San Diego Travel Guide
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HISTORY

The area has long been inhabited by the Kumeyaay people. The first European to visit the region was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailing for Spain, in 1542. He named it San Miguel. The San Diego Bay and the area of present day San Diego were given their present names by Sebastian Vizcaino when he was mapping the coastline of Alta California for Spain in 1602. The explorers camped near a Native American village called "Nipaguay" and celebrated Mass in honor of San (or Saint) Diego de Alcala (Saint Didacus of Alcalá). California was then part of the colony of New Spain.

In 1769, Gaspar de Portolá and his expedition founded a presidio (or military post) and on Sunday July 16, Franciscan Fathers Junípero Serra, Juan Viscaino and Fernando Parron raised and blessed a cross, establishing the first mission in Upper California, Mission San Diego de Alcala. Colonists began arriving in 1774, and the following year, 1775 the native people rebelled. They killed the priest and two others, and burned the mission. Father Serra organized the rebuilding and two years later a more fire-proof adobe structure was started. By 1797 the mission had become the largest in California, with over 1,400 natives associated with it.

In 1821, Spain recognized Mexico's independence. The governor of Alta California and Baja California moved the capital to San Diego from Monterey. The mission was secularized in 1834 and 432 persons petitioned Governor José Figueroa to form a town, and Commandant Santiago Arguello endorsed it. Juan Maria Osuna was elected the first alcalde (or mayor), winning over Pio Pico in the 13 ballots cast. However the population of the town shrank to little over a hundred persons, and by the late 1830s it lost its township until the province of Alta California became part of the United States of America in 1850 following the Mexican-American War. The village was designated the seat of the newly designated "San Diego County" and incorporated as a city.

In 1885, San Diego was linked to the rest of the nation by railroad. San Diego was reincorporated as a city in 1886.

Significant U.S. Naval presence began in 1907 with the establishment of the Navy Coaling Station. After San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1914, San Diego - not to be ignored - held its own Panama-California Exposition, which ran for most of 1915 and 1916. With the arrival in the 1920s and 1930s of the aviation and maritime industries, San Diego's economy finally got its jumpstart. Steady revenue from naval and military bases helped San Diego weather the Great Depression, along with WPA projects like San Diego State University and the race track at Del Mar.

Since World War II, the military has played a leading role in the local economy. Following the end of the Cold War the military presence has diminished considerably. San Diego has since become a center of the emerging biotech industry and is home to telecommunications giant Qualcomm.

Largely because of their city's strong military presence, San Diegans have a reputation for being more politically conservative than residents of California's other coastal cities.

An on-going pension fund scandal has rocked local finances leaving an estimated $1.4 billion pension fund gap. San Diego is the home of the world's largest military complex, with 165,000 active personnel.

 

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