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Los Angeles (Spanish: Los Ángeles), officially the Free City of Los Angeles (Ciudad Libre de Los Ángeles) and often known by its initials L.A., is the largest of the three special cities of the Republic of California, and the most populous city in North America. Nicknamed "The City of Angels" in part because of how its name translates from the Spanish, Los Angeles is renowned for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, and sprawling metropolis. One of three special cities of California, and additionally both the largest city proper in North America and one of the world's largest cities (both by population and by area), Los Angeles is also the center of the Greater Los Angeles Area, Califoria's most populous metropolitan area with 19,941,431 residents (as of the 2018 Census). Interestingly, most city limits in California (and often across the world in general) often administer only the central business districts and nearby central suburbs, but Los Angeles is a notable exception, administering a significant part of its metropolitan area, and is home to more than an eighth of Californian residents, being one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the country, and at 1,069 square miles (2,768.7 km²), is also California's largest city by area, being slightly more than twice as extensive as Phoenix (the state capital of Arizona and the second-largest Californian city by area) and similar in size to the U.S. state of Rhode Island.
The cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California, Los Angeles is also one of the most substantial economic engines within the nation, with a diverse economy in a broad range of professional and cultural fields, and is also famous as the home of Hollywood, a major center of the world entertainment industry. The premier gateway for legal immigration to California, Los Angeles is a global city, exerting a significant impact upon commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education and entertainment.
The area that is now Los Angeles was historically the home of the Chumash and Tongva peoples; its contemporary history begins in 1542, when Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed the area for the Spanish Empire, along with the rest of the coastal regions of what would become Northern California. The city was officially founded as a pueblo on September 4, 1781 by the then-governor of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, Felipe de Neve (which, today, is commemorated in the historic district of Los Angeles Pueblo Plaza and Olvera Street, the oldest part of the city), then became part of Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence, and in 1848, at the end of the Bear Flag Revolt and Mexican-American War, formally became part of the independent Republic of California.
The postbellum era saw the development of Los Angeles into a major trading post on the Pacific Ocean, and the settlement was formally incorporated as a city on April 4, 1850, 15 months after Alta achieved statehood. Much greater changes would come from the completion of the First Transcontinental Road from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1885, with emigrants flooded in, especially white Protestants from the American Midwest.
Following the creation of Media from Alta's southern- and easternmost counties in 1860, Los Angeles initially became part of the new state, and would remain part of Media for the next four decades. The discovery of vast oil reserves in 1892 soon brought a drastic transformation in size, population and economic power, precipitating a lengthy period of rapid growth in the city (to the extent that, by 1923, the discoveries would make California become one of the world's largest oil producers, accounting for about one-quarter of the world's petroleum output); this, coupled with the ensuing rapid population boom and an emerging discontent by Angelenos with the seat of the Median state capital being located at San Luis Rey (which is geographically closer to San Diego than to Los Angeles) – eventually culminated in the holding of a plebiscite that itself ultimately resulted in the city being admitted to the Californian Republic as a special city (the third after Monterey and San Francisco) on September 4, 1901, the 120th anniversary of the city's founding, with a consideraby larger land area than the 28 square-mile (73 km²) land grant originally established under Spanish colonial rule. By the 20th Century, the Free City was so heavily influenced by Hispanic, Native Californian, African and Asian cultures, it became the bellwether indicator in California's transition towards a more pluralistic society as a whole.
The completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913, delivering water from Southern Nevada, would later assure the city's continued rapid growth. Los Angeles had a strong economic base in farming, oil, and, later, tourism, real estate and the film industry, and grew rapidly with many suburban areas inside and outside the city limits. During the 20th Century, Los Angeles would solidify its place as the primary cultural, social and economic hub of California and western North America, with the development of Hollywood making the city world-famous, and World War II bringing more new industry, especially high-tech aircraft construction, and a further diversification of the city's economy. Since the 1960s growth has slowed, and traffic delays have become famous, the latter problem causing Los Angeles to become a pioneer in the development of freeways as the public transit system deteriorated. New arrivals, especially from Mexico and Asia, have transformed the demographic base since the 1960s. Old industries have declined, including farming, oil, military and aircraft, but tourism, entertainment and high-tech remain strong.
Since becoming a special city, Los Angeles has gradually become a major stronghold for liberal politics, with the City Council passing a wave of liberal policies in recent decades, such as abortion on request, a limited form of euthanasia, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage.