Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, after New York, and is considered a cultural and business hub for the western part of the country. The sprawling city is home to over four million people, with an additional 14 million tacked on in the official greater city metropolitan area. Often known within the region and the world as L.A., Los Angeles is the epicenter of the entertainment community and is the worldwide leader in production of television shows, video games, and recorded music, and trails only Mumbai, India, in terms of movie production. L.A. is known for its population diversity, notable Hispanic and Mexican cultural influence, and array of dining and nightlife options.

Location of Los Angeles

L.A. is located in southern California, and is the seat of Los Angeles County. This places the city in the extreme southwest of the United States, a few hundred miles away from the Mexican border. The combined statistical area (CSA) measurement includes the city of Long Beach, and the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes those cities and adds Anaheim to the mix. L.A. is south of major California population centers such as Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland, but north of San Diego, which is the closest major Californian city to Mexico.

Confusion with Los Angeles County

Sometimes when visitors and even locals refer to L.A., they could be talking about the county and not the city. Although the city certainly dominates the county, there are 88 other unincorporated cities within the county. Los Angeles is actually the largest city in the United States to exist entirely inside one county, which is the root of much of the confusion: people in the region, unless they are involved in local government, often simply use the two terms interchangeably. L.A. county contains over ten million people, or over a third of the total population of California, many of whom live or work in the city itself.

Brief History of Los Angeles

The settlement of L.A. has a long history stretching back to the days of the Spanish empire in North America. The Spanish formed El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles (The City of Our Lady the Queen of Angels) in 1781, and controlled the area until the conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821. Throughout this time period, the city and region were controlled by powerful ranchers who dominated the political and social landscape of southern ‘Alta’ California.

Mexico held control of the city for a scant quarter century, giving up control to the United States as dictated by a concession in the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo that was signed at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. The war ended with a massive purchase of land by the U.S. government from the Mexican government; among the lands ceded was the Mediterranean-climate coastline of California that would become the metropolis of L.A.

Modern History and Growth

After California formally entered into statehood in 1850, the city and county were organized: the county in February of that year and the city in April. As the U.S. population steadily moved west during the frontier settlement years, oil was discovered near L.A. and the area became a center for commerce and the natural resource business. As the population expanded into the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood was absorbed by L.A. and the film and music industry became cemented in the city’s lore and in its international reputation. The city also gained a reputation for reliance on the automotive: because L.A. spread out into the surrounding region rather than up as New York did, its massive freeway system became one of the most-traveled car corridors in the world.

Los Angeles is undoubtedly a global city with a massive economy powered by peerless educational institutions, media conglomerates, fashion and entertainment empires, and ground-breaking medical and scientific research facilities. The jewel of southwestern California has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a seaside Spanish settlement, and it is poised to continue growing, innovating and re-making itself at an astonishing rate well into the 21st century.