Nuevo León (nwāˈvō lāōnˈ) [key], state (1990 pop. 3,098,736), 25,136 sq mi (65,102 sq km), N Mexico. Monterrey is the capital. The southern and western parts of the state are traversed by the Sierra Madre Oriental, but some of the extreme western portions lie within the vast, semiarid basin lands of N Mexico, which are cultivable under irrigation. Much of the north is arid cactus country, but to the east, where the plains sweep down toward the lowlands of Tamaulipas and are crossed by several large rivers, the land is suitable for agriculture. Grains and citrus fruits are grown. Nuevo León has an extremely diversified industrial structure which includes oil refining and extensive heavy and light manufacturing. The growth of maquiladoras, foreign-owned industrial plants that produce U.S. exported goods, has become prevalent. The area is also a leading national producer of iron, steel, and chemicals. Road and rail connections within the state are excellent, and Nuevo León enjoys one of the highest living standards in Mexico. The area was explored and settled by the Spanish in the late 16th cent. Nuevo León became a state in 1824. It was occupied by U.S. troops during the Mexican War, amid fierce resistance.