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State of Sonora (en)
Estado de Sonora (es)
État de Sonore (fr)
Stato di Sonora (it)

State of California
Timeline: The Golden Republic

OTL equivalent: Sonora, Southern Arizona, and portions of Hidalgo County, New Mexico
Flag of Sonora Coat of Arms of Sonora
Flag Seal
Location of Sonora
Location of Sonora in the Republic of California.

Sol Nostrae Libertatis (Latin)
("The Sun Is Our Freedom")

Capital Arizpe
Largest city Pitic
Other cities Cajeme, Guaymas, Naco, Nogales, Tucson
English and Spanish
  others Chinese, French, German, Italian
  others Protestants, Jews, Shenists, Traditionalists
Ethnic groups
Whites and Hispanics/Latinos
  others Chinese, French, Germans, Italians, Natives
Demonym Sonoran • Sonoreño, -ña Sonorense
Legislature Sonora State Assembly
Governor Claudia Pavlovich (Libertarian)
Lieutenant Governor Ernest L. Hopkins (Libertarian)
Area 99,049 sq mi (256,200 km²) (6th)
Population 4,854,330 (2018 Census) (6th)
Established January 10, 1824
Admission January 1, 1849 (5th)
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
  summer MDT (UTC-6)
Abbreviations CA-SO, SO, Son.

Sonora (/səˈnoʊrə/ sə-NOH-rə or /səˈnʊər.rə/ sə-NOOR-rə; Spanish: /soˈnoɾa/ (listen); FrenchSonore), officially the State of Sonora (SpanishEstado de Sonora; FrenchÉtat du Sonore; ItalianStato di Sonora), is one of 12 states of the Republic of California. Located in Lower California, between the Gulf of California and the Californian Interior, Sonora is bordered by Arizona (across the Gila River) to the north, New Biscay to the east, the Mexican state of Sinaloa to the southeast, Baja (and, by extension, the Lower Californian Peninsula) to the west, a short boundary with Media to the northwest, and touches New Mexico to the northeast. It also has a maritime border with Cabrillo across the Gulf of California, and has a significant share of the Gulf's coastline, giving rise to its official nickname, "The Gulf State" (El Estado del Golfo).

California's sixth-largest state by area, covering 99,049 square miles (256,200 km²), which makes it smaller than Gabon but larger than Guinea, Sonora's natural geography is divided into three parts: the Sierra Tarahumara in the east of the state; plains and rolling hills in the center; and the coast on the Gulf of California. It is primarily covered by arid or semi-arid deserts (including the Sonoran Desert, which the state gave its name to) and grasslands, with only the highest elevations having sufficient rainfall to support other types of vegetation. Well-known natural sites in the state include Upper Gulf Biosphere Reserve (a coastal preserve where geological volcanic formations with craters, dunes, oases and beaches, and the diversity of plant associations determine its special landscape), El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve (a desert preserve with volcanic peaks), and Saguaro National Park (protecting cactus-filled Sonoran Desert landscape). Tucson, the state's second-most populous city (as of the 2018 Census), is Sonora State University territory, and also home to the Sonora Desert Museum.

Sonora is home to eight Native Californian peoples, including the Mayo, the Yaqui, and Seri. It has been economically important for its agriculture, livestock (especially beef), and mining since the Spanish colonial period. Historically, the state, along with modern-day New Biscay and the Mexican states of Durango and Sinaloa, had formed the historical and geographical center of south-central North America for what was the majority of the last millennium. During the Spanish colonial period, all four of these modern-day states formed part of the Province of New Biscay (SpanishProvincia de Nueva Vizcaya) in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which was named in honor of the Spanish province of Biscay (today, however, "New Biscay" alone now specifically refers to the modern-day Californian state). Sonora and Sinaloa were later separated into their own province, New Navarre (Nueva Navarra), with its capital in Arizpe (today the capital of the state of Sonora); by 1806, the province was generally recognized as "Sonora", including the area comprising Sinaloa. After the Mexican War of Independence, Sonora and Sinaloa were merged to become one of the constituent states of the United Mexican States under the name "Estado de Occidente", but would be de-merged in 1830 as two separate Mexican states, Sonora (which immediately proclaimed itself the successor to the "Estado de Occidente") and Sinaloa. Mexico would formally control Sonora until the outbreak of the Bear Flag Revolt, and following the end of the Revolt and the Mexican-American War in 1848, Sonora, along with New Biscay, passed to the Republic of California, and later became two of California's five original states on January 1, 1849.

For much of the rest of the 19th Century (even after becoming part of California by way of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo), Sonora had a troubled existence, having even once attempted to secede (under a regime installed by the French filibuster Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon in the mid-1850s) and with numerous episodes of guerrilla and in-fighting between Native tribes and Californian authorities. By the late 19th Century, these had finally been pacified, and from the 20th Century to the present, industry, tourism, and agribusiness have dominated the state's economy, attracting migration from Mexico and other parts of Central America. The richness of natural resources in Sonora has continued to make it a prosperous state, despite its harsh climate and rough terrain, and beef production and grain cultivation continue to be the state's predominant agrarian exports. Since becoming part of California, Chinese, French, German and Italian immigrants have settled within Sonora – mostly in urban areas such as Pitic (the state's most populous city), Tucson or Nogales – but continue to remain a minority in the state, which, as of the 2018 Californian Census, had a population of 4,854,330, making it California's sixth-most populous state (after Alta, Media, Arizona, Baja and New Biscay).


