Baja CaliforniaSometimes informally referred to as ('North Lower California') to distinguish it from both the Baja California Peninsula, of which it forms the northern half, and Baja California Sur, the adjacent state that covers the southern half of the peninsula. While it is a well-established term for the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula, it has never existed as a political designation for a state or region. (; ('Lower California'), officially the Free and Sovereign State of Baja California ( es|Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California), is a state in Mexico. It is the northernmost and westernmost of the 32 federal entities of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1952, the area was known as the North Territory of Baja California (). It has an area of (3.57% of the land mass of Mexico) and comprises the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula, north of the 28th parallel, plus oceanic Guadalupe Island. The mainland portion of the state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean; on the east by Sonora, the U.S. state of Arizona, and the Gulf of California (also known as the "Sea of Cortez" and "Vermilion Sea"); and on the south by Baja California Sur. Its northern limit is the U.S. state of California. The state has an estimated population of 3,769,020 (2020), significantly higher than the sparsely populated Baja California Sur to the south, and similar to San Diego County, California, to its north. Over 75% of the population lives in the capital city, Mexicali; in Ensenada; or in Tijuana. Other important cities include San Felipe, Rosarito and Tecate. The population of the state is composed of Mestizos, mostly migrants from other parts of Mexico, and, as with most northern Mexican states, a large population of Mexicans of Spanish ancestry, and also a large minority group of East Asian, Middle Eastern and indigenous descent. Additionally, there is a large immigrant population from the United States due to its proximity to San Diego and the lower cost of living compared to San Diego. There is also a significant population from Central America. Many immigrants moved to Baja California for a better quality of life and the number of higher-paying jobs in comparison to the rest of Mexico and Latin America. Baja California is the twelfth largest state by area in Mexico. Its geography ranges from beaches to forests and deserts. The backbone of the state is the Sierra de Baja California, where Picacho del Diablo, the highest point of the peninsula, is located. This mountain range effectively divides the weather patterns in the state. In the northwest, the weather is semi-dry and Mediterranean. In the narrow center, the weather changes to be more humid due to altitude. It is in this area where a few valleys can be found, such as the Valle de Guadalupe, the major wine-producing area in Mexico. To the east of the mountain range, the Sonoran Desert dominates the landscape. In the south, the weather becomes drier and gives way to the Vizcaíno Desert. The state is also home to numerous islands off both of its shores. In fact, the westernmost point in Mexico, Guadalupe Island, is part of Baja California. The Coronado Islands, Todos Santos islands and Cedros Island are also on the Pacific shore. On the Gulf of California, the biggest island is Angel de la Guarda Island, separated from the peninsula by the deep and narrow Canal de Ballenas.


Prehistory and Spanish colonial era

The first people came to the peninsula at least 11,000 years ago. At that time, two main native groups are thought to have been present on the peninsula – the Cochimí in the south, and several groups belonging to the Yuman language family in the north, including the Kiliwa, Paipai, Kumeyaay, Cocopa, and Quechan. These peoples were diverse in their adaptations to the region. The Cochimí of the peninsula's Central Desert were generalized hunter-gatherers who moved frequently; however, the Cochimí on Cedros Island off the west coast developed a strong maritime economy. The Kiliwa, Paipai, and Kumeyaay in the better-watered northwest were also hunter-gatherers, but that region supported denser populations and a more sedentary lifestyle. The Cocopa and Quechan of northeastern Baja California practiced agriculture in the floodplain of the lower Colorado River. Another group of people was the Guachimis, who came from the north and created much of the UNESCO World Heritage-recognized Sierra de Guadalupe cave paintings. Not much is known about them except that they lived in the area between 100BC and the coming of the Europeans in 1300AD. Europeans reached the present state of Baja California in 1539, when Francisco de Ulloa reconnoitered its east coast on the Gulf of California and explored the peninsula's west coast at least as far north as Cedros Island. Hernando de Alarcón returned to the east coast and ascended the lower Colorado River in 1540, and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (or João Rodrigues Cabrilho ) completed the reconnaissance of the west coast in 1542. Sebastián Vizcaíno again surveyed the west coast in 1602, but outside visitors during the following century were few. The Jesuits founded a permanent mission colony on the peninsula at Loreto in 1697. During the following decades, they gradually extended their sway throughout the present state of Baja California Sur. In 1751–1753, the Croatian Jesuit mission-explorer Ferdinand Konščak made overland explorations northward into the state of Baja California. Jesuit missions were subsequently established among the Cochimí at Santa Gertrudis (1752), San Borja (1762), and Santa María (1767). After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1768, the short-lived Franciscan administration (1768–1773) resulted in one new mission at San Fernando Velicatá. More importantly, the 1769 expedition to settle Alta California under Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra resulted in the first overland exploration of the northwestern portion of the state. The Dominicans took over management of the Baja California missions from the Franciscans in 1773. They established a chain of new missions among the northern Cochimí and western Yumans, first on the coast and subsequently inland, extending from El Rosario (1774) to Descanso (1817), just south of Tijuana. In 1804, the Spanish crown divided California into Alta ('Upper') and Baja ('Lower') California at the line separating the Franciscan missions in the north from the Dominican missions in the south. The colonial governors were José Joaquín de Arillaga (1804–1805), Felipe de Goicoechea (1806–1814), and José Darío Argüello (1814April 11, 1822).

