The Spanish colonization of California began in 1769, with the establishment of a presidio, or fort, at San Diego, followed by a steady progression up the coast. Further presidios were sited at Monterey (1777), which became the provincial seat of government, San Francisco (1776) and Santa Barbara (1786). While the bulk of colonial expenditure went on military defences to deter British and Russian encroachment (the Russians had an outpost at Fort Ross just north of San Francisco from 1812–42), the real driving force of colonization was the missions. The indefatigable Franciscan friar, Father Junipero Serra, founded no less than 21 missions, each administering large territories, converting the native population and engaging them in clearing and farming the land. The mission movement created a broad verge of cultivation round the province’s main thoroughfare, Camino Real. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and Mexico acquired the territory of Alto California.
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