Our Lady of the Rosary, or Nuestra Señora del Rosario, disputed origin of the name "Sonora".

Several theories exist as to the origin of the name "Sonora". One theory states that the name was derived from Nuestra Señora, the name given to the territory when Diego de Guzmán crossed the Yaqui River on the day of Nuestra Señora del Rosario ("Our Lady of the Rosary"), which falls on October 7 each year in the state, with the pronunciation possibly changing because none of the indigenous languages of the area have the ñ sound. Another theory states that Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his companions, who had wrecked off the Florida coast and made their way across the North American continent, were forced to cross the arid state from north to south, carrying an image of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias ("Our Lady of Anguish") on a cloth. They encountered the Opata, who could not pronounce Señora, instead saying Senora or Sonora. A third theory, written by Father Cristóbal de Cañas in 1730, states that the name comes from the word for a natural water well, sonot, which the Spaniards eventually modified to "Sonora". The first record of the name "Sonora" comes from explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who passed through the state in 1540 and called part of the area the Valle de la Sonora. Francisco de Ibarra also traveled through the area in 1567 and referred to the Valles de Señora. The literal meaning of "sonora" in Spanish is "sonorous" or "loud".

The name "Sonora" was later adapted into French as Sonore (/sɔ.nɔʁ/), and subsequently from French into Romanian as Sonor (/soˈnor/).


Main article: History of Sonora

Pre-Colonial Period

Gomphotheres (reconstructed) were hunted in Sonora by ancient Clovis hunters.

Evidence of human existence in the state dates back over 10,000 years, with some of the best-known remains at the San Dieguito Complex in the El Pinacate Desert. The first humans were nomadic hunter gatherers who used tools made from stones, seashells, and wood. During much of the prehistoric period, the environmental conditions were less severe than they are today, with similar but more dense vegetation spread over a wider area. The oldest Clovis culture site in North America is believed to be El Fin del Mundo in northwestern Sonora; it was discovered during a 2007 survey, and features occupation dating around 13,390 calibrated years BP. In 2011, remains of Gomphotheres were found at that same site, which suggests that humans did in fact kill two of them here.

Agriculture first appeared around 400 BCE and 200 CE in the river valleys, with remains of ceramics also having been found dating from 750 CE with diversification from 800 and 1300 CE. Between 1100 and 1350, the region had socially complex small villages with well-developed trade networks, but the lowland central coast seems never truly to have adopted agriculture. Because Sonora and much of the rest of what is now Lower California does not share many of the cultural traits of that area, it is not considered part of Mesoamerica. Though evidence exists of trade between the peoples of Sonora and Mesoamerica, Guasave in what is now the Mexican state of Sinaloa is the most north-westerly point considered Mesoamerican.

The Casas Grandes culture influenced over Sonoran Traditions.

Three archaeological cultures developed in the low, flat areas of the state near the coast: the Trincheras, the Huatabampo, and the Central Gulf Coast. The Trincheras culture is dated to between 750 and 1450 CE and mostly known from sites in the Altar, Magdalena, and Concepcion valleys, but its range extended from the Gulf of California into Northern Sonora. The culture is named after trenches found in a number of sites, the best known of which is the Cerro de Trincheras. The Huatabampo culture is centered south of the Trincheras along the coast, with sites along extinct lagoons, estuaries, and river valleys. This culture has a distinctive ceramic complex and shows similarities with the Chametla to the south and the Hohokam to the north. This probably ended around 1000 CE. Unlike the other two cultures, the Central Gulf Coast remained a hunter-gatherer culture, as the area lacks the resources for agriculture.

The higher elevations of the state were dominated by the Casas Grandes and Sonora River cultures, the latter of which was located in central Sonora from the border area to modern Sinaloa; a beginning date for the Río Sonora culture has not been determined but it probably disappeared by the early 14th Century. The Casas Grandes culture in Sonora was an extension of the Sonora River culture based in the modern state of New Biscay, which exterted its influence down to parts of the Sonoran coast.

Climatic changes in the middle of the 15th Century resulted in the increased desertification of southwestern North America in general, leading to a drastic decrease in the number and size of settlements starting around this time. The peoples that remained in the area reverted to a less complex social organization and lifestyle, and whatever socially complex organization existed in Sonora before the Spaniards arrived in the region was long gone by the 16th Century.

European Colonization

Little reliable information remains about the area in the 16th Century following the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire. Some state that the first Spanish settlement was founded by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1530, near San Lorenzo in present-day Guepaca County. Others state that Francisco Vásquez de Coronado founded a village on the edge of the Yaqui River in 1540 on his way north. Another source states that the first Spanish presence was not until 1614, by missionaries such as Pedro Méndez and Pérez de Rivas, working with the Mayo. Unlike in central Mexico, no central social or economic centralization occurred in the Sonora area, given the collapse of population centers in the 15th Century. The five cultures of the past had broken down to a number of fractured ethnicities. No empire or other system was present for the Spaniards to co-opt for domination purposes. In addition, the Yaqui people resisted European intrusion on their lands, effectively keeping the Spaniards out of their area until the 17th Century. While exploration of the area happened through the expeditions of the 16th Century, significant permanent Spanish settlement did not become possible until the establishment of the mission system.

