Undoubtedly, Los Angeles, California, commonly known as the City of Angels or La-La Land, holds an undeniable allure. As the second-largest city in the United States, with a population of 3.9 million and counting, it boasts a rich cultural melting pot and diverse topography. Moreover, its a warm climate, and endless opportunities attract countless people dreaming of heading out west.
Delving into Indigenous History
Initially, the land that is now Los Angeles was inhabited by the Tongva people, who called themselves the Kizh. They lived in the area and its surrounding regions for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived in the 18th century.
The Tongva were hunters and gatherers, relying on the land’s abundant resources, including acorns, berries, and other plants. However, with the arrival of the Spanish, they were forced to abandon their traditional lifestyle, living in missions and later camps for the Spaniards.
Exploring the Spanish/Mexican Era
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer, was the first European to set foot on the Southern California coast in 1542. However, it wasn’t until 1769 that coastal settlements were established. Father Junipero Serra founded the first mission in the area in 1781, named “El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles,” which translates to “The Town of the Queen of Angels.”
Located near the Los Angeles River, the mission served as a way-station for travelers and a center for agriculture. In the early 1800s, the mission system began to decline, and the Mexican government took control of California in 1821. The new government secularized the missions, dividing the land into ranchos or large land grants, given to prominent Mexican citizens who quickly converted the land for ranching and agriculture. This led to the growth of a new class of ranchers and landowners who began to develop the area around the city.
The Founding of Los Angeles
California officially became a state in 1850, with the area having a population of 1,600 people, mostly of Mexican descent. Businessman and landowner Abel Stearns initially made his fortune in the cattle trade, but he was the first to see the potential for growth in the area surrounding Los Angeles. Consequently, he heavily invested, playing a crucial role in establishing the city’s infrastructure, building the first wharf, and founding the first bank. Stearns was also involved in constructing several buildings, including the first hotel, store, and school. In addition, owning over 200,000 acres of land, Stearns invested in mining ventures and owned shares in several gold mines in California.
The city transformed into a transportation hub with the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876 and the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913.
In the late 1800s, Los Angeles became an oil industry hub, attracting wealthy entrepreneurs. The oil discovery led to the construction of the city’s first skyscraper, the 10-story Bradbury Building, completed in 1893.
The film industry soon replaced oil as the dominant income source. The Nestor Film Company was the first motion picture studio established in Hollywood in 1911. Many movie studios followed, with most, including Paramount and Warner Bros., being founded directly in the city.
Hollywood quickly became synonymous with the entertainment industry. Due to the promise of work in the industry, Los Angeles became the fifth-largest city in the United States by 1930.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Los Angeles became a center of counterculture and radical politics. The city was a hotbed of creative energy, attracting artists, musicians, and writers from across the country. The beat generation of the 1950s, a group of poets and writers who rejected traditional societal values, laid the groundwork for the counterculture movement.
Los Angeles also became the epicenter of the emerging hippie movement. Inspired by the beat generation and the civil rights movement, young people across the country began to question authority and challenge traditional values. The hippie movement rejected the materialism and consumerism of mainstream society, promoting free love, psychedelic drugs, and communal living. Bands like The Doors and The Byrds emerged from this scene.
A Time of Activism
During this period, the city was rife with political activism, with groups like the Black Panthers and the Chicano Movement fighting for social justice and equality.
In 1965, the Watts Riots broke out in South Central Los Angeles, influenced by the LAPD’s arrest of a young African American man. The riots lasted for six days, resulting in 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage. In addition, the riots brought national attention to issues of police brutality and racial inequality, eventually leading to significant changes in policing and community relations throughout the city.
In 1968, the East Los Angeles Walkouts saw thousands of Chicano high school students walk out of their classrooms to demand better educational opportunities and an end to discrimination. The walkouts were a turning point for the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, helping bring attention to discrimination against Mexican Americans.
The Future of Los Angeles
As we look toward Los Angeles’ future, the city is expected to continue evolving as a global metropolis, embracing innovation and sustainability. As urbanization increases, the need for smart city planning and development will become paramount. In addition, implementing environmentally friendly initiatives, such as expanding public transportation, promoting green spaces, and utilizing renewable energy sources, will be crucial in addressing the city’s growing population and mitigating climate change impacts.
While the entertainment industry will remain a vital component of LA’s economy, the city is also expected to diversify by nurturing emerging industries such as technology, aerospace, and biotechnology. These developments will create new job opportunities and attract talent from around the world.
As a melting pot of cultures, Los Angeles will continue to serve as a hub for creative expression and cultural exchange, fostering a dynamic environment that supports art, music, and cuisine. In addition, the city’s future will undoubtedly be shaped by its diverse population and their collective pursuit of innovation, inclusivity, and progress.