Veracruz, officially known as Heroica Veracruz, is a major port city and municipality on the Gulf of Mexico in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The city is located in the central part of the state. It is located 90 km (56 mi) along Federal Highway 140 from the state capital Xalapa, and is the state's most populous city. Veracruz is Mexico’s oldest, largest, and historically most significant port.
When Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, this was the place where he founded a city with the name Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, referring to the area’s gold and the fact he landed on a Good Friday. The settlement became the first on the American mainland and the first to receive a coat-of-arms. During the colonial period, this city had the largest mercantile class and was at times wealthier even than Mexico City. This wealth made it attractive to pirates, against which fortifications such as Fort San Juan de Ulúa were built.
In the 19th century, Veracruz saw a number of invasions, mostly by France and the United States with the last invasion occurring in 1914. For much of the 20th century, the production of petroleum was more important for the state, but in the latter twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the port has re-emerged as the main economic engine, becoming the main port for most of Mexico’s imports and exports, especially for the automotive industry.