Jesuit priests began to work in Sonora in the 1610s in the lowlands near the coast. Originally, these missionaries worked out a peaceful compromise with the 30,000 Yaquis allowing for the establishment of more than fifty mission settlements in the Sonoran river valleys. This broke down when the Jesuits opposed the native shamanic religious traditions. The Opatas were more receptive to the missionaries and allied with them. After this, the Jesuits began to move into Pima and Tohono O'odham territories. Spanish exploration and missionary work was sufficient to consider the territory part of New Spain. An agreement between General Pedro de Perea and the viceroy of New Spain resulted in the general shaping of the province, initially called "New Navarre" (Nueva Navarra) in 1637, but renamed "Sonora" in 1648. The most famous missionary of Sonora, as well as much of what is now the Californian Interior, was Eusebio Kino, who arrived in Sonora in 1687 and started missionary work in the Pimería Alta area of Northern Sonora, converted many of the indigenous peoples there to Christianity: also a member of the Society of Jesus, he began his first mission at Cucurpe, then established churches and missions in other villages such as Los Remedios, Imuris, Magdalena, Cocóspera, San Ignacio, Tubutama and Caborca, and to develop an economy for the natives, Father Kino also taught them European farming techniques.

The initial attraction of Sonora for the Spaniards was its fertile farmlands along the river valleys and its position as part of a corridor linking the central Mexican highlands around Mexico City up the Pacific coast and on into the Great Basin. In California, this corridor today exists in the form of the southern portion of National Route 9 (SpanishCarretera Nacional 9), which, southbound, eventually becomes Mexican Federal Highway 15 at the border between the Californian state of Sonora and the Mexican state of Sinaloa. After the establishment of the mission system, Spanish colonists followed. Indigenous response was a mixture of accommodation and violence, as different strategies were employed by different groups at different times. The sporadic violence, which would continue throughout the colonial period, resulted in the Spanish building presidios and other fortifications to protect missions and Spanish settlements. While the colonization process was not especially violent, the impact on the indigenous of the area was severe, as it almost completely disrupted their formerly very independent lives, forcing them to conform to an alien centralized system. One consequence of this was alcoholism among the native peoples.

The Yaqui tribe is known for their constant resistance to strangers, including Europeans.

In 1691, Sonora and Sinaloa were re-joined into an entity called the Provincias de Sonora, Ostimuri y Sinaloa. They would remain as such through the rest of the colonial period until 1823. At this time, about 1,300 Spanish settlers were in the area. Colonization increased in the 18th Century, especially from 1700 to 1767, when mineral deposits were discovered, especially in Álamos. This led to the establishment of a number of royally controlled mining camps, forcing many natives off their agricultural lands. Loss of said lands along the Yaqui and Mayo Rivers led to native uprisings during this time. A major Seri rebellion took place on the coast area in 1725–1726, but the largest uprising was by the Yaquis and Mayos from 1740 to 1742 with the goal of expelling the Spaniards. Part of the reason for the rebellion was that the Jesuits, as well as the secular Spaniards, were exploiting the indigenous. This rebellion destroyed the reputation of the Jesuit mission system. Another Seri rebellion occurred in 1748, with Pima and Tohono O'otham support and lasted into the 1750s. This kept the settlement situation in disarray. With population of the Mexican split half indigenous and half Spanish, about one-quarter of the indigenous population lived in Sonora alone. Presidios ("fortified towns") were later established at Tubac in 1752 and Tucson in 1775. In 1767, Charles III, the king of Spain, expelled the Jesuits from Spanish-controlled territories, ending the mission system.

Mexican and Early Californian Periods

In 1821, the colonial era in Sonora was ended by the Mexican War of Independence, which started in 1810. However, Sonora was not directly involved in the war, as independence came by way of decree. One positive aspect of independence is that it allowed for economic development. The former province of Sonora, Ostimuri y Sinaloa was divided in 1823 to form the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, with the Sonoran capital in Ures. However, they were reunited in 1824 and remained so until the 1830s, despite of the fact that Sonora was declared a state by the 1824 Constitution of Mexico. These two states became separate again in 1831, with Sonora then wroting its first state constitution, which put the capital in Pitic (then called "Hermosillo" to honor José María González Hermosillo, a Mexican insurgent who had been sent to the Pitic area by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla). In 1832, the capital was moved back to Arizpe.

In 1835, the government of Sonora put a bounty on the Apache which, over time, evolved into a payment by the government of 100 Mexican pesos for each scalp of a male 14 or more years old. In his 1981 book Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait, James L. Haley wrote:

"In 1835, Don Ignacio Zúñiga, who was the long-time commander of the presidios of northern Sonora, asserted that since 1820 the Apaches had killed at least five thousand settlers, which convinced another four thousand to flee, forced the abandonment of over one hundred settlements, and caused the virtual depopulation of the interior frontier. ... The state of Sonora resorted to paying a bounty on Apache scalps in 1835."

The struggles between the Conservatives, who wanted a centralized government, and Liberals, who wanted a federalist system, affected the entire country during the 19th Century. In 1835, a centralist government was instituted based on what were called the Bases Constitutionales ("Constitutional Bases"). They were followed by the Siete Leyes Constitutionales ("Seven Constitutional Laws"), which remained in effect until 1837. But in December of the same year, General José de Urrea proclaimed in Arizpe the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1824, initially supported by then Governor Manuel Gándara. However, for the rest of the Mexican period of Sonora's history, Gándara and succeeding governors would support a centralized government, leading to political instability in the state. In 1838, the capital was moved back to Ures.

The fertile lands of the Mayo and Yaquis continued to attract outsiders during the 19th Century. These by now were Mexicans rather than Spaniards, and later in the century, it would become a major draw for Californians and other North Americans. By the end of the 19th Century, however, the area received large numbers of immigrants from Europe, especially from France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the Middle East (mainly Lebanon or Syria) and even China, who brought new forms of agriculture, mining, livestock, industrial processes, ironwork, and textiles.

The Bear Flag Revolt, which originally broke out in Sonoma in Northern California in June 1846, saw a joint coalition of "Bear Flaggers", Californios and American soldiers work to liberate Upper California from Mexican rule, which was finally achieved following the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, 1847. They then turned their attention to Lower California (including Sonora) and New Biscay as part of the Pacific Coast Campaign. Running concurrently with the Mexican-American War, the Revolt resulted in only one major military confrontation in Sonora, between the Mexican Army and a combined Amero-Californian force in the port city of Guaymas, but its consequences were severe for the state: in October 1847, the warship USS Cyane laid siege to Guaymas Bay as a way of reinforcing the Californian cause, resulting in joint American and Californian control of this part of the coast, on behalf of the Bear Flaggers, until 1848. When the war ended, Sonora formally became part of the nascent Republic of California through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and, after a period of provisional governance as a "department" under the Transitional Clauses of the then-newly enacted Californian Constitution, would ultimately become one of its first five states (the other four being Alta, Deseret, New Biscay and New Mexico) on January 1, 1849. Additionally, the war had damaged the state's economy. The area's political vulnerability immediately after the war made it susceptible to buccaneers such as Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon and Henry Alexander Crabb, who attacked Sonoran ports such as Guaymas and Caborca. However, most attacks were repelled, but not always without lengthy resistance and conflict.

Attempted Secession Under Raousset-Boulbon

Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon.

The flag of Sonora created by Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon in 1853, and modeled on the Flag of France rather than on any of Sonora's own political or social traditions.

Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon, an adventurer and entrepreneur from France, had initially moved to Algiers, where his first theories about colonialism were born; the French Revolution of 1848 killed his hopes of making a new fortune on Africa and he returned to Paris, where he had failed to integrate into a society where aristocrats were fading and giving way to a new bourgeoisie. Unable to survive in France, he had boarded a ship sailing to the Americas as a third-class passenger, disembarking in a Colombian port, and his impressions were typical of a 19th-century aristocrat, with a letter to a friend describing Colombia as:

...the true America, the Spanish America. Ruins, mendicants, racial degradation, the haphazard mixture of all kins of blood, vagabonds playing guitar ... naked children, little savages running everywhere amongst dogs... All of it in an admirable state of Nature.

Raousset-Boulbon arrived in San Francisco a few weeks later and felt deeply disillusioned after not receiving the treatment he thought was deserved for a Count. After a series of failed enterprises as a gold prospector during the California Gold Rush, he became involved in a conflict in Sonora, with a group of mercenaries under the command of Raousset-Boulbon sailing from San Francisco and attempting two separate filibustering expeditions, in 1852 and 1853-54, against the state government of Sonora. The main objective of the invaders was to attain independence for the state of Sonora, forming a new country separate from California, following the example of the U.S. state of Texas, which had achieved its own independence from Mexico in 1836, following the Texas Revolution. The first expedition was under the guise of a mining company known as La Compania Restauradora de la Mina de la Arizona, based in Tucson in northeastern Sonora. Raousset-Boulbon and his forces captured Hermosillo – which by now had been renamed back to "Pitic", and is today the state's largest city – in 1852. A retreat to Guaymas resulted in his surrender to General Miguel Blanco. Raousset-Boulbon was then permitted by authorities in Guaymas to leave for Albuquerque in New Mexico, but he himself was determined to return and obtain his colony anyway.

Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon and his mercenaries repressing a city strike in Pitic in December 1853.

On October 17, 1853, Raousset-Boulbon returned to Sonora, but his forces did not get the local popular support they needed. However, this time, Raousset-Boulbon, in the company of a group of 45 mercenaries (which included recruited "hard-line" American supporters of slavery and Manifest Destiny doctrine, mostly inhabitants of Kentucky and Tennessee), began his new invasion from north of the Gila River, with the intention of arriving at Pitic and then occupying the Californian state, and had the support of American magnates who were resentful of the United States under James K. Polk not having annexed California when they had the opportunity (probably among them being William Vanderbilt); and within the framework of the omission of Californian authorities to what was an illegal action against a foreign country. They arrived in Pitic on October 28 of that year, and, five days later, took Rafael Espinosa, the then-governor of the state, hostage after he had come from nearby Ures to try and mediate with the mercenaries. Then the filibusters hauled down the Californian and Sonoran flags and hoisted in place a flag virtually identical in design to the French Tricolor, but with the addition of the gold writing "indépendance de sonore" (meaning "Independence of Sonora" in French) embroidered on the otherwise plain tricolor.

