancho houses, used in both towns and on ranchos, is found in 'bungalow' houses and 'ranch' houses that became popular in the 1950's and are common throughout the US. Essentially, bungalow and ranch houses are one story homes with a kitchen eating area replacing the formal dining area of earlier, larger houses.

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Elements of mission architecture:

  • Exterior of houses: Stucco or shingled walls, covered front porches tucked under a low-pitched roof, wide projecting eaves with exposed support beams, and tapered, square columns. Mission style merged with the 'Arts and Crafts' or Craftsman, style when it came to America. The focus of Mission architecture is on ennobling modest homes of the middle class, not building country manors for the wealthy.
  • Interior of houses: Handcrafted natural woodwork visible in built-in cupboards or shelves, simplified columns, Romanesque arches. Inside walls stucco/plaster.
  • Furniture: Often in oak, with straight legs and backs, flat surfaces, heavy and solid, little or no decoration. Mission furniture is similar to craftsman furniture but usually simpler.
  • Exterior of commercial buildings: Long arcaded corridors, sometimes on two stories, (initially to protect stucco walls from rain, and to cool the interiors), Romanesque arches, curved gables, red tile roofs, second story balconies, towers for bells or just for decoration. The thermally efficient construction of brick, stone and mortar in mission architecture keeps the building cooler in day, warmer at night. Massive walls have broad, unadorned surfaces

Note: the columned arcade not only stems from Moorish/Spanish antecedents, but also from Pre-Columbian buildings. For example, a columned arcade was part of a public building now called Chetro Ketl, a pueblo ruin in Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in New Mexico. This arcade was influenced by Aztec buildings witnessed by Chaco traders. Chetro Ketl was built between 850-1250 CE, centuries before the first arrival of Spanish explorers in the Americas.


Why did so many Mexicans come to the US during the early 1900s? ›

To escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), tens of thousands of Mexicans immigrated to the southwest United States, where U.S. corporate investment in agriculture created many new labor opportunities.

Why did Mexicans migrate to California? ›

Migration predated the period of US control notably when Spain sent soldiers and missionaries into the area they named California. It accelerated after the United States seized the Mexican province and immediately profited from the 1848 discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills.

What difficulties did Mexican Americans encounter in the United States in the late 1800s? ›

Along with the job crisis and food shortages that affected all U.S. workers, Mexicans and Mexican Americans had to face an additional threat: deportation. As unemployment swept the U.S., hostility to immigrant workers grew, and the government began a program of repatriating immigrants to Mexico.

How were Mexicans treated during the California Gold Rush? ›

Miners of Hispanic background fared less well. In the minefields, anti-Mexican prejudice often took a violent turn, and many Mexican and Chilean miners left California after the first few years of the Gold Rush. In the long run, Mexican Californian ranchers did no better.

When did Mexicans come to California? ›

Hispanic settlement of what is now California began in 1769 when the Presidio and Catholic mission of San Diego were established. By 1823, 20 more missions dotted the California coast from San Diego to Sonoma, along with several military presidios and civilian communities.

Why did Mexicans come to the US in the 20th century? ›

The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) then increased the flow: war refugees and political exiles fled to the United States to escape the violence. Mexicans also left rural areas in search of stability and employment. As a result, Mexican migration to the United States rose sharply.

Where did most immigrants from Mexico enter the U.S. in the early 1900s? ›

From 1900 to 1930, nearly 700,000 authorized Mexican immigrants entered the United States. The majority, or 87 percent, was congregated in rural areas of the Southwest, working mainly as seasonal itinerant agricultural wage laborers.

What are two reasons why immigrants in the early 1900's came to the United States? ›

Escaping religious, racial, and political persecution, or seeking relief from a lack of economic opportunity or famine still pushed many immigrants out of their homelands. Many were pulled here by contract labor agreements offered by recruiting agents, known as padrones to Italian and Greek laborers.

What were Mexicans living in California called? ›

Californio (plural Californios) is a term used to designate a Hispanic Californian, especially those descended from Spanish and Mexican settlers of the 17th through 19th centuries. California's Spanish-speaking community has resided there since 1683 and is made up of varying Spanish and Mexican origins, including ...

