The United States of America is a vast country, stretching from the Mexican border along the Pacific for almost 900 miles. Its land is home to a variety of landscapes, from cliff-lined beaches and redwood forests to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central Valley farmland and the Mojave Desert. The city of Los Angeles is the largest in California and the second largest in the US, with a population of around 3.8 million. It is also the headquarters of the Hollywood entertainment industry, and its metropolitan area is home to nearly 13 million people from all over the world, including the largest Latino and Asian populations in the US.
The citizens of Los Angeles speak more than two hundred different languages, and its ethnic communities such as Koreatown, Chinatown, Thai Town, Little Ethiopia and Little Tokyo demonstrate its multiculturalism. The first contact with Los Angeles was made in 1769 by Gaspar de Portolà and Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, its cultural and ethnic diversity, its Hollywood film industry and its sprawling metropolitan area. The official Los Angeles tree is the tropical coral tree and its official flower is the Bird of Paradise.
Los Angeles is rich in native plant species due to its variety of habitats, including beaches, wetlands and mountains. It also hosted 8 FIFA World Cup soccer games at the 1994 Rose Bowl, including the final which was won by Brazil. The Los Angeles metropolitan area, also known as Southland, refers to both the urbanized area and the combined statistical area. For many years until the mid-1990s, Los Angeles was home to many major financial institutions in the western US such as First Interstate Bank (merged with Wells-Fargo in 1996), Great Western Bank (merged with Washington Mutual in 1998) and Security Pacific National Bank (merged with Bank of America in 1992).
Air quality issues in Los Angeles and other major cities led to the passage of early national environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act. The Foursquare Gospel International Church was founded in Los Angeles by Aimee Semple McPherson in 1923 and continues to be based there today. The city has faced racial struggles such as the Watts riots in 1965, the Chicano high school student strike in 1968 and the Chicano Moratorium of 1970. Mexicans make up 31.9 percent of Los Angeles' population, followed by Salvadorans (6.0 percent) and Guatemalans (3.6 percent).
It also hosts a variety of entertainment industry awards such as the Academy Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards and Grammy Awards. Outside some centers such as Downtown, Warner Center, Century City, Koreatown, Miracle Mile, Hollywood and Westwood, skyscrapers and high-rise buildings are not common in Los Angeles. Its economy is driven by international trade, entertainment (television, movies and recorded music), aerospace technology, oil production, fashion clothing and tourism.