As late as the 16th century, the “islands” that we now call Baja California Peninsula was nothing more than a vague, somewhat skewed, idea that existed in the minds of Europeans. Conquistadors, adventurers and explorers imagined a place where the ground is made of solid gold and the inhabitants are beautiful, dark-haired mulattoes. When they first anchored of the shores of Baja California, they thought they found that island paradise.
The history of Baja California, mimicking that of the entire country of Mexico, shows us that the peninsula’s culture is relatively young and brought about by a variety multi-racial influences. Before the 1810 Mexican revolution that started and fueled the series of events that would free Mexico of Spanish rule, the Mexican territory, along with the peninsula of Baja California, continued to be a Spanish colony. After gaining freedom from the Spanish colonizers however, the Mexican people had to struggle against the influences of yet another influential nation, the powerful neighboring nation of the United States of America. It was only a couple of years later, when the concept of national identity was sown in the minds of its citizens, that Mexicans were finally able to say that Mexico was their mother country, not Spain and not the US.
Due to the long period of Spanish rule in Baja California, visitors can instantly see the Spanish influence in everything from the language, architecture, cuisine and even the names of places in Baja. Spanish is the principal language spoken in Baja California Peninsula, although English is spoken and understood by many due to its world-wide popularity plus the close proximity of Baja to the United States. Catholicism is also the prevalent religion in Baja California and in all of Mexico, as is in most Latin American countries. Churches and chapels displaying Spanish architectural influences can be seen in every municipality of Baja California.
Slowly but certainly, the peninsula of Baja California is trying to discover, create and assert its national identity. A distinctly Baja California culture is on the process of being being born, of being strengthened, and of being expressed. Already, Baja California is known for its well-preserved and highly-valued natural wonders. Baja California’s pristine beaches, clear blue waters, golden deserts, and towering mountain peaks continue to emanate the beauty of nature. Baja California citizens continue to make use and live with nature without compromising and abusing it for the sake of industrialization and commercialism.
Baja California is known as the land of burritos, tacos and nachos. Baja California is the eternal fountain of tequila. Baja California is the fatherland of mariachi bands, Latin American poets, and bullfighters. Baja California is the tourist paradise of North America, having the most-crossed international border in all the world.