Baja California, officially Free and Sovereign State of Baja California (Spanish:Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California), is a state in Mexico. It is the northernmost and westernmost of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North Territory of Baja California (El Territorio Norte de Baja California). It has an area of 70,113 km2 (27,071 sq mi), or 3.57% of the land mass of Mexico and comprises the northern half of the Baja California peninsula, north of the 28th parallel, plus oceanic Guadalupe Island. The mainland portion of the state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Sonora, the U.S. State of Arizona, and the Gulf of California (also known as the "Sea of Cortez"), and on the south by Baja California Sur. Its northern limit is the U.S. state ofCalifornia.
The state has a population of 2,844,469 (2005 census), and estimated 3,165,776 (June 2009) much more than the sparsely populated Baja California Sur to the south, and similar to San Diego County, California on its north. Over 75% of the population lives in the capital city, Mexicali, in Ensenada, or inTijuana. Other important cities include San Felipe, Rosarito and Tecate. The population of the state is composed of Mestizos, mostly immigrants from other parts of Mexico, and, as with most northern Mexican states, a large population of Mexicans of European ancestry, and also a large minority group of East Asian, Middle Eastern and indigenous descent. Additionally, there is a large immigrant population from the United States due to its proximity to San Diego and the cheaper cost of living compared to San Diego. There is also a significant population from Central America. Many immigrants moved to Baja California for a better quality of life and the number of higher paying jobs in comparison to the rest of Mexico and Latin America.
Baja California is the twelfth largest state by area in Mexico. Its geography ranges from beaches to forests and deserts. The backbone of the state is the Sierra de Baja California, where the Picacho del Diablo, the highest point of the peninsula, is located. This mountain range effectively divides the weather patterns in the state. In the northwest, the weather is semi-dry and mediterranean. In the narrow center, the weather changes to be more humid due to altitude. It is in this area where a few valleys can be found, such as theValle de Guadalupe, the major wine producing area in Mexico. To the east of the mountain range, theSonoran Desert dominates the landscape. In the south, the weather becomes drier and gives way to the Vizcaino Desert. The state is also home to numerous islands off both of its shores. In fact, the westernmost point in Mexico, the Guadalupe Island, is part of Baja California. The Coronado, Todos Santos and Cedros Islands are also on the Pacific Shore. On the Gulf of California, the biggest island is the Angel de la Guarda, separated from the peninsula by the deep and narrow Canal de Ballenas.
The first people came to the peninsula at least 11,000 years ago. At that time two main native groups are thought to have been present on the peninsula. In the south were the Cochimí. In the north were several groups belonging to the Yuman language family, including the Kiliwa, Paipai, Kumeyaay, Cocopa, andQuechan. These peoples were diverse in their adaptations to the region. The Cochimí of the peninsula's Central Desert were generalized hunter-gatherers who moved frequently; however, the Cochimí on Cedros Island off the west coast had developed a strongly maritime economy. The Kiliwa, Paipai, and Kumeyaay in the better-watered northwest were also hunter-gatherers, but that region supported denser populations and a more sedentary lifestyle. The Cocopa and Quechan of northeastern Baja California practiced agriculture in the floodplain of the lower Colorado River.
Europeans reached the present state of Baja California in 1539, when Francisco de Ulloa reconnoitered its east coast on the Gulf of California and explored the peninsula's west coast at least as far north as Cedros Island. Hernando de Alarcón returned to the east coast and ascended the lower Colorado River in 1540, and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (or João Rodrigues Cabrilho (Portuguese)) completed the reconnaissance of the west coast in 1542. Sebastián Vizcaíno again surveyed the west coast in 1602, but outside visitors during the following century were few.
The Jesuits founded a permanent mission colony on the peninsula at Loreto in 1697. During the following decades, they gradually extended their sway throughout the present state of Baja California Sur. In 1751–1753, the Croatian Jesuit mission-explorer Ferdinand Konščak made overland explorations northward into the state of Baja California. Jesuit missions were subsequently established among the Cochimí at Santa Gertrudis (1752), San Borja (1762), and Santa María (1767).
