Tuesday, October 5, 2010

California, Past and Present

California, Past and Present


State of California is located on the western coast of USA, bordering with Mexico. So rich is this state that if this were a country, it would rank among the ten largest economies in the world, with a GDP similar to that of Italy and it would be the 35th most populous countries in the world.

California is the most populous (36,961,664) and area-wise third largest state in the US.

1770-1799 (Late 18th century):
California, known as Alta California, is ruled by King of Spain.

Monarch of Mexico wins and rules California.

Group of American settlers in Sonoma declares independence of California. Resulting in Mexican-American War.
Sonoma Californians win. Mexicans surrender California to the US and California becomes a state of USA.

Gold Rush 1848–1855:

Gold is discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill, Coloma, California. News of the discovery brings over 3 lac people from America and all over the world. Gold-seekers are called "Forty-niners" (reference to 1849). While most of them Americans, the Gold Rush attracts tens of thousands from Mexico, Europe, Australia and China. Gold finders, known as prospectors retrieve gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques like panning or straining through a mesh or cloth. Gold worth billions of $ is extracted, which leads to great wealth for many. However, majority of the seekers either die due to epidemics or victimization of the more powerful "lords of the wild". They return home with little more than what they had.

By the year 1849, effects of Gold Rush are visible. San Francisco grows from small shanty settlement to metropolis. Roads, churches, schools and other towns spring up throughout California. A state constitution is written and just two years later.

1850 California becomes a state. New methods of transportation are developed as steamships come into regular service. Railroads are built. Agriculture animal husbandry and ranching expands throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers.

Negative Effects of Gold Rush: Native Americans are attacked and pushed off their lands. Gold mining causes environmental harm. While most of the newly arrived are Americans, Gold Rush attracts tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. At first, the prospectors retrieve gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. More sophisticated methods of gold recovery are developed which are later adopted around the world. Gold worth billions of today's dollars is recovered, which leads to great wealth for a few. However, many return home with little more than what they had started with.

The effects of the Gold Rush are substantial. San Francisco grows from a shanty town to a boom-berg. Roads, churches, schools and other towns are built throughout California. A state constitution is written. California becomes a state. A system of "staking claims" is developed, as at the beginning of the Gold Rush, there was no law regarding property rights in the goldfields. Gold Rush also shows negative effects: Native Americans are attacked and pushed off their lands. Gold mining causes environmental harm. The economic boom causes San Francisco to grow from a den of goons and robbers to a world-renowned boomtown.

Key developments in the early 20th century included the emergence of Los Angeles as center of the American entertainment industry and growth of a large, state-wide tourism sector. In addition to California's prosperous agricultural industry, other important contributors to the economy include aerospace, petroleum, and information technology.

Immigrants from Punjab and Gujarat: Late 50s saw inflow of Indians from Punjab and Gujarat. Hard working Punjabi farmers and fertile land of California made a wonderful combination. The Gujaratis dominate Motels and liquor business. In addition to dominant English speaking people, a large number of population of California speaks Spanish. During WW I and WW II, Russian intellects migrate to USA. California welcomes them and most of them were accommodated in California. Mexicans, Koreans and the Chinese found great opportunities for manual labour and during the 50s, an influx of both legal as well as illegal population from these countries was seen.

In addition to English and Spanish, three more recognized languages of the State of California are Russian, Gurmukhi (Punjabi) and Mandarin (Chinese). Most of the official forms, notifications and application forms originating from California State are published in all these 5 languages.

California has an amazing diversity of Native Indian (Red Indians) cultures. They are: Wiyot in the North, Yokuts in the Central Valley and Diegueno in the south.

Large Cities: Sacramento (Political Capital), San Francisco (Commercial Capital) Los Angeles (Hollywood), San Diego and San Jose. Topographically California ranges from the Pacific coast in the West, to Sierra-Nevada mountain range in the east (home of the Grand Canyon) to Mojave Desert in the Southeast and the Redwood–Douglas Fir forests in the Northwest. The center of California state has one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.

Like India, California is the most geographically diverse state in the in the US. It has the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley). Almost 40% of California is forest. A high amount for a relatively arid state borders state of Arizona. No wonder, the diverse weather of California state, (from scorching heat of June to freezing winters of January) is as diverse as its culture that bears much of similarity to India.

This write up will not be complete without the mention of invaluable contribution by young engineers from India and China, to America's Silicon and Information Technology. In 1998-99, large number of Indians and Chinese boys and girls, who had just completed their Engineering, were picked up by employment agencies and brought to California, initially to program computers and computer aided equipment connected from the US to the rest of the world, to function flawlessly as the year 1999 crossed over to 2000. The work done by these young programmers and engineers was well rewarded when everything passed over smoothly on the night of 31 December 1999.

Intel, the largest manufacturer of computer chips needed innovators to enhance capabilities of their chips and found Indians and Chinese engineers as their best bets. Thus a new breed of computer programmers, architects and engineers from half way across the world found a haven, where their skills and capabilities could be best utilized.

Southern part of San Francisco in Northern California, popularly known as Silicon Valley, is home to many of the world's largest computer technology companies including Apple, Adobe, Agilent, Cisco, eBay, Face Book, Google, HP, Hot Mail, Intel, Microsoft, Netflix, Oracle and Yahoo to name a few.

The term Silicon Valley originally referred to the region's large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, but eventually came to refer to all the high tech businesses in the area. Despite the development of other high profile technical and economic centers throughout the US and the world, Silicon Valley of California continues to be the leading hub for high profile technical innovation and developments in software and hardware technology, accounting for 1/3 of all of the venture capital investment in the United States. Geographically, Silicon Valley comprises of Santa Clara valley including the city of San Jose and adjacent areas, the Southern Peninsula and the Southeastern Bay of California.

It would not be inappropriate to nomenclature California as "brain of the world."

V S Saxena
Rocklin, California
16 August 2010

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