How did the US gain California from Mexico? ›

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which brought an official end to the Mexican-American War (1846-48), was signed on February 2, 1848, at Guadalupe Hidalgo, a city to which the Mexican government had fled with the advance of U.S. forces.

When did Mexicans leave California? ›

After twenty-seven years as part of independent Mexico, California was ceded to the United States in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The United States paid Mexico $15 million for the lands ceded.

What were the major causes and effects of the Mexican-American War? ›

In short, the Mexican-American War was caused because of the United States' repeated encroachment on Mexican territory, such as its' annexation of Texas, which Mexico refused to recognize as being independent. Therefore, Mexico also refused to recognize the claimed border between the two nations.

What were the major impacts of the Mexican-American War? ›

The treaty effectively halved the size of Mexico and doubled the territory of the United States. This territorial exchange had long-term effects on both nations. The war and treaty extended the United States to the Pacific Ocean, and provided a bounty of ports, minerals, and natural resources for a growing country.

What were the major effects of the Mexican-American War? ›

The Mexican-American war (1846-1848) changed the slavery debate. It almost doubled the size of the United States and began a debate, between Northerners and Southerners, over what to do with the newly acquired land.

What problems did Indians and Mexicans in California face as a result of the California Gold Rush? ›

The gold rush of 1848 brought still more devastation. Violence, disease and loss overwhelmed the tribes. By 1870, an estimated 30,000 native people remained in the state of California, most on reservations without access to their homelands.

How were Mexicans affected by the Gold Rush? ›

Because they were legally foreigners, in the gold fields they were subject to various taxes and regulations limiting where they could hold claims. They were also subject to racism and discrimination from American miners; for example, they received lower wages for similar work and, in some cases, were attacked by mobs.

What form of discrimination did Mexicans face during the California Gold Rush? ›

Mob Violence Terrorized Latinos

The violence began during California's Gold Rush just after California became part of the United States. At the time, white miners begrudged former Mexicans a share of the wealth yielded by Californian mines—and sometimes enacted vigilante justice.

Why did Mexicans immigrate to America in the 1800s? ›

Beginning around the 1890s, new industries in the U.S. Southwest—especially mining and agriculture—attracted Mexican migrant laborers. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) then increased the flow: war refugees and political exiles fled to the United States to escape the violence.

What was the most important type of settlement in Mexican California? ›

Huge cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California. Traders and settlers from the United States began to arrive, harbingers of the great changes that would sweep California during the Mexican American War of 1846-1848.

Where do most Mexican Americans come from? ›

Most Mexican Americans have varying degrees of Indigenous and European ancestry, with the latter being mostly Spanish origins. Those of indigenous ancestry descend from one or more of the over 60 indigenous groups in Mexico (approximately 200,000 people in California alone).

Where did immigrants to America in the 19th 20th centuries come from? ›

Between 1870 and 1900, the largest number of immigrants continued to come from northern and western Europe including Great Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia. But "new" immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were becoming one of the most important forces in American life.

What were the pull factors for Mexicans to come to the US? ›

People in the US tend to attribute Mexican immigration (and Central American migration, often through Mexico to the US) to economic factors, focusing on the push factor of lack of economic opportunity, or on the pull factor of lax or ineffective border control policies.

What caused the Mexican American? ›

It stemmed from the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the U.S. in 1845 and from a dispute over whether Texas ended at the Nueces River (the Mexican claim) or the Rio Grande (the U.S. claim).

Where did most immigrants enter the United States in the 19th century? ›

More than 70 percent of all immigrants, however, entered through New York City, which came to be known as the "Golden Door." Throughout the late 1800s, most immigrants arriving in New York entered at the Castle Garden depot near the tip of Manhattan.

When did the most Mexicans come to the US? ›

Between 1965 and 2015, more than 16 million Mexican immigrants migrated to the U.S. – more than from any other country. In 1970, fewer than 1 million Mexican immigrants lived in the U.S. By 2000, that number had grown to 9.4 million, and by 2007 it peaked at 12.8 million.

Why did Mexican immigrants find more work in America in the 1920s? ›

Why did Mexican immigrants find more work in America in the 1920s? Immigration quotas for Europeans and Asians lessened the number of competitors for unskilled labor positions.

Why did most of the immigrants who came to America in the late 19th century settle in major cities? ›

At the turn of the century, why did most immigrants to the United States settle in cities? Jobs were readily available. Government relief programs required immigrants to settle in cities. Labor union leaders encouraged unrestricted immigration.

How did immigrants adjust to life in America in the 1900s? ›

They had to learn a new language and get used to new customs. This was all part of building a new life. Immigrant Neighborhoods Many immigrants moved into neighborhoods with others from the same country. In these neighborhoods, they could speak their native language and eat foods that reminded them of home.

What problems did immigrants to the United States face in the late 1800s and early 1900s? ›

Often stereotyped and discriminated against, many immigrants suffered verbal and physical abuse because they were “different.” While large-scale immigration created many social tensions, it also produced a new vitality in the cities and states in which the immigrants settled.

What part of California has the most Mexicans? ›

Los Angeles

This means that almost half — 48.5% — of Hispanics call L.A. home.

What were Mexicans originally called? ›

Most historians believe that the word “Mexico” came from the Nahuatl for “place of the Mexica,” who were the nomadic peoples who found their way into the Valley of Mexico from a mythical northern land called Aztlán, the ancestral home of the Aztec peoples.

How much did us pay Mexico for California? ›

The United States paid Mexico $15,000,000 "in consideration of the extension acquired by the boundaries of the United States" (see Article XII of the treaty) and agreed to pay American citizens debts owed to them by the Mexican government (see Article XV).

What did the US offer Mexico for California? ›

In November 1845, Polk sent John Slidell, a secret representative, to Mexico City with an offer to the Mexican government of $25 million for the Rio Grande border in Texas and Mexico's provinces of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México.

What did California have to do with the Mexican-American War? ›

The Conquest of California, also known as the Conquest of Alta California or the California Campaign, was an important military campaign of the Mexican–American War carried out by the United States in Alta California (modern-day California), then a part of Mexico.

Why did Mexicans go to California? ›

The United States annexed California in 1847, and the ranchos were broken up soon after. Then, with the discovery of gold, hundreds of thousands of migrants flocked west in search of their fortune. Within a year, the Hispanic population had become a minority.

Why are there Mexicans in California? ›

The advent of the California Gold Rush in 1848 led to a massive influx of settlers – including thousands of Mexican miners, but also tens of thousands of Americans from the East. Other substantial immigrant groups included Chileans, Peruvians, and Chinese people.

What were 3 causes of the Mexican-American War? ›

The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 was a combination of Mexican unwillingness to recognize Texas independence, the desire of Texans for statehood, and American desire for westward expansion.

How did the Mexican-American War affect slavery? ›

The Mexican-American War reopened the slavery-extension issue, which divided the North and South and which had been largely dormant since the Missouri Compromise.

What were the benefits of the Mexican-American War? ›

The net gain in U.S. territory after the Mexican-American War was roughly 525,000 square miles, an enormous tract of land—nearly as much as the Louisiana Purchase's 827,000 square miles—that would forever change the geography, culture and economy of the United States.

What are 3 events about the Mexican-American War? ›

May 11, 1846 - President Polk asks Congress to declare war on Mexico May 13, 1846 - The U.S. Congress declares war on Mexico. May 18, 1846 - U.S. troops occupy Matamoros. September 20-24, 1846 - Battle of Monterrey. U.S. victory.

What is one reason the Americans won the Mexican-American War? ›

Better Resources. The American government committed plenty of cash to the war effort. The soldiers had good guns and uniforms, enough food, high-quality artillery and horses and just about everything else they needed. The Mexicans, on the other hand, were totally broke during the entire war.

How were Mexicans treated after the Mexican-American War? ›

When the war ended, Mexican Americans were no longer willing to accept second-class citizenship, limited educational and occupational opportunities, or segregation. The nature of fighting a war against fascism led to a different political outlook for Mexican Americans.

What were 5 causes of the Mexican-American War? ›

Leading causes of the Mexican War included:
  • Texan Annexation. Mexico had warned it would regard annexation as an act of war. ...
  • The Boundary Dispute. ...
  • The California Question. ...
  • Monetary Claims against Mexico.