Post-independence, 1821–present

Early republic

Mexican liberals were concerned that the Roman Catholic Church retained too much power in the post-independence period and sought to undermine it by mandating the secularization of missions in 1833. In the aftermath of the Mexican American War (1846–1848) and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States gained sovereignty over territory previously held first by New Spain and then Mexico, most of which was sparsely settled. Alta California was incorporated into the U.S., and during the California Gold Rush, quickly gained enough population to be admitted to the union as a state. Baja California remained under Mexican control. In 1853, soldier of fortune (mercenary) William Walker captured La Paz, declaring himself president of the Republic of Baja California. The Mexican government forced his retreat after several months.

Era of Porfirio Díaz

When liberal army general Porfirio Díaz came to power in 1876, he embarked on a major program to develop and modernize Mexico. *1884: Luis Huller and George H. Sisson obtain a concession covering much of the present state in return for promises to develop the area. *1905: The ''Magonista'' revolution, an anarchist movement based on the writings of Ricardo Flores Magón and Enrique Flores Magón, begins. *1911: Mexicali and Tijuana are captured by the Mexican Liberal Party (, PLM), but soon surrender to Federal forces.

Postrevolutionary Mexico

*1917: On 11 December, "prominent Mexican, close friend of President Carranza" offered to U.S. Senator Henry Ashurst to sell Baja California to the U.S. for "fifty million dollars gold". *1930: Baja California is further divided into Northern and Southern territories. *1952: The ''North Territory of Baja California'' becomes the 29th state of Mexico, Baja California. The southern portion (below 28°N) remains a federally administered territory. *1974: The ''South Territory of Baja California'' becomes the 31st state, Baja California Sur. *1989: Ernesto Ruffo Appel of the National Action Party (PAN) becomes the first non-Institutional Revolutionary Party governor of Baja California and the first opposition governor of any state since the Revolution.


Baja California encompasses a territory within the Californias region of North America, which exhibits diverse geography for a relatively small area. The Peninsular ranges of the California cordillera run down the geographic center of the state. The most notable ranges of these mountains are the Sierra de Juárez and the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir. These ranges are the location of forests reminiscent of Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains. Picacho del Diablo is the highest peak on the peninsula. Valleys between the mountain ranges are located within a climate zone that is suitable for agriculture. Such valleys include the Valle de Guadalupe and the Valle de Ojos Negros, areas that produce citrus fruits and grapes. The mineral-rich mountain range extends southwards to the Gulf of California, where the western slope becomes wider, forming the Llanos del Berrendo on the border with Baja California Sur. The mountain ranges located in the center and southern part of the state include the Sierra de La Asamblea, Sierra de Calamajué, Sierra de San Luis and the Sierra de San Borja. Temperate winds from the Pacific Ocean and the cold California Current make the climate along the northwestern coast pleasant year-round. As a result of the state's location on the California Current, rains from the north barely reach the peninsula, thus leaving southern areas drier. South of the El Rosario River, the state changes from a Mediterranean landscape to a desert one. This desert exhibits diverse succulent species that flourish in part due to the coastal fog. To the east, the Sonoran Desert enters the state from both California and Sonora. Some of the highest temperatures in Mexico are recorded in or nearby the Mexicali Valley.Delta in the northeast recorded on 3 August 1998. However, with irrigation from the Colorado River, this area has become a true agricultural center. The Cerro Prieto geothermal province is near Mexicali as well (this area is geologically part of a large pull apart basin); it produces about 80% of the electricity consumed in the state and enough additional power to export to California. Laguna Salada, a saline lake below sea level lying between the rugged Sierra de Juárez and the Sierra de los Cucapah, is also in the vicinity of Mexicali. The state government has recently been considering plans to revive Laguna Salada.The state is currently (2008) looking at a plan by SDSU Adj. Professor Newcomb (ICATS) to do this using his geothermal desalination system to supply water locally. SEMARNAT believes this to be the first viable plan presented. The highest mountain in the Sierra de los Cucapah is Cerro del Centinela or Mount Signal. The Cucapah are the primary indigenous people from the mountains north to Yuma, Arizona. There are numerous islands on the Pacific shore. Guadalupe Island is located in the extreme west of the state's boundaries and is the site of large colonies of sea lions. Cedros Island exists in the southwest of the state's maritime region. The Todos Santos islands and Coronado Islands are located off the coasts of Ensenada and Tijuana, respectively. All of the islands in the Gulf of California on the Baja California side belong to the municipality of Mexicali. Baja California obtains much of its water from the Colorado River. Historically, the river drained into the Colorado River Delta and then flowed into the Gulf of California, but due to large demands for water in the American Southwest, less water now reaches the Gulf. The Tijuana metropolitan area also relies on the Tijuana River as a source of water. Much of rural Baja California depends predominantly on wells, a few dams and even oases. Tijuana also purchases water from San Diego County's Otay Water District. Potable water is the largest natural resource issue of the state.