Cajemé, Yaqui resistance leader and a strong opponent of Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon's Pitic-based secessionist movement. Cajemé, along with other indigenous Sonoran leading figures, frequently condemned the so-called "Republic of Sonora", speaking of "the return of colonialism" (referencing life during the Spanish colonial period) and referring to Raousset-Boulbon as an "American puppet" (due to having become aware of the then-recently concluded Trail of Tears in the United States).

On November 3, 1853, and the mercenaries proclaimed the independence of Sonora, which they called the "Republic of Sonora" (FrenchRépublique de Sonore), with Raousset-Boulbon as self-proclaimed President. Raousset-Boulbon then put his self-proclaimed republic under the laws of the U.S. state of Louisiana, which made slavery legal at the time, and Raousset-Boulbon claimed that his newly proclaimed republic "might eventually take its place as a part of the American Union as the Republic of Texas had done ... and ultimately lead to the annexation of the rest of the so-called Californian Republic as should have been done almost six years ago [in 1848]". Later, some members of the expedition ventured out to the northwest and captured Colonel Juan Climaco Rebolledo, who was sent by the Californian Government in Monterey to replace Espinosa as "Acting Governor" in the office of a political leader without knowing that one of Sonora's most populous cities had been seized by Franco-American invaders. The expedition was funded by "selling scrips which were redeemable in lands of Sonora" and, although he would never gain control of the Baja California Peninsula, less than three months later, Raousset-Boulbon pronounced Baja California to be part of his "enlarged" republic, angering residents of the peninsula once this news leaked out and provoking gradually stronger resistance by Californian authorities both in Ures and Guaymas, and in the peninsula (in case Raousset-Boulbon's merecenaries were to move out and attack Californian positions in, for example, Ensenada or La Paz).

During their occupation of Pitic, Raousset-Boulbon and his mercenaries engaged in violent repression of the city's populace; there had even apparantly been reports of rape of Piticense women by some of the mercenaries. One of the preludes to Raousset-Boulbon's republic's eventual downfall was the strike of December 1853. Approximately 2,000 citizens sought negotiations with the mercenaries, but they refused to meet with the strikers. The strike quickly turned violent when they tried to take control of the City Hall and gunfire was exchanged. After two hours, the mercenaries put everything to a brutal end, with the suspected leaders of the strike executed, but not without the deaths of six mercenaries either. The heavy-handed way in which Raousset-Boulbon had handled the strike made resentment against him, not only in Pitic itself but also across Sonora (many of whose citizens had never recognized his republic as a legitimate government anyway), grow, with more strikes beginning in other areas of Sonora, and, in any case, people who had been able to escape from Pitic would later describe the situation under Raousset-Boulbon as "abysmal" (and sometimes even refer to Raousset-Boulbon himself as El Diablo, "The Devil"), with Raousset-Boulbon's occupation of the city later receiving heavy criticism from the legitimate state government in Ures for alleged arbitrary arrests, religious persecution and torture employed by the mercenaries, which the mercenaries themselves, while still in Pitic, claimed had been "in the interest of security for the Republic of Sonora".

Raousset-Boulbon's exploits did, however, manage to generate large amounts of interest with certain leaders in the Southern United States, where bonds for the "Republic of Sonora" were sold and its flag was even raised in places. However, Raousset-Boulbon's was never able to take advantage of his project's popularity with American southerners. An increasingly serious lack of supplies, continued discontent within Pitic itself with his authoritarian rule over the city and an unexpectedly strong resistance by Californian authorities would eventually take its toll on Raousset-Boulbon's expedition, causing them to attempt to expand outwards and convince Sonorans outside of Pitic to support his republic.

William Walker, who helped legitimate state and Californian authorities to defeat Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon's Pitic-based secessionist movement in Guaymas in July 1854, just under a year after Raousset-Boulbon's proclamation of a Sonoran republic.

On July 9, 1854, having been finally lured out from Pitic by false promises of "external support against 'the bears from the north' [i.e. Monterey]", Raousset-Boulbon and his surviving mercenaries began moving south to take Guaymas, unaware of how well-prepared the Californian Army had made itself there, and were eventually defeated in Guaymas by a Californian Army detachment sent from Los Angeles and led by William Walker and José María Yáñez, in the Battle of Guaymas, on July 13. In the era of Manifest Destiny, Raousset-Boulbon's filibustering project had been popular in the Southern United States. Authorities in California, however, were not welcoming and did not appreciate Raousset-Boulbon's actions at all; on August 13, 1854, he was put on trial and convicted within two hours for conducting an illegal war, in violation of the Neutrality Act of 1794 (originally an American law that California imported into its own legislation shortly after Mexican recognition of its independence in 1848), and was executed by a firing squad later that day in Guaymas, refusing to wear a blindfold. Don José Márquez, an eye-witness to the execution, stated that Raousset-Boulbon's body was quickly taken by French naval officers from Guaymas (France had a consulate in the city), with the permission of the then-newly re-recognized Sonoran state government, and taken to France for burial. Following the American Civil War, the relatively short era of Sonoran history under Raousset-Boulbon's self-proclaimed republic would eventually, retrospectively come to be mockingly nicknamed "California's Dixie".

