California: Expect the Unexpected
"Of all the states in the
only California has attached to
its identity the concept of dream."
"California has always been a figment of its own imagination, ever
struggling for identity, ever inventing itself."
- Kevin Starr, Professor of History, University of Southern California
The California image of beaches, blondes, flaky surfers, and
“California Dreamin’” doesn’t tell the whole story, or even most of
it. In California, always expect the unexpected. Just when
you’re sure you know the state…
- California was named by the
Spanish for Califia, a mythical
paradise in a Spanish romance written in 1510. The name refers to a
country full of gold and pearls inhabited by Amazons ruled by Queen
- Movie stars pontificate about
national politics, and
workers many of whom don’t speak English, shake up the nation by
massing in downtown Los Angeles in 2006 to protest an
- It’s huge in population, by
far the largest population of
state, with more than 35 million people, one out of every 8
Americans. Three of the ten largest American cities are in
California: Los Angeles - #2; San Diego - #7, San Jose, -
#10 (which just recently passed Detroit to make it into the top ten).
- San Bernardino County has the
largest land area of any
in America; Los Angeles County has the largest population.
- California alone provides more
than one-fifth of the
votes needed to win the presidency (55 out of 270), but the
ignore the state in the general election because Democrats now carry
the state by large margins. So California’s voters rarely get to
see presidential campaign ads anymore.
- California ranks as the
world’s seventh largest economy.
- Every California governor is
an automatic contender for
national office. But only one president, Richard Nixon, was born
in California compared to eight from Virginia and seven from Ohio.
- California is now a reliably
“blue” state, taken for
the Democrats. Between the New Deal and 1992, it was a steady base for
presidential candidates, only voting Democratic once (1964) after
1948. In addition, Republicans have won the governorship more
frequently than Democrats.
- Two actors have become
governor of California, and one went
to become president. California has two Jewish women United
- California has the highest and
the lowest points in the
continental United States, Mt. Whitney and Death Valley. They are
within 100 miles of each other.
- Coastal California is known
world wide, but the growth of
California is happening inland, in both northern and southern
California. The California Dream is now being built in inland counties
with lots of land, where families can afford to buy homes. (2)
- One out of every four
immigrants comes to California.
third of the state’s residents are foreign born. A language other
than English is spoken in 39% of California’s homes. An estimated
40% of all unauthorized immigrants live in California. Fifteen
percent of the state’s voters are now Latinos. (3)
- Disneyland is the iconic image
of a white California
dream. Disneyland is in Anaheim, whose city population is now
almost half Latino.
- California immigrants are not
percent of immigrants from India have college degrees: Two-thirds
of immigrants from Mexico have not completed high school. (4)
- California has had more than
its share of racial
conflict. But it also enjoyed the pioneering mayoral elections of
Tom Bradley (5) and Antonio Villaraigosa, and now the state legislature is
led by a Latino speaker directing a heavily minority Democratic caucus.
- California voters gave
landslide support to Proposition 187
1994, a measure to bar undocumented residents from public
services. Although Proposition 187 was later ruled unconstitutional
voters re-elected Pete Wilson in
1994 as governor due in part to his support of the Proposition.
The 1990s saw a
million new Latinos register to vote giving voice to their disapproval
of Proposition 187 and the re-election of their governor. (6)
- There are more than 6.4
million students in the state’s
schools. Of these, 26.4% are English Language Learners. With 12%
of the nation's population, California has 40% of the English learners.
- The Bakke decision that
limited racial preferences in
education came out of California, as did the historic Proposition 13 to
limit property taxes in 1978. But so did the historic grape
boycott that led to the unionization of farm workers, and successful
hotel workers efforts in Los Angeles.
- Conservative talk radio
dominates the airwaves of Southern
California often taking an anti-immigration stance. A huge march
in Los Angeles, however, was inspired by a network of Spanish-language
talk shows that encouraged immigrants to unite in defense of their
- In 2003 Gray Davis became the
first governor of a state to
recalled from office by the voters since North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in
- Pre-contact California had the
largest number of native
who spoke the widest variety of languages in the world. Some sixty
different languages and many more
dialects were spoken. Today California again has the largest
number of native
people in the continent. (10)
- Northern California’s legend
is built on the cutting edge
technology of Silicon Valley allowing much work to be done by fewer
hands. Southern California is driven by the energy of millions of
immigrant workers whose collective labor is fundamental to the economy
of the region.
- California has led the nation
in agricultural production
the last 50 years. Farms comprise one-third of the state’s land
area. It is the largest dairy state in the nation. Grapes
are the second biggest product of California agriculture.
California agriculture employs more than a million people. (11)
(1) Gudde, Erwin G. "The Name of Our State." California Blue
Book. 1958 ed. Sacramento: State Printing Office. 651-652 cited in
http://countingcalifornia.cdlib.org/california.html, 14 April 2006
(2) Mark Baldassare, 2000. California
in the New Millenium: The Changing Social and Political Landscape.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
(3) Public Policy Institute of California. 2002 Just the Facts: Immigrants in California.
(5) Raphael J. Sonenshein. 1993. Politics in Black and White: Race and
Power in Los Angeles. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
(6) Field Poll. 2000. The Expanding Latino Electorate. Release
No. 1960, no. 1.
(7) Christopher Jepson and Shelley de Alth. 2005.
English Learners in California Schools. Public Policy Institute
(8) Teresa Watanabe and Hector Becerra. 2006. How
DJs Put 500,000 Marchers in Motion. Los Angeles Times, March, 28.
(9) Larry Gerston and Terry Christensen. 2004. Recall: California's Political Earthquake.
(10) Jed Riffe, Co-Executive Producer, California and the American
(11) U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Farm Bureau
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When to Watch
California and the American Dream premieres April 13,
April 20, April 27 and May 4, 2006
Check your local listings.
Buy the Program
and the American Dream
To purchase the Series for
Institutional use visit
www.BerkeleyMedia.com, then go to the Films/American Studies section.