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Hernán Cortés founded the city of Veracruz while searching for gold in the region. Today, the state is famous for its beautiful beaches and Carnaval, an annual celebration featuring music, dance and spectacular parades. Many of the Otomí people–one of the region’s first inhabitants–still live in Veracruz. The fifth-largest indigenous ethnic group in Mexico, the Otomí are scattered throughout Central Mexico, from Michoacán to Veracruz.
During the pre-Hispanic period, the region that now constitutes modern-day Veracruz was inhabited by four indigenous cultures. The Huastecos and Otomíes occupied the north, the Totonacas resided in the north-center, and the Olmecs, one of the oldest cultures in all the Americas, dominated the south between 1300 and 400 B.C. Several important Olmec sites are situated along rivers on the coastal plain in Veracruz. They include San Lorenzo (1300-900 B.C.) and Tres Zapotes (1000-400 B.C). At their peak, these three settlements were probably the most complex ceremonial sites found in Mesoamerica; however, by 400 B.C., the distinctive features of Olmec culture disappeared and the region was replaced by the emerging central Mexican and Mayan civilizations.
The indigenous Huastec people from the Pánuco River basin in east Mexico spoke a Mayan dialect but were physically separated from the rest of the Mayans; consequently, their culture did not develop along similar lines. The Huastecos also remained isolated from later civilizations of the central plateau, such as the Aztec. The present-day Huastec population, which maintains aspects of their traditional culture and language, now numbers about 80,000 in the areas around Veracruz and San Luis Potosí.
The Totonacas occupied an area known as Totonacapan. This area stretched throughout central Veracruz and encompassed the Zacatlán district of the present-day state of Puebla. Occupying some 50 towns with an overall population of a quarter million people, the Totonacs spoke four dialects. Their capital, Cempoala, had a population of about 25,000 and was located five miles inland from the present-day city of Veracruz.
During the 11th century, Aztecs invaded the area and, by the 1400s, had dominated Veracruz.
The Spanish first arrived in Veracruz in 1518 under the command of Juan de Grijalva. The expedition also included Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who later became a champion of indigenous rights.
Because the first expedition detected the presence of gold in the region, a second expedition under the command of Hernán Cortés was launched in 1519. It was during this expedition that Cortés disembarked and founded the place he and his men called Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz or the Rich Village of the True Cross. In the mid 1500s, massive amounts of gold and silver were harvested throughout the state.
As was the case in most parts of Mexico, new European diseases and enslavement decimated the indigenous population in the first years after the Spanish arrived. As the population decreased, African slaves were brought over to work on the sugarcane plantations. The port city of Veracruz quickly became Mexico’s most important port of entry. Veracruz had the largest enslaved population in Mexico during this time.
In 1570, an African slave named Gaspar Yanga led an uprising and established San Lorenzo de los Negros. In colonial Mexico, this was one of the only settlements of African blacks to gain its independence and freedom through revolt. After attempting to recapture the slaves and end the revolt in 1606 and 1609, Spanish authorities decided to negotiate with the community. In exchange for the settlement’s freedom, Yanga agreed to no longer raid Spanish communities. In 1630, the settlement established the town of Yanga.
Destined to become one of Mexico’s most feared and beloved military and political leaders, Antonio López de Santa Anna was born in Jalapa, Veracruz, on February 21, 1794. Not long after, at the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810, Guadalupe Victoria became the most important independence leader in Veracruz. Serving under the command of José Maria Morelos, he took part in the attack on Oaxaca in 1812, and in 1814 he assumed leadership of the rebel movement in Veracruz.
After seizing several royalist convoys, Victoria was defeated at Palmillas in 1817 and forced into hiding. When he emerged, Victoria was imprisoned but managed to escape. He took command of forces in Veracruz that were rebelling against Agustin de Iturbide’s imperial rule. After Iturbide’s fall, Victoria, Nicolás Bravo and Pedro Celestino Negrete formed a triumvirate that held executive power until October 1824 when Victoria took office as Mexico’s first president.
In 1824, Veracruz became a federal state and created a new constitution the following year. As was the case with the rest of Mexico, the state experienced political and social instability during much of the 19th century. Conflicts between centralists and federalists and between liberals and conservatives slowed economic development and led to continual revolts. When his liberal government was attacked in Mexico City in 1857, Mexican president Benito Juárez governed from Veracruz.
In 1863, Austrian monarch Maximilian, appointed Emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III, arrived in Veracruz to assume power. French forces conquered and ruled parts of Mexico between 1864 and 1866. They eventually withdrew due to the intervention of the United States, who demanded that Maximilian relinquish the throne and that Napoleon III withdraw his French forces.
During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Veracruz became a battleground for different factions, but at the end of the revolution, peace and stability returned to the region. Veracruz has since grown to be one of the most populated and economically active Mexican states.
Veracruz continues to be a very important part of Mexico’s economy. The state is rich in natural resources and represents approximately 35 percent of Mexico’s water supply. In addition, Veracruz has four deep-water ports and two international airports. An important source of iron and copper, Veracruz also produces such non-metallic minerals as sulfur, silica, feldspar, calcium, kaolin and marble.
Farms in the region around Jalapa grow most of the state’s coffee beans. The state has a robust agricultural economy, and long-standing industrial centers at Córdoba, Orizaba and Rio Blanco produce abundant textile materials.
With a pleasant climate, good cuisine and archaeological sites, the port of Veracruz is a favorite seaside resort for Mexican and foreign tourists. The city, advantageously situated along the Gulf of Mexico, has become a preferred port for exports to the United States, Latin America and Europe. In fact, 75 percent of all port activity in Mexico takes place in Veracruz. The chief exports of the state are coffee, fresh fruits, fertilizers, sugar, fish and crustaceans.
