On the Gulf coast of eastern Mexico is the 27,000-square mile region of Veracruz. Veracruz borders Northern Mexico and Bajio to the northwest, Central Mexico to the west, and Oaxaca and Chiapas & Tabasco to the south. Veracruz has beautiful Gulf beaches with a rich indigenous heritage, making it one of the most culturally influential regions in all of Mexico.
List of Cities
- Boca Del Río
- Heroica Veracruz
- Poza Rica
- Veracruz City
- Population: ~ 8 million
- Languages: Spanish, Orizaba Nahuatl, Totonacan, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayan
- Ethnicities: Spanish, Mestizos, Otomi, Totonac, and Olmec indigenous people, Afro-Mexican
- Capital: Xalapa
The history of Veracruz begins with four main indigenous groups: Huastecs, Otomis, Totonacs, and Olmecs. Evidence of these prehistoric groups can be found throughout the region, and many relics have been preserved and put on display. Out of these four groups, the Olmecs prevailed to become the first indigenous group in the region, followed by the Totonacs, who still exist today.
Totonacs optimized the agricultural industry during its existence. They hunted, fished, and harvested various crops, including corn and beans. One crop that was discovered in abundance in this area was the vanilla bean, which contributed to much of the agricultural success in the region. The Totonacs existed until the 15th century when the Aztecs entered the region and took control. At this time, the government of the region shifted from the Totonacs to the Aztecs.
During the Aztecs rule in Veracruz, they maximized the agricultural opportunities in the area by harvesting fruits, grains, corn, and beans, which were well-developed by the time the Spanish conquerors arrived in the region during the 1500s.
Spanish settlers led by Hernan Cortes arrived in Veracruz on May 18, 1519. Cortes immediately colonized the area under the Spanish monarchy and ordered his army to move inland. While in Veracruz, the Spanish encountered the Totonacs where an ally was formed.
The Totonacs were still angered that the Aztecs had taken control, so they offered to form an alliance with the Spanish to push the Aztecs out. In doing so, the Spanish were able to establish the city of Veracruz, a significant port city on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Totonacs continued to help the Spanish conquer Aztec territories, ultimately leading to the defeat of the Huastecs, who attempted to fight off the Spanish conquest. With Spain continuing to colonize the region, the port of Veracruz became a direct link between Mexico and Spain. Goods were constantly imported and exported through this port, including dye, livestock, fruits, and vegetables.
However, the Veracruz port saw more than just inanimate goods pass through it. It also became a port that received African slaves during the 16th century. This led to the introduction of the Afro-Mexican race, a mixed-race comprised of indigenous Mexican people and Africans.
Africans slaved were introduced because much of the indigenous people of Mexico had either died from disease or fled to mountainous regions that were unsettled by the Spanish. Spain needed laborers to help expand the many industries that had been developed by the Spanish. Because Spanish immigrants had not yet relocated to Mexico, the Spanish relied on the indigenous people and African slaves for the undertaking.
For the next 300 years, Veracruz would grow in agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, and trade. More and more Spanish immigrants relocated to Mexico because of the many opportunities that the region had to offer. Spain was suffering from war and poverty, decreasing the opportunities for Spanish men to earn a respectable living in Spain.
By the early 1800s, Mexico desired independence from the rule of the Spanish crown. This led to the Mexican War of Independence, which earned Mexico its independence from Spain. Unfortunately, a few years later, in 1838, France invaded the port of Veracruz, which caused the port to be closed. This affected the trading that occurred in the port, ultimately weakening the region’s overall economy. A few years later, during the Mexican-American War, the port had to be closed again.
As if wars hadn’t riddled the area enough, Mexico found itself in another war that would cripple its economy once it was over. The Reform War, which was a Mexican civil war that occurred between 1857 and 1860.
At the conclusion of the Reform War, Mexico’s economy suffered greatly to the point where they could not repay their debts that were owed to France. This caused France to invade the region through the leadership of French Emperor Maximilian I. Though France controlled the region for a short period of time, their control was temporary, and Mexico regained control of their region by 1867.
