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The first urban center on the West Coast, San Francisco, California, has always been a vital center of political life in the region. “The City,” as the region's residents call it, was founded when Spanish soldiers established a presidio on what would later be called the San Francisco Peninsula on March 28, 1776, and, three months later, the Franciscans founded the Mission San Francisco de Asis (today referred to as the Mission Dolores). After Mexico's independence in 1821, the city saw a mixture of Mexican and European American settlers but remained relatively small. During the Mexican-American War, in July 1846, Capt. John B. Montgomery arrived and claimed the city for the United States. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo two years later made American hegemony official.

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