Facts & Figures
- Capital: Xalapa
- Major Cities (population): Veracruz (512,310), Xalapa-Enriquez (413,136), Coatzacoalcos (280,363), Córdoba (186,623), Papantla de Olarte (152,863)
- Size/Area: 27,683 square miles
- Population: 7,110,214 (2005 Census)
- Year of statehood: 1824
- The coat of arms of Veracruz displays a red cruz (cross) bearing the word vera, which means true. A yellow tower with a green background represents the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz and the abundant surrounding vegetation. White columns and words plus ultra (which mean further beyond) on a blue background suggest that, although situated on the other side of the ocean, this new land belonged to Spain. The coat of arms is decorated by a yellow band with 13 blue stars, several spirals and two floral arrangements.
- The Mexican state of Veracruz was named by the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés, who landed at the beach of Chalchihuecan on April 22, 1519. It was Good Friday, which the Spanish also referred to as the day of the Vera Cruz or True Cross.
- The famous Danza de Voladores de Papantla is a ritualistic dance performed by five men of the Totonac Indian tribe. One of the participants climbs atop a pole approximately 80 meters (262 feet) high where he plays a flute and dances while the other four men dangle from ropes wrapped around the pole and tied to one of their feet. As the pole turns, the rope unwinds, and the men are slowly lowered to earth.
- Local witches in Catemaco, Veracruz, believe that on the first Friday of every March, their powers increase, cleansing their spirits of the evil they are surrounded by all year. This day has become a very popular holiday in the region.
- Veracruz is famous for its beautiful beaches. The Chachalacas sandbar, which extends about 56 kilometers (35 miles) along the coast, is known for its soft sand and gentle waves. Visitors can enjoy a range of aquatic sports, such as swimming, boating and parasailing, in the area.
- Nine days before Ash Wednesday, Veracruz hosts its famous Carnaval, a festival similar to Mardi Gras. Considered by many to be a celebration of the libido, the festivities precede Lent, a period of spiritual fasting. During Carnaval, the city buzzes with life, and a rich variety of music, dancing, food, performances, culture, fireworks, arts and crafts is on display.
- Considered by many to be Mexico’s center of music and dance, Veracruz hosts the Afro-Caribbean Festival each year in late summer. Various countries—including Cuba, Jamaica and Colombia—participate in dance, music, film and art expositions as well as business fairs.
- When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Papantla in 1524, they discovered a plant that had been cultivated by the Totonaco Indians for centuries; they named this spice vainilla (little pod). During the 1850s, a man in Papantla devised a way to artificially pollinate the plants with a toothpick, and vanilla production increased dramatically. This small municipality continues to be one of Mexico’s principal vanilla producers.
Veracruz’s main plaza, the Plaza de Armas (Plaza of Arms), is located in the middle of the city and arrayed with palm trees, a colonial fountain and beautiful arches. Facing the Plaza are the Cathedral, the Palacio Municipal and various other majestic structures, including the Correos y Telégrafos (post office) and the Aduana Marítima (Maritime Customs) building.
Fort at San Juan de Ulua
This fort–originally built by the Spanish to protect against pirates and, later, against foreign invaders–became the Spaniards’ last refuge before they were defeated and forced to leave Mexico. After the Mexican War of Independence, the fort was converted into a prison infamous for its harsh conditions. During the Porfirio Diaz era, many prisoners died before being released. The fort gained new fame when it was featured in the film Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
The prehistoric city of El Tajín is one of Veracruz’s most fascinating archaeological sites. Although most of El Tajín remains unexcavated, archaeologists have located, excavated and restored about 50 buildings. Scientists believe that some of the buildings, such as the famous Niche Pyramid, were used for games or sacrifices. The Ball Game, which featured human sacrifice, originated at El Tajín.
Museums & Art
The Museo de la Ciudad de Veracruz (City Museum) showcases historical artifacts from colonial times through the present. Displays include archaeological treasures from Indian civilizations that shaped Veracruz’s culture as well as paintings, craftwork and photographs from the city’s past.
Originally a naval officer’s school, the Museo Naval (Naval Museum) was restored and opened in 1997 as a tribute to Mexico’s naval history and evolution. The museum displays nautical paraphernalia, historical records of the naval academy and relics from Mexico’s struggles with other countries. In the courtyard, visitors can see remnants of the old wall that used to encircle the city.
Coat of Arms of Veracruz: History and Meaning
He Veracruz shield is one of the oldest of the American continent and dates from the sixteenth century, granted directly by the Spanish monarchy.
It was exactly the 4 of July of the year 1523 when the then King of Spain Carlos I granted to the"Rich Villa of the Vera Cruz"a coat of arms that is the same one that is currently used as official heraldry.
Although from its original version has had slight changes in its form, its content has remained practically unaltered.
It includes the word Vera (true in Latin) on a red cross and the castle or tower framed in a traditional Castilian style medieval heraldry.
The official date of unveiling in South Korea was October 12, 2006, and was made available in the United States as a model of 2007.  The Veracruz went on sale in March 2007, and is Hyundai's largest crossover SUV.
It replaced the truck based Terracan that was sold worldwide except for North America. The Veracruz is built on a Hyundai Santa Fe platform. The revamped 2011 Veracruz was based on the same platform as the Kia Sorento. 
The Veracruz gets its name from a state in Mexico, continuing the Western theme from the small Tucson SUV and mid-size Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. Powering the Veracruz is a 3.8 L 260 hp (190 kW) V6 engine with an Aisin sourced six speed Shiftronic Automatic transmission.
In Europe, it was sold only with 3.0 L CRDI V6 diesel S-Line engine with Variable geometry turbocharger and 240 hp (180 kW).  In 2008, the Veracruz was also sold in some European countries as the ix55. 
The Veracruz was available in 3 models during its six year run: the base GLS, the SE and the luxurious Limited, in Front Wheel Drive or All Wheel Drive configurations.
Standard features on all Veracruz models included full power equipment, air conditioning with allergen filter, an A/M-F/M stereo with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, CD/MP3 player, USB and auxiliary inputs for portable media devices, steering wheel mounted audio system and cruise controls, third row seating, aluminium alloy wheels, a V6 engine, an automatic transmission, and colour keyed side mirrors and door handles.
Additional options included a six disc, in dash CD/MP3 changer, Infinity surround sound, leather trimmed seating surfaces, heated and ventilated seats, a power sunroof, smart key access (featuring a "Twist to Start" ignition system), chrome accents, and touch screen GPS Navigation with SiriusXM Travel Link service.
One feature that was not available from the factory on any Veracruz model was a Bluetooth hands free telephone system, though one was available as an accessory through Hyundai that replaced the sunglasses holder in the overhead console.
However, the optional Bluetooth hands free accessory kit did not support A2DP wireless stereo streaming of music, as it did not integrate into the Veracruz's audio system, and instead featured its own, integral control panel and speaker. 
The Hyundai Veracruz was discontinued on November 15, 2011, in other countries except South Korea. Last produced models of 2011 were rebadged in 2012, and carried over the extended year.
Hyundai announced on April 6, 2012 that the seven passenger version of the new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe will replace the Veracruz, and that production of the current Veracruz would stop "around November 2012". 
In 2015, South Korean version was discontinued due to Euro 6 emission standards.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said crash results indicated, ". a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity" which is the highest result possible. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found similar results when they tested the Veracruz, awarding it five stars after its frontal crash test for both passenger and driver and in the side impact event. 
On November 15, 2007, the IIHS declared Veracruz vehicles built after August 2007 a Best Safety Pick for side, rear, and frontal impact protection. 
List of traditions and customs of the state of Veracruz in Mexico
1- Carnival of Veracruz
It is one of the most recognized carnivals on the globe, known as 'the most joyful carnival in the world'. It lasts about nine days in total and has six major parades, public concerts, parties, and social events.
The carnival in Veracruz has its origins in the colonial period. Residents of localities just outside the city created new forms of music with European, African, and indigenous traditions.
These ancient traditions involving people dressed in colorful clothes dancing to rhythms derived from Africa provoked disapproval of the Catholic Church.
However, the festival continued to evolve into more formal dances for a small select group, as well as street celebrations for the popular classes.
Today, Veracruz has the largest and most famous carnival in Mexico. It begins with the 'burning of the bad mood' and ends with the burial of 'Juan carnaval'.
The 'burning of bad mood' is represented by the effigy of a person known and hated. 'Juan carnaval' is another effigy that receives a funeral of lie.
Among these events the carnival queen and her court are crowned, six parades with a minimum of 30 floats are made that resort Veracruz and Boca del Rio, concerts are performed by well-known artists, dances, and charity events.
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2- The Dance of the Tocotines
This dance originated in Misantla. Generally it is represented in the Temple of the parish of the Assumption.
This dance is a representation of the arrival of the Spanish conquerors to what today is the municipality of Xico Viejo.
This dance is composed of 18 parts that lasts about four hours. All the confrontations that took place until Cortes triumphs over Moctezuma are represented.
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3- Chicken Encoahuatado
This traditional dish from the humid and hot state of Veracruz consists of a chicken breast choked in a creamy peanut sauce.
In Veracruz, seeds and nuts are often used to add creaminess and flavor to sauces.
Although peanuts were used primarily by the Maya, they are used in the Veracruz area more than anywhere in Mexico.
It is believed that the use of peanuts and chilies in this dish represent the culture and taste of Veracruz cuisine.
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4- Feast of La Candelaria
This event is celebrated in 13 municipalities of Veracruz. There are two versions of the origins of this feast.
The first version is based on the veneration of the Indians towards a goddess called Chalchiuhtlicua, goddess of water, rivers, seas and lagoons.
It is said that when the Spaniards arrived they supplanted Chalchiuhtlicua by the virgin of Candelaria, protector of the fishermen.
The second version is based on the Andalusian virgin caring for the sailors who lived on the island of Tlaxcotialapan. Regardless of reality, the Spanish influence is clear during the celebration of the Candelaria bulls are released like in the European pamplonadas.
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5- Dance of the Papantla Flyers
It is an ancient indigenous ceremony consisting of dances and the climbing of a 30-meter pole from which four of the five participants are tied with ropes to descend to the floor.
The fifth participant remains at the top of the stick, dancing and playing a flute and a drum.
It is believed that this ritual began when the natives asked the gods to end a severe drought.
Although this ritual did not originate with the Totonac natives, it is currently associated with them, especially those in and around Papantla in Veracruz.
You may be interested 7 Cultural Manifestations of Mexico Representative .
6- Feast of All the Dead
It is a celebration that lasts for several days and focuses on family gatherings and friends who remember and pray to the nearby members who have died to help them on their spiritual journey.
Traditions connected with these celebrations include building private altars called offerings, honoring members using skulls, dead flowers and visiting the graves of the deceased. It is believed that this tradition had its beginnings in Aztec festivals.
You may be interested 5 Traditions of the Day of the Dead in Mexico .
7- Day of the Holy Cross or Day of the mason
This festival is held for several days in May in 10 municipalities of Veracruz. In this festival, crosses are built, placed in buildings and the priest or parish priest usually blesses the structures.
In addition, this celebration involves the drink of liqueurs like beer, mezcal and tequila parties and meetings are also held.
You may be interested 10 Traditions and Customs of Colima (Mexico) .
8- Day of the virgin of Guadalupe
It is celebrated on December 12 and commemorates the appearance of this virgin in the hill Tepeyac.
