The extensive Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County metropolitan area had a population of 16.4 million in 2000, or one-half of the entire population of California. The city of Los Angeles proper had 3,849,378 residents (2006). Founded in 1781 as a Spanish pueblo, Los Angeles, by the time of its bicentennial year in 1981, passed Chicago as the nation’s second largest city. The metropolitan area includes numerous communities with large populations in addition to Los Angeles. Long Beach, the biggest besides Los Angeles, had 472,494 inhabitants in 2006. Other major cities, with more than 250,000 residents in 2006, included Santa Ana (340,024), and Riverside (293,761). The area is a leading manufacturing and entertainment center.
The entire San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan region had a population of 7 million in 2000. San Francisco, the “city by the Golden Gate,” was California’s largest city from gold rush days in the 1850s until the early 1920s when Los Angeles passed it in population.
The city’s national significance in finance, international trade, and culture is far greater than that of other U.S. cities of similar size. San Francisco city and county, which are geographically the same, contained 744,041 people in 2006. However, San Jose, which lies at the southern end of San Francisco Bay and at the heart of Silicon Valley, surpassed San Francisco as the largest city in the metropolitan region in 1990. By 2006 San Jose had 929,936 inhabitants, and Oakland, an important port and manufacturing city, had 397,067. Also in the metropolitan region is Berkeley, seat of the University of California, which had 101,555 residents in 2006.
San Diego, with a population of 1,256,951 in 2006, is the hub of an extensive metropolitan area (population 2.9 million in 2006).
The city is an important naval base and commercial port, and it serves as the major trade center of the Imperial Valley to the east. Sacramento, the state capital, had a population of 453,781 in 2006. In addition to serving as an administrative center, it is a commercial and manufacturing city. Fresno, with a population of 466,714, and the smaller cities of Stockton (290,141) and Bakersfield (308,392) are also food-processing centers in the Central Valley.
Franciscan friars entered California in the San Diego area in 1769 to establish the Spanish claim to the region and to convert the Native Americans to Roman Catholicism. By 1823 they had established a chain of 21 missions along the coast, stretching from San Diego north to Sonoma. Protestantism was introduced in California by the early American settlers in the 1830s. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, came to the state over the Mormon Trail from Utah during the 19th century, and laborers from China and Japan introduced Eastern religions. The first Buddhist temple in the United States was constructed in San Francisco in 1905. In the 20th century many religious cults and sects became established in California.
The Roman Catholic Church now has the largest membership of any denomination, with more than one-quarter of all church members. The largest Protestant sects are the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. Jewish congregations have many members. In San Francisco is the headquarters of the Buddhist Churches of America. There are mosques in many California cities. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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