Santa Maria is a city in Santa Barbara County, on the Central Coast of California. Santa Maria's population in the 2010 census of 99,553, confirmed what had been known, that it had surpassed that of Santa Barbara (the county seat), making it the largest city in the county. The estimated population of the area is about 161,227, which includes the Santa Maria Valley, the city of Guadalupe and the unincorporated township of Orcutt as well as adjacent Nipomo. The city is notable for its wine industry and Santa Maria Style Barbecue.

The Santa Maria Valley, stretching from the Santa Lucia Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean, was the homeland of the Chumash people for thousands of years. These American Indians made their homes on the slopes of the surrounding hills among the Oaks, the banks of the Santa Maria river among the Sycamores, and along the beach areas. They had plank-built boats, called Tomol, for ocean fishing.

In 1769, the Portolà Expedition passed through the Santa Maria Valley on the first Spanish land exploration up the coast of the Las Californias Province, in route to the Monterey Bay area. Soon Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was established to the north in 1772 and Mission La Purísima Concepción was established south of the valley near present day Lompoc in 1787. In 1821, when Spain left Alta California after the Mexican War of Independence was won, the mission lands in Santa Maria Valley became a Mexican land grant called Rancho Punta de Laguna in 1844.

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