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Los Angeles History

Los Angeles has been discovered and reborn multiple times throughout the centuries. The first people to discover the Los Angeles basin were Native Americans who lived in scattered villages. In the 16th century, Juan Rodriguez de Cabrillo arrived and claimed what’s now the State of California for Spain. In 1769, the intrepid Fr. Junipero Serra built the first mission in the Los Angeles area, paving the way for the next wave of settlers in 1781 when 46 people from Mexico arrived to found El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles del Rio de Pociuncula. In 1821, when Mexico gained independence from Spain, Alta California became a Mexican state. Just over a quarter of a century later following the Mexican-American War, the U.S. purchased California and New Mexico for $10 million and in 1850, California was reborn as the 31st state. The next ground-breaking discovery occurred in 1892 when drillers hit oil and, in that decade, LA’s population doubled, then tripled at the start of the 20th century. In 1913, the 235-mile aqueduct carrying water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles opened and today’s massive city became possible. By the ‘20s, a new rebirth was taking place and it was led by—you guessed it—the film and aviation industries, which had become centered in L.A. Like no other city, L.A. fell in love with the car and the first freeway in the United States, the Arroyo Seco Parkway (Pasadena Freeway), opened in 1940. Defense factories sprang up during WWII, and the city saw a growth in diversity. In the ‘60s, L.A. was permanently planted in the national zeitgeist as the land of fun in the sun thanks to a wave of surf movies and bands like the Beach Boys. While it has lived through riots, earthquakes, and fires, Los Angeles retains its mystique, the tantalizing dream of the Good Life.