Baja California's climate varies from Mediterranean to arid. The Mediterranean climate is found in the northwestern corner of the state, where the summers are dry and mild and the winters cool and rainy. This climate is observed in areas from Tijuana to San Quintín and nearby interior valleys. The cold oceanic California Current often creates a low-level marine fog near the coast. The fog occurs along any part of the Pacific coast of the state. The change of altitude towards the Sierra de Baja California creates an alpine climate in this region. Summers are cool, while winters can be cold with below freezing temperatures at night. It is common to see snow in the Sierra de Juárez, Sierra de San Pedro Mártir and in the valleys in between the two ranges from December to April. Due to orographic effects, precipitation is much higher in the mountains of northern Baja California than on the western coastal plain or eastern desert plain. Pine, cedar and fir forests are found in the mountains. The east side of the mountains produces a rain shadow, creating an extremely arid environment. The Sonoran Desert region of Baja California experiences hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters. The Mexicali Valley (which is below sea level) experiences the highest temperatures in Mexico, frequently surpassing in mid-summer, and exceeding on some occasions. Further south along the Pacific coast, the Mediterranean climate transitions into a desert climate but it is milder and not as hot as along the gulf coast. Transition climates, from Mediterranean to desert, can be found from San Quintín to El Rosario. Further inland and along the Gulf of California, the vegetation is scarce and temperatures are very high during the summer months. The islands in the Gulf of California also have a desert climate. Some oases can be found in the desert where few towns are located – for instance, Catavina, San Borja and Santa Gertrudis.

Flora and fauna

Common trees are the Jeffrey pine, sugar pine and pinon pine. Understory species include manzanita. There is a variety of reptiles, including the Western fence lizard, which is at the southern extent of its range. The name of the fish genus ''Bajacalifornia'' is derived from the Baja California peninsula. In the main wildlife refuges on the peninsula of Baja California, Constitution 1857 National Park and Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park, several coniferous species can be found. The most abundant are Jeffrey pine, ''Pinus ponderosa'', ''Pinus cembroides'', ''Pinus quadrifolia'', ''Pinus monophylla'', ''Juniperus'', ''Arctostaphylos pringlei'' subsp. ''drupacea'', ''Artemisia ludoviciana'' and ''Adenostoma sparsifolium''. Baja California shares many plant species with the Laguna Mountains and San Jacinto Mountains in southwest California. The lower elevations of the Sierra de Juárez are characterized by chaparral and desert shrub. The fauna in the parks include a large number of mammals, primarily mule deer, bighorn sheep, cougars, bobcats, ringtail cats, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels and more than 30 species of bats. The park is also home to many avian species like bald eagles, golden eagles, falcons, woodpeckers, black vultures, crows, and several species of Sittidae and duck.

2010 earthquakes

At 3:40:41 pm PDT on Easter Sunday, 4 April 2010, a 7.2 (on the moment magnitude scale) magnitude northwest-trending strike-slip earthquake hit the Mexicali Valley, with its epicenter southwest of the city of Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California. The main shock was felt as far as the Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas, and in Yuma. At least a half-dozen aftershocks with magnitudes between 5.0 and 5.4 were reported, including a 5.1-magnitude shaker at 4:14 am that was centered near El Centro. As of 6:31am PDT on 5 April 2010, two people were confirmed dead.

Government and politics


Municipalities of Baja California

Baja California is subdivided into six ''municipios'' ('municipalities'): Ensenada, Mexicali, Tecate, Tijuana, Rosarito and San Quintín.


For a list of the state's past governors, see Governor of Baja California.


