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The Province of the Californias or The Californias (Spanish: Las Californias) was the name given by the Spaniards to their northwestern territory of New Spain, comprising the present day states of Baja California (Lower California) and Baja California Sur, both on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico; and the U.S. state of California. Administratively, the Province was part of the Commandancy General of the Provincias Internas in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Californias was a single province until 1804 when Alta California (Upper California) province was created.
The missionary, colonial and administrative efforts focused exclusively on the Baja California peninsula and the area of the present American state of California, although the inland regions of upper Las Californias was not precisely defined. The 1781 Instrucciones and government correspondence establishing and managing the Californias and Alta California referred to Upper California as the areas to the west of the Sierra Nevada and the part of the Colorado River that flows through the Pimería Alta. To the east the province was bordered by the gobernacion (province) of Sonora y Sinaloa, which included the settlements in Arizona. Further east was the province of Nuevo México. Because later 19th-century maps depict the Mexican territory of Alta California to include Nevada, Arizona, Utah and parts of Colorado and Wyoming, these are often retroactively considered to be part of the original Californias in popular thought.
Political organization 
Most of the colonization of the area was done first by Jesuit missionaries, who set out in the 17th century to convert and to politically and socially reorganize the Native communities of the region. The Jesuits' efforts were backed by the presence of Spanish soldiers stationed in a system of presidios, but the missionaries had control of the civilian government until their expulsion in 1768. Once the missions and the Native communities organized around them were successfully established, secular settlements of Hispanic peoples from other parts of northern New Spain were created. This process was first carried out during the 17th and 18th centuries in Baja California, and was repeated in the late 18th century in the area that is today the State of California. The Californias fell under the jurisdiction of the Audiencia of Guadalajara in judicial matters.
In 1776 the Californias became part of the Commandancy General of the Provincias Internas. In 1786 an independent intendancy was set up for the Californias to administer government and military finances, but the office was merged with the governorship a few years later. In 1804 the crown established two governorships for the region, one for Baja California and another for Alta California, that is, the remaining areas in the mainland to the north.
First explorations and early history 
The first recorded Europeans to sight the California region sailed in La Concepción in 1533 under the pilot navigator Fortún Jiménez in an expedition organized by conquistador and New Spain administrator Hernán Cortés. Jiménez reached La Paz, where they tried to establish a small colony. In 1535 Cortés himself participated in a second expedition, which explored the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). At the time of Cortés's expeditions, the region was occupied by a wide variety of Indigenous peoples. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo's 1542 expedition, commissioned by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, was the next to reach the area sailing via the Pacific Ocean following the coast of the Baja California peninsula to a point beyond 40° North latitude. He named the discovered territory "Nueva California" (New California) as opposed to "Vieja California" (Old California), which were the coasts of which had already been sailed and explored.
Colonization, carried out primarily through the establishment of missions, began during the 17th century and ended shortly after the independence of Mexico in 1821. For almost the 1st century, the missionizing effort, carried out by the Society of Jesus- Jesuits, concentrated on Baja California exclusively. The first mission in Baja California, the short-lived Misión San Bruno, was established in 1683, but the first successful mission was established in 1697 with the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó in Loreto.
The second half of the 18th century brought about changes in policy for several reasons. First was foreign powers, especially the Russian, and to a lesser extent British, incursions into the north of the region in pursuit of fur trade. At the same time the administration of the area was revitalized by the Bourbon political reforms carried out under José de Gálvez, who was first a visitador to the Viceroyalty of New Spain and later the Minister of the Indies. Finally, another drastic change came when the crown ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits from all Spanish territories in 1767. The Dominicans were selected to take over the missions in Baja California. Around this time plans to bring Alta California firmly into Spanish control through a new missionary effort were finalized. The Franciscans were chosen by the authorities to carry out this plan in 1769.
The southern part of the territory was referred to at times as "Vieja California" (Old California) or Baja California (Lower California). The northern part became known as "Nueva California" (New California) and later Alta California. The exact border between the missionary orders' territories in the Californias was established in 1773 by Francisco Palóu on a line close to the present United States-Mexico border. It ended at the Pacific coast in the area of Playas de Rosarito, about 20 mi (25 km) south of the current international border. The first border was at Punta El Descanso, today occupied by the Centro Histórico y Cultural Calafia. It was later moved in 1778 to the Rosarito Creek. Direction of the Franciscan, the Upper California missions fell first to Junípero Serra, and after his departure in 1773, to Francisco Palóu.
Alta California 
Alta California was formed as a separate "missionary order" region, but was not separated administratively, when Spain expelled the Jesuits from its colonial territories. The Jesuits' existing Baja California missions were given to the Dominicans to operate. The proposed missions in Alta California were to be developed by the Franciscans. The first mission founded by the Franciscans was Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769.
As mandated by the Laws of the Indies, Gálvez's plans also included secular settlements, the pueblos. Much as had happened in the previous century on the Baja California Peninsula, first a system of presidios were established in Alta California to protect the missionaries. Two decades later secular towns were also established to bring in Hispanic settlers into the area and to provide food, material and a place for retirement for the presidio soldiers. The first town in Alta California was San José de Guadalupe in 1777, followed by Nuestra Señora, la Reina de los Ángeles in 1781. Other settlements formed around the presidios in Monterey and Santa Barbara. Spanish land grant Ranchos were the third part of establishing a proactive presence in northwestern New Spain
As Alta California developed and gained a larger Hispanic population, the need for a separate government became apparent. In 1804 the two areas were separated and Baja California peninsula and Alta California given separate governors. Diego de Borica is credited with defining Alta and Baja California's official borders. With Mexican independence in 1821 the two provinces became territories, and not states as most other areas of the country did, due to their small populations in the new republic then established in 1824. However, there were several attempts by Californios to gain independence from Mexico, both resulting in increased autonomy. The number land grant Ranchos increased during the Mexican California era.