At present, it is celebrated with several organizations of workers of neighborhoods and colonies they carry a virgin that has been decorated with paper and flowers. These people carry the virgin to a temple while accompanying their pilgrimage with music and songs.
Some people even wear mariachis to sing to the virgin. At the end of the pilgrimage, the parish priest blesses them.
You may be interested What is celebrated in November in Mexico?
9- Danza huasteca veracruzana
It is a dance with great European influences, especially Spanish, originated in the coasts of Veracruz is performed on a stage.
This dance is a combination of various musical forms, Indian and African influences.
Usually it is called huapango to the celebration where the interpreters, musicians and dancers are included.
You may be interested 7 Customs and Traditions of Guanajuato (Mexico) .
10- Veracruz crafts
The craftsmanship of Veracruz depends on the territory where he is. Some of the most well-known handicrafts of this state include articles of palm and jarcieria, vanilla figurines, wool textiles and hawksbill items.
Textiles with waist looms are made in Amatlán de los Reyes and in Coatepec handicrafts of the root, trunk and branches of coffee trees are made.
On the other hand, in Tuxtlas are made masks of woods and amulets, Tiocotalpan is known for its fabrics, and in Xalapa the Olmec and Totok tradition of making jade and ceramic pieces is respected.
You've only scratched the surface of Veracruz family history.
Between 1965 and 2002, in the United States, Veracruz life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1996, and highest in 1994. The average life expectancy for Veracruz in 1965 was 61, and 71 in 2002.
An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your Veracruz ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family. The SSDI is a searchable database of more than 70 million names. You can find birthdates, death dates, addresses and more.
Antuñano Maurer, Alejandro de, et al. Veracruz: primer puerto del continente. Mexico City: Fundación Miguel Alemán, 1996.
Booker, Jackie Robinson. Veracruz Merchants, 1770–1829: A Mercantile Elite in Late Bourbon and Early Independent Mexico. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.
Pasquel, Leonardo. Biografía integral de la ciudad de Veracruz, 1519–1969. Veracruz, Mexico: Ayuntamiento de Veracruz, 1969.
Rodríguez, Hipólito, and Manrique, Jorge Alberto. Veracruz: La ciudad hecha de mar, 1519–1821. Veracruz, Mexico: Ayuntamiento de Veracruz and Instituto Verucrazano de Cultura, 1991.
Reducing the City
Within the city, Brigadier General Juan Morales possessed 3,360 men as well as another 1,030 offshore at San Juan de Ulúa. Outnumbered, he hoped to hold the city until aid could arrive from the interior or the approaching yellow fever season began to reduce Scott's army. Though several of Scott's senior commanders wished to attempt a storming of the city, the methodical general insisted on reducing the city through siege tactics to avoid needless casualties. He insisted that the operation should cost the lives of no more than 100 men.
Though a storm delayed the arrival of his siege guns, Scott's engineers including Captains Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston, as well as Lieutenant George McClellan began working to site gun emplacements and enhance the siege lines. On March 21, Commodore Matthew Perry arrived to relieve Connor. Perry offered six naval guns and their crews which Scott accepted. These were quickly emplaced by Lee. The next day, Scott demanded that Morales surrender the city. When this was refused, the American guns began bombarding the city. Though the defenders returned fire, they caused few injuries.
Veracruz - HISTORY
Veracruz Mexico's history with tropical systems Current weather
(br)=brush (ts)=Tropical Storm (bd)=Back Door,meaning coming from over land from opposite coast.Not all names are noted,also storms before 1950 were not named.Not every stat on every storm description is given.(since 1871)
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20 times in 149 yrs end of 2020
Names from list above
|Tropical Storm to Hurricane ratio |
TS=14, 70.00% H=6, 30.00%
Longest gap between storms
24 years 1955-1980
How often this area gets affected?
Average years between direct hurricane hits.(hurricane force winds for a few hours)
Average years between major hurricane hits.(1)
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Veracruz, in full Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, formerly (1863–2003) in full Veracruz-Llave, estado (state), east-central Mexico. Veracruz is bounded by the state of Tamaulipas to the north, by the Gulf of Mexico to the east, and by the states of Tabasco and Chiapas to the southeast, Oaxaca to the southwest, and Puebla, Hidalgo, and San Luis Potosí to the west. The state capital is Xalapa (Jalapa in full, Xalapa Enríquez).
Veracruz is shaped like a crescent, stretching some 400 miles (650 km) along the Gulf coast but averaging only about 60 miles (100 km) in width. The coast consists of low sandy strips interspersed with tidewater streams and lagoons, but the relief rises inland to the Sierra Madre Oriental, which is cut by valleys often covered by dense tropical rainforest. Citlaltépetl (Orizaba Peak), Mexico’s highest point, at 18,406 feet (5,610 metres), is located at the juncture of the Sierra Madre highlands and the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica. More than 40 rivers and tributaries provide water for irrigation and hydroelectric power they also carry rich silt down from the eroding highlands, which is deposited in the valleys and coastal areas.
The state contains numerous remains of pre-Hispanic Olmec, Totonac, and Huastec cities. El Tajín, a ruined city that reached its apex between the 9th and 13th centuries, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. Spanish colonial settlements began in the 16th century, including the river port of Tlacotalpan, which was made a World Heritage site in 1998. A small but significant proportion of the residents still speak indigenous languages.
Veracruz has one of Mexico’s leading economies. The state has about one-fourth of Mexico’s petroleum reserves and several refineries. Chief agricultural products include coffee, vanilla, sugarcane, tobacco, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, but farmers depend mainly on corn (maize) and beans. Veracruz is one of the country’s leading producers of beef cattle. Forestry, flowers (notably orchids), and medicinal plants are also important. Among the state’s numerous and varied industries are sugar refining, distilling, chemical processing, metalworking, and textile production. Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and processing of the catches form an industry of national importance. Highway, rail, and air connections are good, especially in the south. Besides the major seaport of Veracruz city, there are minor ports at Tuxpan and Coatzacoalcos, among others. A major highway and railroad link Veracruz city and Xalapa to Mexico City.
