The History of San Diego, CA

For many centuries, the land in which San Diego lies today was inhabited by Americans who are today referred to as San Dieguto. Around 1000 BC, an Indian tribe known as Kumeyaay or Diegueno came and settled in the land which they called home until the arrival of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who had explored Spain and came across this amazing paradise.

Cabrillo was in a mission to search for a northwest passage that linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when he came across San Diego. Therefore, contrary to some reports, this first European to come to southern California had no intent to colonize the area.

On the day Cabrillo arrived, it was on the eve of the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel. Therefore, he named his discovery San Miguel. Despite this development, outsiders did not see anything much in this newly found haven and it was ignored for decades. 

After six decades, another explorer called Sebastian Vizcaino sailed through the California coast enroute Spain when he came across San Miguel in 1602. He renamed it San Diego after the patron saint of his flagship known as San Diego de Alcala. Nevertheless, Spain had no interest in the area, and the need to grow riches quickly drove explores to other areas.

The delayed colonization of California by Spain was deliberate, since it was geared towards discouraging fur traders from Russia who had crossed the Aleutians and were on their way to the northwest coast of America.


Rather than using military action to take control over the Indians living in San Diego, Spain opted to use the military to support the missionaries who wanted to convert the Indians into Christianity. During this strategic operation, Spain’s flag was hoisted in the area.

For a long time, the Spanish mission thrived in San Diego. Throughout the 19th century, trade in grain, leatherwork, hide, and wine flourished, and a healthy economy developed. When Mexico gained independence from Spain, the old system seemed to fail. However, in 1833, after a lot of pressure from all quarters, the government parceled mission property to political favorites and the area started growing once more.

In the 1840s, the war between America and Mexico broke and the US took San Diego thanks to its strategic Southern California Port.

The ceding of San Diego to the US did not come with an immediate boom. The population dropped rapidly, and the economy started weakening. It was not until the gold and land rush period that the population was restored.

Alonzo Horton, who was a wealthy landowner and who had established a city near San Francisco – Hortonville was wowed by the land of San Diego. He bought 960 acres of land at 271/2 per acre and set up a land sales office in San Francisco which made San Diego a city of the future.

The 54 year old man had a great ambition for San Diego. He even said in an interview that he was ready to sell everything he had to build the city of San Diego.

In the 20th century, this city saw massive developments. By 1970, the population was 696, 000. Lots of a amenities including a public library, the Maritime Museum, Timken Museum and the San Diego Zoo were established. By the end of the century, skyscrapers and the San Diego Natural History Museum beautified this place, and it became one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

This city has continued to thrive in the 21st century. Its main industries are tourism and defense. The population stands at 1.4 million people, and it is the second largest city in California.

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