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Tamaulipas, a Mexican state bordering Texas to the north, Nuevo León to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the east, and the states of San Luis Potosí and Veracruz to the south. It consists of forty-three counties and its state capital is Ciudad Victoria. Tamaulipas covers an area of some 31,800 square miles (just over 4 percent of Mexico's territory) and has 1,924,484 inhabitants (1980) (2.9 percent of the national total).

Evidence of gathering and hunting activities was found at the Cueva del Diablo, the earliest archaeological site in the area at about 8,000 years old. The area was occupied by Olmec, Chichimec, and Huastecan peoples and was conquered by Aztec ruler Motecuhzoma Inhuicamina around 1445–1466.

Amérigo Vespucci might have traveled the area around 1497–1502. By 1517 Francisco Hernández De Córdoba led the Spaniards to the Pánuco River but was defeated by the Huastecas. Francisco de Garay attempted the conquest in 1518, and the next year Juan de Grijalva, Alfonso Álvarez De Pineda, and Diego Camargo repeated the attempt. Finally Hernán Cortés's forces took Chila in 1522.

The area was not easily subdued, and evangelist Fray Andrés de Olmos failed in an attempt to settle the region around mid-century. Franciscan friars founded the missions of Tula, Jaumave, and Palmillas and introduced sheep and cattle in the area, displacing the Indians. By the 1730s Spanish authorities had promoted further colonization north of the Tamaulipas Sierra. In May 1748 the province of Nuevo Santander was founded by José de Escandón.

In 1810 independence sympathizers proclaimed their opposition to the Spanish government and, under the leadership of Albino García, were able to control the area in support of Father Miguel Hidalgo. By mid-1811 loyalists to the Spanish crown, commanded by Joaquín de Arredondo, had taken Aguayo. In 1817 Spanish liberal Francisco Javier Mina y Larrea landed in Soto la Marina, then took Santander and the Bajío area. In 1821 Zenón Fernández, commander of Río Verde, took up arms against the Spanish government in favor of the Plan of Iguala. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba took up the insurgent cause in Aguayo and became governor of the area. After Agustín de Iturbide's empire fell, Felipe de la Garza moved the capital to Padilla, and the area joined the Mexican federation as the new state of Tamaulipas. The capital was moved to Ciudad Victoria. In 1829 the state was invaded by Spaniard Isidro Barradas, who with Spanish support took Tampico. Manuel Mier y Terán and Antonio López de Santa Anna defended the area.

In 1830 local caudillo Francisco Vital Fernández supported the Plan of Jalapa against Vicente Guerrero. Joining the liberals two years later, he took Matamoros and Ciudad Victoria. During the centralist administration, the area became a department. In 1836 Tamaulipas sent forces against Texas. After Santa Anna's defeat, the area was in dispute between Texas and Mexico. Supporting federalism in 1838, area residents rebelled against President Anastacio Bustamante but were defeated. In 1846 U.S. general Zachary Taylor invaded the area, and after the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) the territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande became part of Texas.

In 1854 José de la Garza led the region's liberal rebellion against Santa Anna in support of the Plan of Ayutla. During the Revolution of Ayutla, or the reform, there was little conservative opposition to the liberals. In 1864, however, the conservative forces of Tomás Mejía took Matamoros, and Governor Juan Nepomuceno Cortina supported Maximilian's empire. In 1866 Tamaulipas was captured by liberal general Mariano Escobedo, who took Matamoros and Tampico. In 1876 Porfirio Díaz took Matamoros and proclaimed the Plan of Palo Alto, which modified the Plan of Tuxtepec. During the Porfiriato, Tamaulipas was governed by Servando Canales (1880–1884), Alejandro Prieto (1888–1896), Alejandro Mainero (1896–1901), Pedro Argüelles (1901–1908), and Juan B. Castelló (1908–1911).

During the Mexican Revolution, the state was taken in 1914 by the forces of Pablo Gonzalez, who defeated Carrancist general Lucio Blanco. In 1917 Francisco Gonzalez Villarreal became governor, and in 1920 Emilio Portes Gil was appointed governor by the Obregonist followers of the Plan of Agua Prieta.

See alsoCortés, Hernán; Escandón, José de; Plan of Ayutla.


Gabriel Saldívar, Historia compendiada de Tamaulipas (1945).

Toribio De La Torre, Historia general de Tamaulipas, 2d ed. (1986).

Instituto Nacional De Estadística, Geografía E Informática, Estructura económica del estado de Tamaulipas: Sistema de cuentas nacionales de Mexico (1987).

María Del Pilar Sánchez Gómez, Catálogo de fuentes de la historia de Tamaulipas (1987).

Gabriel Saldívar, Historia compendida de Tamaulipas (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Cartron, Jean-Luc E., and Gerardo Ceballos. Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Conservation in Northern Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Contreras Islas, Isabel. Tradición oral, mitas, y leyendas de Tamaulipas. México, D.F.: Universidad Iberoamericana: Editorial Praxis, 2005.

Herrera Pérez, Octavio. El norte de Tamaulipas y la conformación de la frontera México-Estados Unidos, 1835–1855. Ciudad Vitoria: Colegio de Tamaulipas, 2006.

Robles Gil, Patricio. The Great Tamaulipan Natural Province. Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas: Tamaulipas State Government: Agrupación Sierra Madre, 2006.

                            Carmen Ramos-EscandÓ n