Two milestones were reached when 750,000 people marched in Los Angeles at the start of 2017, the largest protest in the nation of President Donald Trump’s startling bid to ban immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries as well as shut off refugees from Syria. First, the notion that California is a quiescent, “laid-back” place unmoved by the trials of others was laid to rest. Second, largely composed of Americans of Hispanic descent, the L.A. protest on behalf of the downtrodden in the Middle East signaled a warm-up to take on Trump’s other xenophobic promise, to deport up to 11 million immigrant Mexicans in the United States without citizenship status. Implicit was the intimate linkage between Latino and Arab peoples that traces back to eighth century Spain.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejecting Trump’s draconian orders only underscored the ascension of Californian exceptionalism—no longer an idea, but a fact. But what are the roots of this exceptionalism?
Gregory Orfalea traces the state's unique exceptionalism in the early Spanish exploration and settlement of California that began a century before the Mayflower with Juan Cabrillo in 1542, continued with the Vizcaino 1602-1603 voyage, and came to full flower under the 1768 conquista spiritual of Fr. Junipero Serra.