Two decades later, as a result of the Mexican–American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Mexico permanently lost Alta California in 1848. The new areas acquired by the United States continued to be administered as territories, with the exception of California, which sprang into statehood a mere 2 years after annexation in 1850. But by the early 20th century all had become states. Mexico reorganized the Territory of Baja California into two territories in 1931, North Territory of Baja California and South Territory of Baja California. By the end of the 20th century each territory would become a state, Baja California in 1952 and Baja California Sur in 1974.
- 1533- First European landing "in California" on the lower Baja California peninsula by Fortún Jiménez.
- 28 September 1542- First European landing near upper California by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in Ensenada (in Baja California).
- 4 November 1595- Sebastián Rodríguez Cermeño claims the Pacific coast for Spain.
- Approximately 100 years of inactivity and no presence in Baja California, and 200 years of inactivity or presence in Alta California.
- 1697- Jesuit Missions erected in southern Baja California.
- 1768- Spanish settlement begins in Alta California.
- 3 June 1770- Governorship established for Las Californias Province.
- 1786- Intendancy of Las Californias Province established.
- 1804- Separate administrations for Alta California and Baja California Provinces.
- 11 April 1822- Both provinces become part of the new independent nation of Mexico, now as the territories of Baja California and Alta California.
- 2 February 1848 - Alta California territory ceded to the United States—the term "Las Californias" and "Alta California" no longer formally used with this area. ("Alta California" became simply "California" and given definite borders. It was also subject to primarily anglophone American rule. The rest of Alta California became parts of various American states, such as Arizona and Nevada.)
Spanish Governors 
- 1768 - 9 July 1770 Gaspar de Portolá (1723–1786)
- 9 July 1770 - 23 March 1774 Pedro Fages (1730 - 1796?)
- 23 March 1774 - 3 February 1777 Fernando José Rivera y Moncada (1724–1781)
- 3 February 1777 - 7 September 1782 Felipe de Neve (1728–1784)
- 7 September 1782 - 17 April 1791 Pedro Fages (s.a.)
- 17 April 1791 - 9 April 1792 José Antonio de Roméu, conde de Riverra Gigado (1842 - 1792)
- 9 April 1792 - November 1794 José Joaquín de Arrillaga (First time) (1750–1814) (acting)
- November 1794 - 16 January 1800 Diego de Borica (1742–1800)
- 16 January 1800 - 11 March 1802 Pedro de Alberni (acting) (1747–1802)
- 11 March 1802 - 1804 José Joaquín de Arrillaga (Second time) (s.a.)
See also 
- List of pre-statehood governors of California
- Spanish missions in Baja California
- Spanish missions in California
- Indigenous peoples of Baja California
- Indigenous peoples of California
- Ranchos of California
- History of California
- Spanish colonization of the Americas
- Antonio García Cubas. Atlas geográfico, estadístico e histórico de la República Mexicana. J. M. Fernández de Lara, 1857.
- José Bandini, in a note to Governor Echeandía or to his son, Juan Bandini, a member of the Territorial Deputation (legislature), noted that Alta California was bounded "on the east, where the Government has not yet established the [exact] border line, by either the Colorado River or the great Sierra (Sierra Nevadas)." A Description of California in 1828 by José Bandini (Berkeley, Friends of the Bancroft Library, 1951), 3. Reprinted in Mexican California (New York, Arno Press, 1976). ISBN 0-405-09538-4
- Chapman, Charles Edward (1973) . The Founding of Spanish California: The Northwestward Expansion of New Spain, 1687-1783. New York: Octagon Books. pp. xiii.
- Mathes, W. Michael. "An Historical Survey of the Missions". (La Paz: Aristos, 1977). Retrieved on 2008-08-09.
- Map of Mexico. S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia, 1847
- "California Under Spanish Rule". www.books-about-california.com. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- Mapa de los Estados Unitods de Méjico. J. Distrunell, New York, 1847.
- Bancroft, Hubert Howe (1884). History of California: 1542-1800. The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft 18. San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Company.
- Bancroft, Hubert Howe (1886). History of California: 1801-1824. The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft 19. San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Company.
- Beebe, Rose Marie (2001). Lands of Promise and Despair: Chronicles of Early California, 1535-1846. Berkeley: Heyday Books. ISBN 1-890771-48-1.
- Bouvier, Virginia Marie (2001). Women and the Conquest of California, 1542–1840: Codes of Silence. Tucson: University of Arizona. ISBN 978-0-8165-2446-4.
- Chapman, Charles E. (1916). The Founding of Spanish California: The Northwestward Expansion of New Spain, 1687-1783. New York: Macmilan.
- Chapman, Charles E. (1921). A History of California: The Spanish Period. New York: Macmillan.
- Forbes, Alexander (1919) . California: A History of Upper and Lower California from Their First Discovery to the Present Time. San Francisco: Thomas C. Russell.
- González Cruz, Edith; Altable, María Eugenia, eds. (2003). Historia general de Baja California Sur: Los procesos políticos 2. Mexico City: Plaza y Valdes. ISBN 970-722-199-2.