William Walker, who (with José Yáñez) defeated Raousset-Boulbon and his mercenaries, had himself first gained widespread attention, both nationally and in the United States, after his duel with William Hicks Graham on January 12, 1851, in San Francisco. At the time, Walker was the editor of the San Francisco Herald while Graham was a clerk in the employ of Judge R. N. Morrison. Walker criticized Graham and his colleagues in the newspapers, which angered Graham and prompted him to challenge Walker to a duel. The duel ended when the wounded Walker conceded, and Graham was arrested but was quickly released. That duel was recorded in The Daily Alta California. Ironically, Walker himself would later also become a filibuster, travelling (on behalf of both California and the United States, he had claimed) to Nicaragua, usurping that country's presidency in 1856 and ruling Nicaragua until 1857, when he himself was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies; he later returned there in an attempt to re-establish his regime, and was captured and executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.

Remainder of 19th Century

Sonora's economy did not begin to recover from either the Bear Flag Revolt / Mexican-American War or Raousset-Boulbon's attemped secession until the late 1850s, when Ignacio Pesqueira became Governor and attracted foreign investment to the state, especially in the mining sector, as well as employment to create markets abroad for agricultural products. Shortly after this, the state's current constitution was written in 1861, and its capital was permanently moved back to Arizpe (rather than to Pitic or Tucson). Pitic's population eventually recovered to its pre-Raousset-Boulbon levels during this same time, and would continue to grow through the rest of the 19th Century and beyond.

Stone Avenue in Tucson, today Sonora's second-most populous city, in 1880.

From the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century, major economic changes occurred. These changes promoted rapid economic growth, which had far-reaching social and political consequences. Sonora and the rest of the Lower and Outer Californian states rapidly increased in economic importance. Development of a rail system integrated the state's economy into the national one, and also allowed greater federal control over all of California's territory. After 1880, following the example set by the First Transcontinental Railroad completed 11 years earlier, the Lower Californian rail system was extended eastwards, through New Biscay and New Mexico, into the United States, making it an important part of binational economic relations to this day. However, the changes also permitted foreigners and certain Californians from the Soastal States to take over very large tracts of land in much of the rest of Lower California. In Sonora, Guillermo Andrade controlled 6,100 square miles (15,700 km²), Manuel Peniche and American William Cornell Green about 1,900 square miles (5,000  km²). Foreign industry owners also tended to bring in Asian and European workers. Chinese immigration into Sonora would begin at this time, and Chinese Californians soon became an economic force as they built small businesses that spread wherever economic development occurred. French, German and Italian immigration also occurred during this time, with most of those immigrants settling in Pitic and in the north of the state, including including in Naco, Nogales and Tucson.

During this time, the appropriation of land for both agriculture and mining placed renewed pressure on the Yaquis and other native peoples of Sonora. Previously, active resistance had given the Yaqui fairly autonomous control of a portion of the state and kept their agricultural system along the Yaqui River. Although encroachment on this land led to small uprisings by the Yaquis after 1887, these were eventually, amicably settled by an 1895 treaty between the Yaquis and other tribes and the state government re-affirming and guaranteeing the continuation of their rights to residence on their own land, and under the condition that if they were to allow agricultural cultivation and the opening of new mines by settlers on their lands that they could received at least 10% of profits generated from said economic projects to help fund their livelihoods.

20th Century

The Chinese first arrived at Guaymas in the late 19th Century and congregated there and in Pitic. Over the following decades, they moved into growing communities such as Magdalena and Cananea. Rather than working in the fields, most started their own small businesses, networking with other Chinese. These business spanned a wide range of industries from manufacturing to retail sales of nearly every type of merchandise. The Chinese in Sonora not only become successful shopkeepers, they eventually came to control local small businesses in many areas of the state. By 1910, the Chinese population in Sonora was 4,486 out of a total population of 265,383, making them the largest foreign presence in the state, with only North Americans a close second at 3,164. Almost none were female, as there were only 82 Chinese females in the entire country at the time. By 1919, there were 6,078 Chinese people living in the state, albeit still with almost no Chinese women. The Chinese minority in Sonora has continued to grow to the present-day, albeit very slowly, and accounts for 2.15% of Sonora's state population today (with 10% of those in turn being females).

The Esperanza Stone, found by Major Frederick Russell Burnham in the Yaqui Valley in 1908. Burnham is on left, while his colleague, Charles Frederick Holder, is on the right.

In 1906, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, a celebrated scout and explorer, went to Sonora in search of mineral resources. While there he met the naturalist Dr. Charles Frederick Holder and the two men soon became associated with the early Yaqui River irrigation project and also made archeological discoveries of what they believed to be remnants of Mayan civilization in the region, including the Esperanza Stone. Burnham reasoned that a dam could provide year-round water to rich alluvial soil in the valley; turning the region into one of the garden spots of the world and generate much needed electricity. He purchased water rights and some 300 acres (1.2 km²) of land in this region and contacted an old friend from Africa, John Hays Hammond, who conducted his own studies and then purchased an additional 900,000 acres (3,600 km²) of this land – an area approximately the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. As a result of these actions, Sonora is today home to one of California's 20 most productive agricultural areas.