What effect did the California Gold Rush have on American immigrants? ›

The Gold Rush attracted immigrants from around the world.

By 1852, more than 25,000 immigrants from China alone had arrived in America. As the amount of available gold began to dwindle, miners increasingly fought one another for profits and anti-immigrant tensions soared. The government got into the action too.

What happened to Natives after California became part of the United States in 1848? ›

Up to 16,000 Native Americans were murdered in cold blood after California became a state. Up to 16,000 Native Americans were murdered in cold blood after California became a state.

Why did Mexicans come to California during the Gold Rush? ›

During the Gold Rush, many Mexicans came up from Sonora where they had been gold miners. They were used to mining, and were very good at it.

Why did Chinese immigrants come to America after the Gold Rush? ›

After the gold rush ended, many Chinese immigrants worked as farm laborers, in low-paying industrial jobs, and on railroad construction. As more Americans moved west, the need to send goods and information between the East and West increased. The federal government passed the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864.

How were immigrants treated during the Gold Rush? ›

Chinese immigrants were often treated violently, and the government even supported this behavior. Anti-Chinese riots and attacks on Chinese areas were very common, and in addition, Chinese miners were often violently driven from the abandoned mines they had been working.

What was the nickname of immigrants who traveled to California in search of gold? ›

Arriving in covered wagons, clipper ships, and on horseback, some 300,000 migrants, known as “forty-niners” (named for the year they began to arrive in California, 1849), staked claims to spots of land around the river, where they used pans to extract gold from silt deposits.

What was one of the main reasons Mexicans migrated to the US in the early 1900s? ›

Historically, most Mexicans have been economic immigrants seeking to improve their lives. In moments of civil strife, such as the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917) and the Cristero Revolt (1926–1929), many fled to the United States to escape religious and political persecution.

What was the Mexican era in California? ›

Mexican Era, 1822-1846. Although Spain had anticipated an attack on the pueblo on San Francisco Bay by the British, that assault was never realized. Ironically, the greatest threat to Spain's control of the region came from an unforeseen enemy which had also been a former ally.

What is a Mexican American called? ›

CHICANO/CHICANA Someone who is native of, or descends from, Mexico and who lives in the United States. Chicano or Chicana is a chosen identity of some Mexican Americans in the United States.

Which US state has the most Mexicans? ›

The state with the largest percentage of Hispanics and Latinos is New Mexico at 47.7%. The state with the largest Hispanic and Latino population overall is California with 15.6 million Hispanics and Latinos.

What was the cause of Mexican immigration into the United States in the 1990's? ›

Supplies of potential immigrants were rising over the decade, driven by population growth, falling real wages, and per- sistently weak economic conditions in Mexico. 2 Historically, new immi- grants tend to follow earlier immigrants from the same country.

Why do Mexicans migrate to the USA? ›

People in the US tend to attribute Mexican immigration (and Central American migration, often through Mexico to the US) to economic factors, focusing on the push factor of lack of economic opportunity, or on the pull factor of lax or ineffective border control policies.

Why did Mexicans come to the United States? ›

The Mexican Revolution took place from years 1910 to 1920 and immigration from Mexico to the United States rapidly rose seeing the flow of immigrants from Mexico to the United States of America increase due to those who were fleeing political persecution or were war refugees.

Why did people from Mexico come to America? ›

Economic inequality, rural poverty, significantly lower wages, and better opportunities have also played a role throughout the 20th century as factors pulling Mexicans to migrate to the US.


1. NBN Interview with J. A. Hernandez on "Mexican American Colonization during the Nineteenth Century."
(JoseAngel Hernandez)
2. Chicano Movement/ Hispanic Americans during Civil Rights
(Makena Blacquiere)
3. The Mexican-American War - Explained in 16 minutes
4. What Was the Mexican-American War? | History
5. Picturing Mexican America w/Marissa López, Professor of English & Chicana/o Studies, UCLA | July 21
(LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes)
6. WMUA Interview, JA Hernandez about "Mexican American Colonization during the Nineteenth Century" 2
(JoseAngel Hernandez)
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