Photo Courtesy Carmel Valley Historical Society
In the few years following secularization, Mexican California developed into a pastoral landscape reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century great haciendas (estates) of Mexico, populated by a widespread network of nearly unanimously related families and a few naturalized foreign born. The export economy of Alta (Upper) California was based almost exclusively on the hide and tallow trade.
The ranchos, pueblos (town), and mission were linked to each other and to the seacoast landings by extensive roadways and horse trails crossing mountain paths and plain. Separated from remote governmental centers by distance and terrain, and bound from within by ubiquitous family ties, the society developed an interdependency that expressed itself to outsiders in a casual view of personal and real property ownership resulting in hazy or unconfirmed legal transactions that shocked many foreign and eastern visitors. Increasingly, tradesman, agents, and explores from the easterns United States wrote scathingly of Mexican California’s wasteful disregard of its potential land wealth, of the succession of inept governorships, and of the poorly equipped military charged with its protection and survival. This sense of anarchy prompted the American acquisition of California via the Mexican War. Moreover, the period of American occupation from 1846 to 1848 was considerably aided by complicity from individuals within the Mexican economic and political structure, who say in an American government a greater potential benefit for themselves.