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Veracruz, State of

Veracruz, State of

The eleventh largest Mexican state (28,114 sq. mi.) and the third most populous (6,940,544 inhabitants in 1990 and 7,110,214 in 2005), Veracruz stretches for some 400 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and comprises three broad physiographical and cultural regions.

Northern Veracruz stretches from the Río Tamesí in the north to the Sierra de Chiconquiaco in the south, and rises from sea level to elevations as high as 9,000 feet in the Sierra Madre Oriental. Most of the region is lowland, with a climate ranging from hot and humid to hot and subhumid, with a summer wet season. During the pre-Hispanic period, Olmec influence at such places as Santa Luisa (c. 1150) gave way to interaction with highland cultures and a refo-cusing of settlement at the centers of El Tajín (c. 400–900) and Castillo de Teayo (founded c. 850). Cattle ranches spread throughout the lowlands during the colonial period, after warfare and disease had virtually exterminated the native population, a pattern persisting until the twentieth-century development of petroleum resources stimulated immigration. The foothills around Papantla harbor most of the state's remaining native peoples.

Central Veracruz stretches south from the Sierra de Chiconquiaco to the Río Blanco, and rises from sea level to peaks as high as 18,405 feet in the neo-volcanic axis, resulting in a dramatic altitudinal zonation of vegetation from savanna to pine-oak forest. The climate ranges from hot and subhumid with an intense winter dry season in the lowlands to temperate and humid at higher elevations, and permits a wide range of crops. During the pre-Hispanic period, Remojadas (c. 300–900) and Cempoala (founded c. 1200) were major centers.

In 1519 the Spaniards under Hernán Cortés landed here and allied themselves with the Totonacs before going on to conquer the Aztecs. By 1600 the crown had established Veracruz at its present location as the official port of New Spain. Jalapa, now the state capital, hosted the annual merchant fair. The region had become a vital transportation corridor between Spain and New Spain. The rapid demise of the Indian population stimulated the establishment of livestock in the lowlands and sugarcane on the more humid slopes around Jalapa and Orizaba, where African slaves resisted and established refuge communities. Control of the region continued to play a key role in the struggle for power in Republican Mexico: by Antonio López de Santa Anna (1833–1855), by the United States (1847–1848, 1914), by Benito Juárez's Liberals (1858–1861), and by the French (1862–1867). Turn-of-the-century migration to the growing textile mills of Orizaba provided a proletarian base for the subsequent popular revolution.

Southern Veracruz stretches from the Río Blanco in the north to the Río Tonalá in the south, and rises from sea level to elevations as high as 5,413 feet in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas. Much of the region is tropical lowland with a hot, humid climate. During the pre-Hispanic period it was the heartland of the prototypical Olmec, established at such centers as San Lorenzo (c. 1200–900) and La Venta (c. 900–400), just south of the Río Tonalá in Tabasco. Subsequently the region became a resource hinterland for highland cultures, a pattern the Spaniards continued by establishing livestock ranches and sugar plantations. Only with the control of lowland diseases, the discovery of petroleum, and the construction of drainage and irrigation projects in the twentieth century has the region's population increased dramatically.

See alsoVeracruz, Occupation of .


Manuel B. Trens, Historia de Veracruz, 6 vols. (1947–1950).

Thomas T. Poleman, The Papaloapan Project (1964).

José García Payón, "Archaeology of Central Veracruz," in Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 11, edited by Gordon F. Ekholm and Ignacio Bernal (1971).

Peter Gerhard, A Guide to the Historical Geography of New Spain (1972).

Arturo Gómez-Pompa, "Ecology of the Vegetation of Veracruz," in Vegetation and Vegetational History of Northern Latin America, edited by Alan Graham (1973).

Heather Fowler Salamini, Agrarian Radicalism in Veracruz, 1920–38 (1978).

Michael D. Coe and Richard A. Diehl, In the Land of the Olmec, 2 vols. (1980).

Jorge L. Tamayo, Geografía moderna de México, 9th ed., rev. (1987).

Alfred H. Siemens, Between the Summit and the Sea (1990).

Patrick J. Carroll, Blacks in Colonial Veracruz (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Amezcua Cardiel, Héctor. Veracruz: Sociedad, economía, política y cultura. México, D.F.: Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias en Humanidades, 1990.

Blázquez Domínguez, Carmen. Breve historia de Veracruz. México: Colegio de México, Fideicomiso Historia de las Américas, 2000.

García Díaz, Bernardo; Lourdes, Alonso, and Adalberto Ríos Salía. El Estado de Veracruz. México: Grupo Azabache, 1993.

                                     Andrew Sluyter

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