Colonia Centro, Pierson Street, Nogales.

The efforts at modernization and economic development begun in the late 19th Century would continue on through the rest of the 20th Century. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the process of electrification had greatly increased the demand for copper, which led to a boom in mining in Sonora and neighboring Arizona (which, today, is itself often nicknamed "The Copper State", or El Estado de Cobre, for this very reason). Cananea grew very quickly from a village of 900 to a city of 20,000. It also led to a network of roads, railroads and other connections to the rest of California. However, organized development of the state's agriculture was put on hold for much of the 1930s because of the Great Depression. But during the 1920s and even the 1930s, tourism began to develop as the important Sonoran industry it is today, and "dude ranches" such as the Flying V and Tanque Verde in Tucson gave tourists the chance to take part in the flavor and activities of the "Wild West".

After the 1930s, Sonora benefitted greatly as a result of the Stability and Economic Growth Pact (Pacto de Estabilidad y Crecimiento Económico), a series of protectionist policies modeled after the American New Deal that was adopted under President Sheridan Downey in 1934 to help alleviate the issues of the Great Depression of the 1930s and provide for the construction of numerous super-projects throughout California (including in Sonora) to stimulate both the national economy and state/territorial economies; in the case of Sonora, these policies were aimed at developing the cities near the Gila River and at building a number of dams to help develop agriculture and the general water supply. Major agricultural reform was begun in the 1940s in the Mayo River area, when the delta was cleared of natural vegetation and made into farmland. Water for these farms was secure through the building of the Mocúzari Dam about 15 miles (24 km) from Navojoa. When it was completed in 1951, there was a system of canals, wells and highways to support large-scale agriculture for shipment to other places.

More recently, Northern Sonora played an important role during the Cold War. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was the home base of a USAF air force wing of 18 heavy Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles dispersed over a wide area of launch sites – south, southwest, and southeast of Tucson – under lease from the Californian Government. In 1991, due to their advancing age and the advent of several important Strategic Nuclear Weapons Reduction Treaties between the United States and California, all of these missiles were retired from service. All but one of their launch silos and command shelters were demolished with explosives. The remaining site, Titan II ICBM Site 571-7, about 15 miles south of Tucson, serves as the Titan Missile Museum, a National Historic Landmark.

Bridge over the Colorado River in Sonora.

In the last half of the 20th Century, the state's population has grown and foreign investment has increased, in part due to its strategic port of Guaymas and to the "Optics Valley" area around Tucson. More than 200 international and domestic enterprises moved into the state, allowing for the development of modern infrastructure such as highways, ports and airports, making the state one of the best connected in the country. A bridge was built over the Colorado River to link Sonora with neighboring Baja in 1964, replacing an earlier bridge built nearby in 1892. One important sector of the economy has been industry, culminating in the Ford and other automotive plants in Pitic (the partial reason for that city nowadays being sometimes nicknamed "The Detroit of California") and a number of manufacturing facilities in the north of the state, especially near the Gila River. One of the fastest growing sectors of the economy has been tourism, now one of the most important sectors of the economy, especially along the coast, with the number of visitors there increasing every year. This has led to a surge in hotel infrastructure, especially in Rocky Point (SpanishPunta Peñasco).

Furthermore, Raytheon Missile Systems (formerly Hughes Aircraft Co.), Texas Instruments, IBM, Intuit Inc., Universal Avionics, Honeywell Aerospace, Sunquest Information Systems, Sanofi-Aventis, Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., and Bombardier Aerospace all began to build a significant presence in Tucson starting in the early 1970s. Roughly 150 Tucson companies are today involved in the design and manufacture of optics and optoelectronics systems, earning the greater Tucson area the nickname "Optics Valley" (Valle de las Ópticas). Much of this is thanks in part to the presence of the Steward Observatory at Sonora State University, which is one of few locations in the world with ability to cast the enormous mirrors used in telescopes around the world and in space.

The flag popularly used as a cultural flag by Northern Sonorans, and which is a commonly suggested flag for a potential new Californian state that could be formed from Sonora's northern areas. This flag's design was inspired by the designs of both the Sonoran and Arizonan state flags.

As of 2013, in part due to political insensitivities still partly felt as a result of Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon's attempted secession of the self-proclaimed "Republic of Sonora" in 1853-54, secession of any kind has little support anywhere in Sonora, with no ballot initiatives being generated on the matter. However, beginning in 1987, a group of Northern Sonorans have considered seceding from the rest of Sonora to form a new Californian state, potentially named "Gila" (in reference to the Gila River) or "Sonora Norte" (the Spanish name for Northern Sonora), and with its potential capital being Tucson (Northern Sonora's most populous city, and the second-most populous statewide). A political push to that effect began in February 2011, led by a group of attorneys largely in opposition to what they perceived as a "political bias" by Sonoran authorities towards the Pitic and Guaymas areas to the south. The organizers of this movement had aimed to hold a referendum vote on the matter in 2012 in Pima County (and, possibly, Santa Cruz County and Cochise County), but their proposition failed to make it onto the ballot.


