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California Cultures

Hispanic Americans
Mexican American dancer and musicians on Cinco de Mayo, May 12, 1941 Edward Roybal sworn in as Los Angeles City Council member in 1946. Veyna Drink Stand, Anaheim, ca. 1940s


Spanish Colonization and Californios (1769-1800s)
Migrant Workers and Braceros (1930s-1964)
Racial Tensions During World War II
Cultural Traditions and the People (1930s-1960s)
Barrios (1930s-1960s)
Everyday Life: Hispanic Americans (1940s-1970s)
Politics and Community (1960s-Present)


Hispanic explorers first reached the shores of California in the 1500s. By the 19th century, Spain had built missions throughout the state, the Californios owned huge land grants, and California was part of the United States of Mexico. From that time to the present, Hispanic Californians have been among the largest cultural groups in the state. These images trace the history of Hispanic Americans in California from the Mission system and Californios into the 20th century: Mexican immigration into California, the farmworkers' labor struggles, and the Chicano Civil Rights movement and La Raza, which also resulted in an explosion of cultural art. Although a number of different Hispanic American groups now live in the state, the images in this topic largely portray Mexican Americans, who have always comprised the majority of Hispanic Californians.

* The list of missions is not intended to be complete; it reflects what is available in the collection at this time. As new items are added to the collection, this list will be updated.

Explore Further

Themed Collections

Diversity in the Changing State
The Bracero Program
Struggles for Social Justice

Historical Essays

Before 1768: Pre-Columbian California
1768-1820s: Exploration
1821-1847: Missions
1848-1865: Gold Rush
1866-1920: Rapid Population Growth
1921-Present: Modern California

Lesson Plans

Los Californios: California's Spanish, Native American, and African Heritage

Children in the Fields: The Life of the Hispanic Child Laborer During California's Agriculture Explosion

Stealing Home: How Race Relations, Politics, and Baseball Transformed Chavez Ravine

The Prints of Self Help Graphics: The Chicano Movement in California – Culture, Causes, and Community