Veracruz became a state in 1824. Its government is headed by a governor, who is elected to a single term of six years. Members of the unicameral legislature, the State Congress, are elected to three-year terms. The state is divided into local governmental units called municipios (municipalities), each of which is headquartered in a prominent city, town, or village. Veracruz University (1944) is located in Xalapa. The anthropological museum in Xalapa (1957) displays Olmec, Totonac, and Huastec artifacts. Area 27,683 square miles (71,699 square km). Pop. (2010) 7,643,194.
This article was most recently revised and updated by John M. Cunningham, Readers Editor.
The American Invasion of Veracruz
Woodrow Wilson justified the invasion of Veracruz by stating that it was necessary to “maintain the dignity and authority of the United States,” but the real reasons had more to do with protecting American interests south of the border.
In the spring of 1914, Mexico found itself torn by armed revolution against its central government and president, General Victoriano Huerta. Huerta was a graduate of the Mexican Military Academy who had risen through the ranks to become general-in-chief of the Mexican federal army. In February 1913, he betrayed Mexico’s elected president, Francisco Madero, by having him arrested and forcing him to resign. A few days later, Madero was conveniently killed.
In the United States, Woodrow Wilson was sworn into his first term as president in March 1913, only a few weeks after General Huerta’s coup d’état. Wilson was outraged by Huerta’s seizure of the Mexican presidency and the murder of Madero. The United States refused to recognize his government, and the U.S. ambassador was recalled from Mexico City.
Armed resistance against Huerta’s presidency flared up throughout Mexico. Federal armies came under attack by rebel forces led by Álvaro Obregón, Venustiano Carranza, and Francisco “Pancho” Villa in the north and Emiliano Zapata in the south.
American commercial interests in Mexico, protected during the long regime of former Mexican President Porfirio Díaz, found themselves threatened by these revolutionary armies. American citizens across Mexico became increasingly concerned for their safety.
President Wilson demonstrated his attitude toward Latin America when he declared to a British visitor that he was “going to teach the South American republics to elect good men.” Nevertheless, he was reluctant to intervene directly in Mexican affairs. Instead, he chose to assume a stance of “watchful waiting,” confident that Huerta would eventually be overthrown and replaced by a stable government.
With the insurrection against Huerta gaining ground, Mexico’s key Gulf Coast ports, Tampico and Veracruz, became the focus of increasing U.S. attention. Growing numbers of U.S. warships concentrated off these ports, both located in areas still under control of the Huerta government.
Tampico lies 300 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery of oil there in the first years of the 20th century transformed the sleepy Mexican port into a boomtown, and the uninterrupted flow of oil from Tampico had become critical to powerful foreign interests. In March 1914, the Mexican federal garrison at Tampico was under intermittent attack by rebel Constitutionalist forces loyal to Carranza, and the situation was becoming unstable.
On April 9, 1914, an unarmed whaleboat from the U.S. gunboat Dolphin proceeded up the Pánuco River at Tampico on a mission to pick up drummed gasoline at the warehouse of a local German merchant. This was an area close to the Mexican fighting, and the federal troops there were under orders to detain anyone without a proper military pass. After mooring their boat, the crew was forced at gunpoint to disembark and was marched a short distance to the Mexican headquarters.
The local commander, Colonel Ramón H. Hinojosa, recognized the error made by his men, and the Americans were promptly escorted back to their boat. The federal military governor of Tampico, General Ignacio Morelos Zaragoza, apologized to the U.S. consul and asked that his regrets be conveyed to Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo, commanding U.S. naval forces at Tampico.
Admiral Mayo presented General Zaragoza with an ultimatum “in view of the publicity of this occurrence.” Within 24 hours the Mexicans were to formally apologize for the “hostile act,” and arrange for the U.S. flag to be raised in a prominent place and saluted with twenty-one guns. Replying that he did not have the authority to respond to these demands, General Zaragoza asked for an extension of the deadline so that he could consult with his superiors in Mexico City. Admiral Mayo agreed to the request.
President Huerta soon issued an apology for the incident at Tampico, but the proud Mexican president balked at the U.S. demand to salute its flag. He pointed out that the United States still refused to recognize his government.
Declaring that “The salute will be fired,” President Wilson used the incident at Tampico to force a showdown with Huerta. He gave the Mexican president until 6 P.M., Sunday, April 19, for the salute and ordered additional units of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet to the Mexican coast.
In addition to his problems with the United States, President Huerta’s domestic situation continued to deteriorate. Two weeks earlier, federal forces had surrendered the northern city of Torreón to Pancho Villa’s Army of the North, and government troops at Tampico were now under siege. Perhaps believing that armed conflict with the United States might unite Mexico’s warring factions behind his government, Huerta chose to let Wilson’s deadline pass without firing the salute.
The next afternoon, April 20, President Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to detail a series of incidents demonstrating what he characterized as the Mexican government’s contempt toward the United States. Wilson asked for approval to “use the armed forces of the United States in such ways and to such an extent as may be necessary to obtain from General Huerta and his adherents the fullest recognition of the rights and dignity of the United States….” He added: “There can in what we do be no thought of aggression or of selfish aggrandizement. We seek to maintain the dignity and authority of the United States only because we wish always to keep our great influence unimpaired for the uses of liberty, both in the United States and wherever else it may be employed for the benefit of mankind.”
Soon afterward, a joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Huerta passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin. Many Republican senators, however, favored a stronger resolution, and debate went on into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Without voting, the Senate adjourned until Wednesday, April 22, when the resolution would receive further consideration.