The majority of the population of Baja California is Mestizo, however the state has one of the larger percentages of White Mexicans (European Mexicans), making up about 40% of the population. There are small indigenous communities as well. Historically, the state has had sizable East Asian immigration. Mexicali has a large Chinese community, as well as many Filipinos who arrived to the state during the eras of Spanish and American rule (1898–1946) in much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Tijuana and Ensenada were major ports of entry for East Asians entering the U.S. ever since the first Asian-Americans were present in California. A significant number of Middle Eastern immigrants, such as Lebanese, Syrians and Armenians, settled near the U.S. border. Small waves of settlers in the early 20th century, usually members of the Molokan sect of the Russian Orthodox church fleeing the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the Soviet Union took power, established a few villages along the Pacific coast south of Ensenada. Since 1960, large numbers of migrants from southern Mexican states have arrived to work in agriculture (especially the Mexicali Valley and nearby Imperial Valley, California, U.S.) and manufacturing. The cities of Ensenada, Tijuana and Mexicali grew as a result of migrants, primarily those who sought U.S. citizenship. Those temporary residents awaiting their entry into the United States are called , which is derived from the Spanish word , meaning 'fleet'. There is also a sizable immigrant community from Central and South America, and from the United States and Canada. An estimated 200,000+ American expatriates live in the state, especially in coastal resort towns such as Ensenada, known for affordable homes purchased by retirees who continue to hold U.S. citizenship. San Felipe, Rosarito and Tijuana also have a large American population (second largest in Mexico after Mexico City), particularly for their cheaper housing and proximity to San Diego. Some 60,000 Oaxacans live in Baja California, the vast majority being indigenous. Some 40% of them lack proper birth certificates. According to a Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Conacyt) investigator, a little under a million people were classified as "poor" in the state, up from 2008 when there were roughly 810,000. Exactly who these people are, whether locals, interstate or international migrants, was not explained.


Baja California offers one of the best educational programs in the country, with high rankings in schooling and achievement. The state government provides education and qualification courses to increase the workforce standards, such as school–enterprise linkage programs which help the development of a labor force according to the needs of the industry. 91.60% of the population from six to fourteen years of age attend elementary school. 61.95% of the population over fifteen years of age attends or has already graduated from high school. Public school is available in all levels from kindergarten to university. The state has 32 universities offering 103 professional degrees. These universities have 19 research and development centers for basic and applied investigation in advanced projects related to biotechnology, physics, oceanography, computer science, digital geothermal technology, astronomy, aerospace, electrical engineering and clean energy, among others. At this educational level, supply is steadily growing. Baja California has developed a need to be self-sufficient in matters of technological and scientific innovation and to be less dependent on foreign countries. Current businesses demand new production processes as well as technology for the incubation of companies. The number of graduate degrees offered, including PhD programs, is 121. The state has 53 graduate schools.


As of 2005, Baja California's economy represents 3.3% of Mexico's gross domestic product, or US$21.996 billion. Baja California's economy has a strong focus on tariff-free export oriented manufacturing (maquiladora). As of 2005, 284,255 people are employed in the manufacturing sector. There are more than 900 companies operating under the federal Prosec program in Baja California.

Real estate

The Foreign Investment Law of 1973 allows foreigners to purchase land within the borders and coasts of Mexico by way of a trust handled through a Mexican bank (Fideicomiso). This trust assures to the buyer all the rights and privileges of ownership, and it can be sold, inherited, leased, or transferred at any time. Since 1994, the Foreign Investment Law stipulates that , with the option to petition for a 50-year renewal at any time. Any Mexican citizen buying a bank trust property has the option to either remain within the trust or opt out of it and request the title in . Mexico's early history involved foreign invasions and the loss of vast amounts of land; in fear of history being repeated, the Mexican constitution established the concept of the "Restricted Zone". In 1973, in order to bring in more foreign tourist investment, the Bank Trust of Fideicomiso was created, thus allowing non-Mexicans to own land without any constitutional amendment necessary. Since the law went into effect, it has undergone many modifications in order to make purchasing land in Mexico a safer investment.


*Mexican Federal Highway 1 *Mexican Federal Highway 2 *Mexican Federal Highway 3 *Mexican Federal Highway 5 *Mexican Federal Highway 12


Newspapers of Baja California include ''El Centinela'', ''El informador de Baja California'', ''El Mexicano (edición Tijuana)'', ''El Mexicano Segunda Edición'', ''El Sol de Tijuana'', ''El Vigía'', ''Esto de las Californias'', ''Frontera'', ''La Crónica de Baja California'', ''La Voz de la Frontera'', and ''Semanario Zeta''.

See also

* History of the west coast of North America * Las Californias * List of Baja California cities * Spanish missions in present-day Baja California



Further reading

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

External links

Baja California Sur: Cabo Pulmo Coral Reef in DangerInteramerican Association for Environmental DefenseEnciclopedia de los Municipios de México
{{Use dmy dates|date=November 2019 Category:States of Mexico Category:States and territories established in 1952 Category:1952 establishments in Mexico