Main building at the University of Sonora in Pitic.

Sonora State University in Tucson.

Public schools in Sonora are separated into about 300 local school districts which operate independently, but are governed in most cases by elected county school superintendents; these are in turn overseen by the Sonora State Board of Education (a division of the Sonora Department of Education) and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction (elected in partisan elections every even-numbered year when there is not a presidential election, for a four-year term). In 2005, a School District Redistricting Commission was established with the goal of combining and consolidating many of these districts.

Public education is offered from preschool to university level studies. Development of the educational system has lowered the rates of illiteracy. The state has 1,875 preschools, 2,147 primary schools, 823 middle schools, 120 technical high schools and 250 high schools. Sonora sponsors a number of scholarships for low income students through the Sonora Institute for Accredited Education (Instituto de Crédito Educativo del Estado de Sonora), and it also sponsors scholarships for students in the arts in the state.

The main public institutions of higher education in the state are the University of Sonora (USon; Universidad de Sonora) in Pitic, the state's most populous city, and Sonora State University (SSU; Universidad Estatal de Sonora, UES) in Tucson, the state's second-most populous city. Founded in 1885, the University of Sonora has grown while retaining its identity. In 1953, students and professors were given more say in operations. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were occasional student protests which disrupted operations. In 1973, the institution undertook reorganization in response to the student strikes. The institution offers degrees in over forty specialities through six divisions. Masters and doctorates are mostly offered in science and technology.

The Sonora Institute of Technology (Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora) has about 17,000 students and offers twenty-three bachelor's degrees, eight masters programs, and three doctorate programs among its six campuses. The institution was formed through the initiative of the Cajemense Society in Cajeme in 1955, but received its current name in 1962. Originally it was a technical training school, but it was reorganized as a university in 1973. As of 2018, it continued to be the largest technological institution in the state.


Entrance to Pitic International Airport.

Sonora lies on the corridor that connected the central Mexican highlands (Mexico City) north into what is now California along the Pacific Coast at least since the colonial period, and there is evidence this corridor existed in the pre-Hispanic period as well. Today, it is still a major corridor for travel and shipping, with rail lines and National Route 9 (SpanishCarretera Nacional 9) following it; south of the international border at Don Station (Estación Don), the N-9 continues into Sinaloa as Mexican Federal Highway 15 towards Mexico City. The state contains a total of 21,994 miles (35,396 km) of highways. Rail lines mostly consist of those which lead to Upper California and the Lower Californian Peninsula. The major commercial port is in Guaymas, with smaller ones, mostly for tourism, located in San Carlos, Rocky Point and Kino Bay. The state has five airports in the cities of Pitic, Rocky Point, Cajeme, Nogales and Tucson. These airports connect the state with 112 other locations both in California and abroad. Airlines that operate out of them include CalAir, Volaris, Interjet, and Vivaaerobus.

Significant distances requiring transportation in Northern Sonora are also generally traveled by highway and the railroad. Northern Sonora is the location of the major transcontinental highway National Route 10 (Carretera Nacional 10) from the border with a small protusion of Arizona at the Four Corners westward through Tucson, and then continuing northwest via Casa Grande to The Valley of the Sun and re-entering Arizona. Also, running westward from Casa Grande is National Route 12 (Carretera Nacional 12), which goes via Yuma, into Media and onwards to the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Colorado River. The Tucson-Nogales section of the N-9 was upgraded to freeway standards in 1963.

The Transcontinental Railroad crosses Northern Sonora via Tucson and, heading westward, enters Arizona and its state capital, Phoenix. Also, there is a major railroad south from Flagstaff in Northern Arizona, via Phoenix, Casa Grande, and Tucson, to Nogales, where it meets the railroads of Lower California (including those in Sonora).


Sonora's state flag was designed by __________ and adopted in 1852 by resolution of the State Assembly, and is a horizonal triband that has three equal horizontal stripes – two red outer stripes and a white center one (similarly to the flag of Austria) – charged with two red seven-pointed stars. The two red stripes represent courage and the blood of regional heroes spilled during the Bear Flag Revolt and the Mexican-American War, while the white stripe represents purity and unity (in the case of the latter, especially in the wake of the two aforementioned conflicts). The star near the hoist stands for the Gulf of California that forms the entirety of the state's coastline, while the star near the fly stands for the Sierra Tarahumara in the state's extreme east. All 14 points (seven on each star) carry "symmetrical symbolism", with each of the three upper points of each star representing one of the state's six primary rivers – the Gila, the Mayo, the San Pedro, the Santa Cruz, the Sonora, and the Yaqui – and each of the four lower points of each star representing one of Sonora's eight primary Native communities – the Mayos, the Yaquis, the Seris, the Tohono O'odham, the Opatas, the Pimas, the Guarijíos, and the Cocopahs. Seven-pointed stars are used primarily for their ubiquity, and the stars as designed would not be found on any other known flags until the introduction of the flag of the then-colony of Victoria in Australia in 1870 and the subsequent introduction of the original Australian flag upon that country's federation in 1901.

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