In an earlier meeting at the White House, President Wilson explained what he had in mind in the event Huerta refused to salute the U.S. flag: the possible seizure of Tampico or Veracruz, or even Pacific ports. Other options included a naval blockade of Mexico’s Gulf coast. In view of the overwhelming forces the United States could bring to bear, Wilson was certain that—whatever measures he chose to take—the Mexicans would offer no resistance.
At Tampico, the transport Hancock had arrived with 800 officers and men of the Marine Corps’ “Panama Brigade.” With these Marines, and with several additional battleships en route, Admiral Mayo anticipated orders from Washington to land and occupy the city. Two hundred fifty miles farther south on the coast, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher understood that he might be called on to take similar action at Veracruz.
Ever since Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez found the harbor in 1519, Veracruz had been Mexico’s primary port city. During the Díaz era, a British firm, S. Pearson and Son, rebuilt and modernized the harbor facilities. In addition to new quays, wharfs, and a floating dry dock, a number of imposing buildings were constructed adjacent to the harbor, including a combined post office/telegraph building, a new railroad station and hotel, a customs house, and a modern lighthouse. Inaugurated in 1902, the renewed Veracruz was firmly established as Mexico’s largest and most modern port city, and— through import duties collected there—a significant source of income to the Mexican government.
In April 1914, U.S. naval forces at Veracruz included the battleships Florida and Utah, and the transport Prairie, with a contingent of 350 Marines on board. The U.S. State Department learned in mid-April that the Hamburg-America liner SS Ypiranga was heading for Veracruz, carrying the largest single munitions shipment ever to be received there. Facing hostilities with Mexico, the U.S. government was determined to prevent Ypiranga’s cargo from reaching Huerta. Attention in Washington quickly shifted from Tampico to Veracruz.
Already steaming toward Tampico with his powerful squadron of battleships, commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger was ordered to alter course for Veracruz. At Tampico, Admiral Mayo was instructed to send warships and marine reinforcements as well.
Unwilling to antagonize the Imperial German government by interfering with a German vessel on the high seas, the Americans planned to seize the customs house at Veracruz after Ypiranga’s cargo had been unloaded, but before it could be moved out of the city. President Wilson hoped to delay a landing at Veracruz until the Senate voted to approve the supportive joint resolution that had already passed the House. Consequently, Admiral Fletcher sent the battleship Utah to intercept Ypiranga at sea, inform its captain of the current state of affairs at Veracruz, and attempt to persuade him to delay the arrival of his vessel in the port until after the Senate vote.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 21, events took an urgent turn. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan received a cable from the U.S. consul at Veracruz, William Canada, informing him that Ypiranga was due to arrive at Veracruz later that morning, and that the ship would begin discharging its cargo of 200 machine guns and 15 million cartridges into waiting freight trains at 10:30.
With Consul Canada’s cable in hand, Bryan awakened the president with a telephone call. Also on the line were Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels and Wilson’s secretary, Joseph Tumulty. Bryan told the president that Ypiranga was now expected to arrive at Veracruz in only a few short hours—well before any hope of a Senate vote. Wilson told Secretary Daniels to order Fletcher to “take Veracruz at once.”
At 8 that morning, Fletcher received orders from Washington: “Seize customs house. Do not permit war supplies to be delivered to Huerta government or to any other party.” With the breeze at Veracruz shifting to the north, Fletcher was concerned that the port was in store for a powerful “norther” whose high winds and choppy seas would preclude a landing in small boats for days. He decided to move forward promptly with the landing without waiting for reinforcements, even though Ypiranga had not yet arrived. First, however, the admiral asked Consul Canada to advise General Gustavo Maass, the local Mexican army commander, that U.S. forces would soon be coming ashore to take charge of the docks, customs house, and railroad station.
Mexican forces in Veracruz that day consisted of about six hundred regular troops of the 18th and 19th Infantry battalions (all that remained after sending repeated reinforcements to the beleaguered federal garrison at Tampico), along with several hundred prisoners who had been released from the old fortress prison of San Juan de Ulúa and armed. There were also the midshipmen at the Mexican Naval Academy (located on the edge of the city near the waterfront), and a number of armed civilians of the “Society of Volunteers of the Port of Veracruz.”
At 10:50 A.M., Admiral Fletcher ordered the operation to commence, and landing parties under the command of Captain William R. Rush, commanding officer of Florida, were soon shoving off from Prairie, Florida, and Utah. Of the initial force of 800 officers and men, 500 were Marines. In addition to small arms, the landing party brought ashore several machine guns and a three-inch fieldpiece.
Shortly after 11, Consul Canada observed Prairie’s landing party taking to its boats, and telephoned General Maass. Canada explained that only the port facilities were to be occupied by the Americans. There would be no entry into the city proper and no shooting unless the landing party was fired upon. To avoid useless bloodshed, he urged Maass to offer no resistance.
Shocked, General Maass replied that his orders from Mexico City would not permit him to surrender. He began preparations to resist the American landing.
After disembarking at Pier Four, a group of Marines advanced and took over the local cable office on Avenida Independencia, the main business street. Other Marines seized the municipal power plant north of the railroad terminal, simultaneously covering the western rail approaches to the city. Captain Rush set up headquarters in the Terminal Hotel, located adjacent to the railroad station and dock area. A navy signal detachment was sent to the roof to establish and maintain semaphore communications with Admiral Fletcher on Florida. Other navy personnel took possession of the customs house and nearby warehouses, the post office and telegraph building, and the railroad terminal.
So far, everything was going to plan.