Once Mexico regained control of Veracruz, the region quickly prospered. The transportation, trade, and industrial sectors grew exponentially, especially once oil was discovered in the region’s northern area. The discovery of oil expanded foreign interest and investment in the region, further connecting Mexico to the United States and England.
Today, agriculture, oil, and manufacturing continue to remain at the center of Veracruz’s successful economy.
Many native indigenous languages were spoken in the region before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. These languages included Orizaba Nahuatl, Totonaca, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mayan. Because the Totonacs remained in the region and helped the Spanish take control of the Aztecs, their native language survived and can still be heard today.
Although native indigenous languages may be heard in the region, Spanish is the primary language spoken and taught in Veracruz.
The primary religion practiced in Spain is Roman Catholicism, which is how Roman Catholicism came to Mexico. Approximately 80% of the citizens in Mexico practice Roman Catholicism which comes from their colonial ancestors from Spain.
The Spanish believed in evangelism, which is the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism was the denomination in which the Spanish believed, so they continued their teaching and preaching after arriving in Veracruz. Without this, the religion may have never survived. Instead, it is the primary religion practiced in Mexico today.
What made Veracruz immediately successful even during prehistoric time periods was the geography. Agriculture was able to thrive in this area because of the rich soil and warm climate. The Spanish took advantage of this opportunity by bringing in various types of livestock that were native to Spain. The livestock flourished in the area and was able to bring economic and employment opportunities.
The Gulf Coast of Mexico, where Veracruz was located, made it easy to import and export goods. This was another benefit to the geography in the area; it made the region successful.
Fast-forwarding to present-day Veracruz, many hotels and resorts are marketed for tourist destinations because of the beautiful beaches that the Gulf of Mexico has to offer in the region.
Festivals, artwork, and dances of Veracruz are centered around the time periods of the indigenous tribes, between 100 B.C. and 1000 A.D. During this time period, there is evidence that indigenous tribes made art sculptures and danced to lively music to express themselves.
They learned to make blankets with vibrant colors and used distinctive expressions on the faces of the ceramic masks they molded. Festivals today celebrate those heritages through dancing, music, art vendors, and parades.
Immigration and Migration Patterns
Veracruz has arguably the most diverse ethnic groups in all of Mexico. This is solely due to the reason that the port of Veracruz was used for bringing immigrants and slaves into the region, as well as the French invaders for a short period in time.
Beginning with the indigenous tribes, the Huastecs, Otomis, Totonacs, and Olmecs all lived in the region until the Aztecs arrived, causing these four tribes to move elsewhere. This is evidence of the first migration pattern that occurred in Veracruz. The tribes were unable to combat the Aztecs, so they either had to conform or leave. Many of the tribes that left Veracruz moved north further into Mexico.
The next migration pattern that occurred happened when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. Spain was looking for better trade routes and better opportunities in the New World when they discovered Mexico. They immediately began to further advance the region after taking it from the Aztecs.
Spain was unable to quickly send Spanish immigrants to the region in time to do the amount of work needed for the various industries they were developing, so they brought in slaves from Africa to work. This led to the creation of the mixed-race Afro-Mexican, a combination of African and Mexican races.
Finally, the migration pattern to occur happened in the 1800s when France invaded the region in an attempt to control it due to Mexico’s economic decline. While this was short-lived, it did bring French immigrants to Mexico for a short period of time.
The primary heritage of those in Veracruz will have Spanish descent. This is because of how many Spanish immigrants arrived in the area between the 1500s and 1800s. Spanish genealogy gives people dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin, which are prominent features of many citizens living in Veracruz. While Spanish is the region’s primary heritage, it does not rule out the French or African connections that can also be made.
Because African slaves were brought to Veracruz, it can be likely to have genealogy traced to Africa. Africans who mixed with Mexicans in the region created the mixed-race Afro-Mexican. These features are similar to Spanish features where one could have dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair.
Finally, there is a chance that Veracruz genealogy can include traces of French heritage because of the short period of time that the French migrated to the area. French genealogy will be the least dominant and least likely genealogy of those living in Veracruz, whereas Spanish and African are the most likely.