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California in the 19th century


Death valley of California
Death valley of California

In 1821 Mexico gained its independence from Spain. In 1825, after several years of local provisional government, Alta California, as the region was then called, formally became a territory of the Republic of Mexico.

A number of influential Californians had disliked the wealth and power of the missions during Spanish rule, and after Mexican independence protested to the Mexican authorities against the missions. Eventually the new republic agreed to reduce the power of the missions, and in 1833 the Mexican congress released Native Americans from the control of the missions and opened mission lands for settlement by Californians.

Most of the former mission lands were given as grants to several hundred long-established families. Huge semifeudal estates, known as ranchos, replaced the missions as the dominant institution in California. Cattle raising, developed during the mission days, was the main economic activity on the ranchos. Ranchos traded cattle hides, tallow, horns, and pickled beef for processed food and manufactured goods from foreign ships, including some from the United States.

During the period of Mexican rule, which lasted into the 1840s, a series of largely bloodless uprisings broke out in California. Sometimes these pitted the rancheros, or ranch owners, against the Mexican authorities, but at other times they involved feuds between rancheros themselves, who fought over land or issues of pride. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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