After his telephone conversation with the American consul, General Maass proceeded to the barracks of the 19th Infantry Regiment, where he ordered Lieutenant Colonel Albino Rodríguez Cerrillo to take a detail of men along Avenida Independencia toward Pier Four to “repel the invasion.” At the nearby headquarters of the 18th Infantry Regiment, Maass ordered General Luis B. Becerril to distribute rifles to civilian volunteers. Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Contreras was instructed to release and arm prisoners from the nearby military prison. These groups were to proceed toward the American landing force along Avenida Cinco de Mayo, paralleling the advance of the 19th Infantry detachment.
Approaching the area of the city occupied by the Americans, the mixed force of Mexican regulars, released prisoners, and armed civilian volunteers began a disorganized deployment behind buildings, on rooftops, in alleys, and in the towers of the Parochial Church and the Benito Juárez lighthouse. As Florida’s 1st Company advanced, the municipal policeman at the corner of Calle Morelos and Calle Miguel Lerdo, Aurelio Monffort, opened fire on the Americans with his service revolver. Killed by return fire, Monffort was the first Veracruzano to fall during the fighting. Shooting quickly intensified on both sides.
The Mexicans immediately targeted the navy signalmen on the roof of the Terminal Hotel. Captain Rush, realizing the danger to these men but unwilling to lose communications with the flagship, sent a Marine rifle squad up to the roof for protection. The first Marine to step into the open, Private Daniel Aloysius Haggerty of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was mortally wounded by a bullet through his stomach, becoming the first U.S. serviceman killed at Veracruz since 1847.
With rumors of a large force of well-armed Mexican regulars in the area, Captain Rush urgently signaled for reinforcements. Utah had been recalled from its search for Ypiranga, and Admiral Fletcher now ordered the battleship to steam closer to shore and disembark its battalion. Ypiranga arrived early in the afternoon. Due to the fighting ashore, Utah directed the liner to anchor in the outer harbor.
In the sprawling Naval Academy building, midshipmen barricaded themselves behind mattresses and furniture. Joined by regulars from the nearby Artillery Barracks, they were soon pouring a hot fire into the Americans from second-story windows.
Three armed U.S. Navy steam launches raced through the harbor, answering the shooting from the Naval Academy and drawing fire on themselves. At this, Prairie opened fire over the U.S. launches with its three-inch guns, temporarily silencing the firing from that part of the city. The American fire killed one of the Mexican midshipmen in the Naval Academy, 17-year-old Virgilio Uribe.
On a street corner near the Naval Academy, 18-year-old Lieutenant of Naval Artillery José Azueta (son of the commandant of the Naval Academy, Commodore Manuel Azueta) led a squad of men in setting up a machine gun and opening fire on the advancing Americans. From a corner near the customs house, seamen from Florida fired back at Lieutenant Azueta’s squad, mortally wounding the young officer. Azueta’s men retreated into the Naval Academy, carrying their unconscious leader with them.
Anxious to prevent additional casualties among his men, Admiral Fletcher sent his chief of staff ashore to find Consul Canada and ask him to attempt to arrange an armistice with the Mexican military authorities in the city. Shortly before 4 P.M., Fletcher cabled his first report of the landing to Washington, including word of U.S. casualties and the arrival of Ypiranga.
President Wilson, stunned by the news. said to his secretary, Joseph Tumulty, “I cannot forget that it was I who had to order those young men to their deaths.”
Unsuccessful in his efforts to locate any Mexican officials, and concerned about the potential for more casualties by pushing his forces farther into the city, Admiral Fletcher decided to hold the landing party in its current positions and remain on the defensive overnight. Unbeknown to the Americans, General Maass, obeying instructions received from Mexico City that evening, ordered his forces to withdraw to Tejería, a village about ten miles west of Veracruz. With no reliable means of communication, not all of the scattered groups of Mexican fighters received—or chose to obey— Maass’ orders to pull back.
At 9 P.M., the cruiser San Francisco arrived from Tampico and anchored in the inner harbor near Prairie, immediately landing two companies of seamen to reinforce Captain Rush. Shortly after midnight, the cruiser Chester also arrived from Tampico and sent a mixed force of Marines and bluejackets ashore.
Five battleships of the Atlantic Fleet under Admiral Badger arrived at 2 A.M. and anchored in the outer harbor. Admiral Fletcher proceeded aboard the flagship Arkansas, where Badger informed him that command of the U.S. operations ashore would remain in Fletcher’s hands. The decision was then made to immediately land Marines and sailors from Arkansas, Vermont, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and New Jersey to strengthen those units already ashore. These fresh reinforcements began arriving at Pier Four shortly after 4 A.M., and continued to disembark for the next three and a half hours, sometimes under scattered sniper fire.
At 8:30 on the morning of Wednesday, April 22, Captain Rush signaled the flagship, “Advance begun. Please shell military positions.” By this time, the American force ashore was approaching 1,400 marines and 2,600 navy personnel.
As the reinforced marines resumed their advance through the streets near Avenida Independencia, they were met by heavy fire from multiple buildings. Sweeping the streets with machine guns, these hardened veterans advanced slowly and methodically, entering every house in every block, clearing the buildings and dispatching any snipers found on the rooftops. There was reluctance to take prisoners any Mexican possessing a firearm was likely to be killed on the spot. On two occasions, groups of 15 and 30 suspected Mexican snipers were reportedly executed by U.S. forces.
Navy units simultaneously advanced south along the waterfront on the Marines’ left flank. The 2nd Seaman Regiment was led by Spanish-American War veteran Captain E.A. Anderson, commanding officer of the battleship New Hampshire. Captain Anderson had been assured that the area assigned to his regiment had been previously cleared of snipers. Accordingly, he ignored suggestions to send scouts out ahead of his men, and to advance them in open skirmishing order rather than in marching formation. As if on a drill field, the navy units turned west into the city. Marching in the open down the middle of Calle Francisco Canal, they were suddenly and unexpectedly hit by a withering Mexican fire from machine guns, rifles and one-pounder artillery. With men hit and falling, the sailors ran back toward the waterfront and collided with the advancing seaman battalion from South Carolina, adding to the chaos.