After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1768, the short-lived Franciscan administration (1768–1773) resulted in one new mission at San Fernando Velicatá. More importantly, the 1769 expedition to settle Alta California under Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra resulted in the first overland exploration of the northwestern portion of the state.
The Dominicans took over management of the Baja California missions from the Franciscans in 1773. They established a chain of new missions among the northern Cochimí and western Yumans, first on the coast and subsequently inland, extending from El Rosario (1774) to Descanso (1817), just south of Tijuana.
Baja California encompasses a territory which exhibits diverse geography for a relatively small area. The Peninsular ranges of the California cordillera run down the geographic center of the state. The most notable ranges of these mountains are the Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de San Pedro Martir. These ranges are the location of forests cognizant ofSouthern California's San Gabriel Mountains. Picacho del Diablo is the highest peak in the whole peninsula. Valleys between the mountain ranges are located within a climate zone that are suitable for agriculture. Such valleys included the Valle de Guadalupe and the Valle de Ojos Negros, areas that produce citrus fruits and grapes. The mineral-rich mountain range extends southwards to the Gulf of California, where the western slope becomes wider, forming the Llanos del Berrendo in the border with Baja California Sur. The mountain ranges located in the center and southern part of the state include the Sierra de La Asamblea, Sierra de Calamajué, Sierra de San Luis and the Sierra de San Borja.
Temperate winds from the Pacific Ocean and the cold California Current make the climate along the northwestern coast pleasant year-round. As a result of the state's location on the California current, rains from the north barely reach the peninsula, thus leaving southern areas drier. South of El Rosario River the state changes from a Mediterranean landscape to a desert one. This desert exhibits diversity in succulent flora species that flourish in part due to the coastal fog.
To the east, the Sonoran Desert enters the state from both California and Sonora. Some of the highest temperatures in Mexico are recorded in or nearby the Mexicali Valley. However, with irrigation from the Colorado River, this area has become truly an agricultural center. The Cerro Prieto geothermal province is near Mexicali as well (this area is geologically part of a large pull apart basin); producing about 80% of the electricity consumed in the state and enough more to export to California. Laguna Salada, a saline lake below sea level lying between the rugged Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de los Cucapah, is also in the vicinity of Mexicali. The state government has recently been considering plans to revive Laguna Salada. The highest mountain in the Sierra de los Cucapah is the Cerro del Centinela or Mount Signal. The Cucapah are the primary indigenous people of that area and up into the Yuma, AZ area.
There are numerous islands on the Pacific shore. Guadalupe Island is located in the extreme west of the state's boundaries and is the site of large colonies of sea lions. Cedros Island exists in the southwest of the state's maritime region. The Todos Santos Islands and Coronado Islands are located off the coast of Tijuana and Ensenada. All of the islands in the Gulf of California, on the Baja California side, belong to the municipality of Mexicali.
Baja California obtains much of its water from the Colorado River. Historically the river drained into the Colorado River Deltawhich flowed into the Gulf of California, but due to large demands for water in the American Southwest, less water now reaches the Gulf. The Tijuana metropolitan area also relies on the Tijuana River as a source of water. Much of rural Baja California depends predominantly on wells and a few dams. Tijuana also purchases water from San Diego County's Otay Water District. Potable water is the largest natural resource issue of the state.
Baja California has one of the best educational programs in the country, with high rankings in schooling and achievement.
The State Government provides education and qualification courses to increase the workforce standards, such as School-Enterprise linkage programs which helps the development of labor force according to the needs of the industry.
91.60% of the population from six to fourteen years of age attend elementary school. 61.95% of the population over fifteen years of age attend or have already graduated from high school. Public School is available in all levels, from kindergarten to university.
The state has 32 universities offering 103 professional degrees. These universities have 19 Research and Development centers for basic and applied investigation in advanced projects of Biotechnology, Physics, Oceanography, Digital Geothermal Technology, Astronomy, Aerospace, Electrical Engineering and Clean Energy, among others. At this educational level supply is steadily growing. Baja California has developed a need to be self-sufficient in matters of technological and scientific innovation and to be less dependent on foreign countries. Current businesses demand new production processes as well as technology for the incubation of companies. The number of various graduate degrees offered, including Ph.D. programs, is 121. The state has 53 graduate schools.