Baja California – Maps, History and Culture

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Baja California may be the most distinguishable region in all of Mexico. It is the region of Mexico that encompasses the northern half of the Baja Peninsula, which is the area of land that extends midway down the western coast of Mexico. The northern border of the Baja California map borders the United States, while the remaining three sides of the peninsula are all coastal.

List of Cities

  • Tijuana
  • Mexicali
  • Ensenada
  • Roasarito
  • Tecate
  • Santa Isabel
  • La Joya
  • Ciudad Guadalupe Victoria
  • San Felipe
  • Puebla
  • Lomas de Santa Anita
  • La Paz

Quick Facts

  • Population: ~ 3.3 million
  • Languages: Spanish, primary language; English, secondary language; Yuman-Cochimi, the native language of indigenous people
  • Ethnicities: Mestizos, White Mexicans, Asian Mexicans
  • Capital: Mexicali
  • Cities: Tijuana, Mexicali, Tecate, Rosarito, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz

Brief History

Baja California was first occupied by the indigenous tribes of the Kiliwa, Paipai, Kumeyaay, Quechan, and Cocopa people. These tribes spoke the native language of Yuman-Cochimi, which can still sometimes be heard today. These tribes were successful hunters, gatherers, and farmers who made the most out of the region where they lived.

By the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors had arrived in the region. Over time, more and more Spanish men began to relocate to Mexico. In doing so, they started new families with the indigenous people in the region, ultimately creating a new race known as Mestizo. Mestizos are a mixed-race made up of Spanish and indigenous Mexican people.

By the early 1800s, Spain controlled northern Mexico, which included the Baja California region. In 1804, Spain divided California in half. The northern half was Alta California, and the lower half was Baja California. When California became part of the United States in 1850, the lower half of Baja California remained in Mexico.

Baja California officially became a state in Mexico in 1952.


Before the Spanish arrived in the region and shifted the primary language to Spanish, they spoke the native Yuman-Cochimi language. The Yuman-Cochimi language is a subcategory of the Yuman family of languages. Yuman-Cochimi is found throughout the Baja Peninsula and even in parts of California and Arizona.

The Yuman-Cochimi language adapted over time and gained many Spanish traits. Over time, the Yuman-Cochimi language slowly dissipated while Spanish grew immensely. Today, Spanish is the region’s primary language, while some Yuman-Cochimi variations may still be heard today.

English is also commonly heard throughout the region today because of how close the region is to southern California, as well as how many Americans have relocated to the region over time.


Like much of the entire region of Mexico, Roman Catholicism is the primary religion of the Baja California region, making up around 70% of the religion practiced in the region. The other religions practiced, or lack thereof, include other Christianity (Baptist, Methodist, etc.), evangelism, or no religion (atheism, agnostic).


Because Baja California makes up around half of the Baja Peninsula, it may seem like the geography would all be the same, but that isn’t the case at all. In fact, Baja California is one of the most diverse geographical regions in all of Mexico.

The Peninsular ranges in California extend all the way down throughout the Baja California region. These ranges create steep mountains with lush valleys that are perfect for agriculture. Located in the valleys are fruits, grapes, and other crops that are harvested. This has helped both Mexico’s economy and employment opportunities.

In addition to agriculture, the Baja California region’s geography is also ideal for tourism, another key component to its successful economy and employment. Many islands are located off the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula, making great destinations, such as Cabo San Lucas.

Because Baja California is in the northern part of Mexico, it has a cooler climate in winter than the remainder of the country. The summers are dry and hot, and the winters are cool and rainy. It is similar to the Mediterranean climate that Spain experiences, which is why it is often referred to as a Mediterranean-type of climate.

Unfortunately, there is one major downside to the geography of the Baja California region, and that is the Laguna Salada Fault Line. This fault line goes through Baja California and runs through parts of southern California. It is about 50 miles long and has contributed to the last major earthquake that happened in the area in 2010. This fault line always poses a risk to those who live on or near it.


Today, Baja California is culturally known for its strong connection to the arts. This includes music, pottery, baskets, and clothing. However, Baja California was once heavily influenced by the indigenous tribes that lived in the region, including the Pai-Pai, Kumiai, and Cucupas.

Once the Alta (upper) region of Baja California became part of the United States, the lower region of Baja California picked up on American influences and culture during this time. It is often said that Baja California feels like an extension of Southern California because of the touristy feel and many Americans that have relocated to the area.

There was also a large presence of Chinese immigrants that had relocated to northern Mexico during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Thus, there were many Chinese and Asian cultural influences that manifested in Baja California, including art and festivals.

As far as currency goes, Pesos are the common currency found and used throughout Mexico. Still, the Baja California region actually accepts both Pesos and U.S. Currency to be used in the region. This is because California borders Baja California to the north, and so many American tourists come and go from the region often.

Immigration and Migration Patterns

In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors traveled west looking for new trade routes or better opportunities for the conditions in which they were living in Spain. When they found Mexico, it immediately became a place where Spanish men could relocate to make a better life, and that’s exactly what they did.

Tens of thousands of Spanish men relocated to Mexico between the 1500s and 1800s. During this time, they started new families with the indigenous tribes who were located in the area. The race created between the Spanish and indigenous people was known as Mestizos, which are still prevalent in Mexico today.

During the Chinese immigration to Mexico, many of the Chinese immigrants settled in northern Mexico, including the Baja California region. Chinese men were quick to marry indigenous Mexican women after they arrived in the area. This created the Asian Mexican race that can still be traced today.

By the 1900s, it wasn’t just the Spanish and Chinese that were relocating to northern Mexico, but it was also Mexicans from the southern regions of Mexico that were also relocating to the north. This was because of the many agricultural opportunities that northern Mexico offered. This meant more jobs and a better way of life.

At the same time, Americans from California had also immigrated to Baja California to seek new employment opportunities. This led to the formation of the White Mexican race, as well as the incorporation of English to the family of languages spoken in the region.


The genealogy of those in the Baja California region can undoubtedly have connections to Spanish and Chinese heritages. This is because of the number of both Spanish and Chinese immigrants that relocated to Mexico throughout history.

Once arriving in Mexico, they were quick to marry the native Mexicans and start a new family. This created the Mestizo race, which is a combination of Spanish and indigenous Mexicans, as well as the Asian Mexican race, which is a combination of Chinese and indigenous Mexicans.

It is also not uncommon to have additional European heritages from the number of Americans relocated to the region. Since many Europeans settled in America, a White Mexican may likely have French, Italian, or English genealogy. However, the most common genealogy that will likely be seen in Mexicans in the Baja California region are Mestizos and Chinese Mexicans.

This is why much of the population of Baja California has dark hair and dark skin. These are prominent features of much of the Spanish population, which is why many Mexicans today are Mestizos with dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes.

Those who are native to Baja California, Mexico, who trace their genealogy will likely have some connections to Spanish, Chinese, or other European countries because of the immigration patterns that occurred in the area throughout history.

Caleb Pike
About the author

Caleb Pike is an avid hiker and nature lover, with a passion for exploring the great outdoors. He's a writer, photographer, and adventurer, always seeking new trails to blaze and peaks to conquer.