From his new command post on Prairie, Admiral Fletcher witnessed the situation ashore and ordered Chester, Prairie, and San Francisco to open fire with their 3-, 4-, and 5- inch guns, over the heads of the navy units. Mexican firing from the Naval Academy, old Fort Santiago, the area around the Artillery Barracks, and other buildings near the waterfront was quickly silenced.
Protected by the fleet’s guns, Captain Anderson re-formed his command, and the advance continued—this time supported by a number of 3-inch fieldpieces, and with the men in skirmishing order. After occupying the badly shot-up Naval Academy and Artillery Barracks, the seamen pushed on into the city.
As the morning wore on, the battleships Minnesota and Michigan, along with the transport Hancock and the hospital ship Solace, joined other U.S. Navy vessels in the harbor. By noon, the main area of the city, the electric power plant, and the local drinking water pumping stations were occupied by American forces and the heaviest fighting was over. Consul Canada reported that the city center “presented a gruesome sight, as many dead Mexicans were still lying on the sidewalks.” Once the fighting died down, the Americans consolidated their positions, fortifying the approaches to Veracruz against any potential counterattack by Mexican federal troops.
When wounded Mexicans were located, they were transported to local hospitals. Learning that Commodore Azueta’s son lay gravely wounded at a makeshift hospital in the home of Dr. Rafael Cuervo, Admiral Fletcher offered the medical services of the Atlantic Fleet’s surgeons, but the young lieutenant refused to be attended to by the “enemies of his homeland.” He died of his wounds on May 10, and his coffin was accompanied to the municipal cemetery by 5,000 mourners.
Initial reports in the United States stressed the fact that it was the Mexicans who had started shooting first in Veracruz, and that no Mexican noncombatants had been killed or injured. In fact, most of the Mexican casualties were civilian. Total Mexican casualties resulting from the U.S. landing at Veracruz were never accurately determined, but included at least 200 killed and another 300 wounded. Because of the heat and humidity, along with the presence of vultures and scavenging dogs, unclaimed Mexican bodies were hastily collected and buried in mass graves, or simply placed on stacks of railroad ties, doused with oil, and burned.
On the American side, 13 sailors and four Marines were killed. Two other wounded sailors later died on board Solace. Another 60 sailors and 12 Marines received injuries ranging from minor flesh wounds to those serious enough to require amputation.
The nineteen U.S. servicemen killed at Veracruz represented a cross section of America. There were boys from big cities like Boston and from small towns like Blakesburg, Iowa. Thirteen of the 19 were 22 or younger.
When the armored cruiser Montana brought the bodies of the dead home in May, entire cities shut down for funeral parades and services attended by politicians and thousands of everyday Americans. An estimated million people lined the parade route in New York. In a eulogy delivered in New York that day, President Wilson stated that “We have gone down to Mexico to serve mankind….A war of aggression is not a war in which it is a proud thing to die, but a war of service is….” He made no mention of Tampico or Ypiranga and her deadly cargo.
On May 27, Ypiranga steamed into Puerto México (today called Coatzacoalcos), just 145 miles south along the Gulf Coast from Veracruz. The ship discharged its once controversial cargo there without incident, and it was loaded onto waiting federal trains bound for Mexico City.
Ironically, two days later The New York Times reported that Ypiranga’s machine gun cargo had been made in the United States. To circumvent the U.S. prohibition against selling arms to Mexico, these Colt machine guns had been shipped first to Germany and re-shipped to Mexico.
After isolated instances of continued sniping on the night of April 24, and when Mexican federal and state officials at Veracruz refused to reassume their duties under an American occupation of the city, Admiral Fletcher formally declared martial law. The U.S. flag was hoisted over American headquarters at the Terminal Hotel during a ceremony on April 27. Troops of the U.S. Army’s 5th Reinforced Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Frederick Funston arrived in transports from Galveston and disembarked on April 30. Although most of the marines remained at Veracruz under temporary control of the army, the naval brigades returned to their ships on the afternoon of April 30, following a formal change-of-command ceremony and a review parade.
The soldiers and Marines remained in occupation of Veracruz for another seven long, monotonous months. During that time war correspondents, including Richard Harding Davis and Jack London, came and went, while the troops—along with many American newspaper editors, politicians, and citizens—complained about the “war that was not a war” and clamored for a “real” invasion of Mexico.
But President Wilson held back. After the fall of Tampico in May, and with Constitutionalist armies closing in on Mexico City, President Huerta resigned in July. Fleeing to Puerto México, he sailed into exile on board the German cruiser Dresden. Just a few weeks earlier the world had learned of the assassination at Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a young Bosnian Serb anarchist. Within another few weeks the world’s attention had shifted to the war in Europe.
At Veracruz, the 6,000 American troops and marines were kept busy cleaning up, maintaining, and administering the city. Ongoing negotiations between the U.S. State Department and the new head of the Mexican government, “First Chief” Venustiano Carranza, eventually resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Veracruz on November 23, 1914. Later that same day, Constitutionalist forces led by General Cándido Aguilar entered and took possession of the city.
Today the 1914 U.S. seizure and occupation of Veracruz does not even command a footnote in most American history texts, but the same is not true in Mexico. Always considerate and hospitable, most Veracruzanos are reluctant to discuss the events of 1914 with visitors from the United States. But Lieutenant Azueta and Midshipman Uribe occupy honored places in Mexican memory, and each April in Veracruz solemn ceremonies mark the anniversary of the 1914 Invasión Yanqui.
Originally published in the Autumn 2007 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here.
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