Veracruz (Spanish pronunciation: [beɾaˈkɾus]), officially known as Hermosa Veracruz, is a major port city and municipality on the Gulf of Mexico in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The city is located along the coast in the central part of the state, 90 km (56 mi) southeast of the state capital Xalapa along Federal Highway 140.
It is the state's most populous city, with a population that is greater than the municipality's population, as part of the city of Veracruz extends into the neighboring Boca del Río Municipality. At the 2010 census, the city had 554,830 inhabitants, 428,323 in Veracruz Municipality and 126,507 in Boca del Río Municipality. Developed during Spanish colonization, Veracruz has been Mexico’s oldest, largest, and historically most significant port.
When the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, he founded a city here, which he named Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, referring to the area’s gold and dedicated to the "True Cross", because he landed on the Christian holy day of Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion. It was the second Spanish settlement on the mainland of the Americas but the first to receive a coat-of-arms. During the colonial period, this city had the largest mercantile class and was at times wealthier than the capital of Mexico City. Its wealth attracted the raids of 17th-century pirates, against which fortifications such as Fort San Juan de Ulúa were built. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Veracruz was invaded on different occasions by France and the United States; during the 1914 Tampico Affair, US troops occupied the city for seven months. For much of the 20th century, the production of petroleum was most important for the state's economy but, in the latter 20th century and into the 21st, the port has re-emerged as the main economic engine. It has become the principal port for most of Mexico’s imports and exports, especially for the automotive industry.
Veracruz has a blend of cultures, mostly indigenous, ethnic Spanish and Afro-Cuban. The influence of these three is best seen in the food and music of the area, which has strong Spanish, Caribbean and African influences.
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