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Californio (historical and regional Spanish for "Californian") is a Spanish term for a descendant of a person of Castillian or other Spanish ancestry who was born in what is now the U.S. state of California. The Californio era was from the first Spanish presence established by the Portolá expedition in 1769 until the region's cession to the United States of America in 1848. Persons of similar characteristics but born on the Baja California peninsula during the same time period may also be considered Californios, since that area (now split into two states of Mexico) was part of the original Spanish Las Californias.

Non-Spanish-speaking immigrants who 1) became naturalized Mexican citizens, 2) married Californios, and 3) converted to Catholicism may be included in a secondary, looser definition of Californio. Such residents, by these actions, became eligible to own land and receive rancho grants from the Mexican government. Most such grants occurred after mission secularization in the 1830s. An even looser definition may include descendants of Californios, especially those who married other Californio descendants.

The much larger population of non-Spanish-speaking indigenous peoples of California who lived in the area prior to and during the Californio era were not Californios. Neither were non-Spanish-speaking resident foreigners. Many Californios, however, were the California-born children of non-Spanish speakers who married Spanish speakers. Such spouses usually also converted to the Catholic faith and, after Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821, often became naturalized Mexican citizens.

The military, religious and civil components of pre-1848 Californio society were embodied in the thinly-populated presidios, missions, pueblos and ranchos. Until they were secularized, the twenty-one Spanish missions of California, with their thousands of more-or-less captive native converts, controlled the most (about per mission) and best land, had large numbers of workers, grew the most crops and had the most sheep, cattle and horses. After secularization, the Mexican authorities divided most of the mission lands into new ranchos and granted them to Mexican citizens (including many Californios) resident in California.

The Spanish colonial and later Mexican national governments encouraged settlers from the northern and western provinces of Mexico, but few attempted to cross the harsh Sonoran Desert. People from other parts of Latin America (most notably Peru and Chile) did settle in California. However, only a few official colonization efforts were ever undertaken—notably the second expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza (1775–1776), which established the first secular pueblo of San Jose.

Children of those few early settlers and retired soldiers became the first Californios. Sporadic colonization efforts continued under Mexican rule, including the Hijar-Padres group of 1834. One genealogist estimated that, by 2004, between 300,000 and 500,000 Californians were descendants of Californios.

Usage examples of "californio".

Wooston was not a Californio and did not have the tolerant, somewhat casual attitude that was typical of them.

Each day saw them out and doing, and their Californio neighbors smiled at their energy as one smiles at an excited child.

Juan had told him about the Californio bull and bear fights, a bull and a grizzly either chained together or put into a pit and aggravated until they turned on one another.

Whether Don Rafael approved or not, there was nothing the Californio could do about it.

Even if he brought himself to kill him, another Californio would ride to hunt him.

Rafael, what the Californio had told him darkened his mind before sleep claimed him.

He charged at the Californio, driving the man back with one combination of blows after another, many truncated, the fighting forms mixed about, the moves impossible to predict, even for him.

Mexicano, Mexican, Mexican-American, Mestizo, Latin American, Nuevomexicano, Californio, Tejano, and on and on.

The wealth and prestige of the Californio had long since disappeared, but the pride and beautiful dark eyes had survived.