Veracruz (vāräkrōsˈ) [key] [Span., = true cross], officially Veracruz Llave vāräkrōsˈ yäˈbā, state (1990 pop. 6,228,239), 27,759 sq mi (71,896 sq km), E central Mexico. The capital is Xalapa. Stretching c.430 mi (690 km) along the Gulf of Mexico and reaching from 30 to 100 mi (48–161 km) inland, Veracruz rises from a tropical coastal plain into the temperate valleys and highlands of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The state shares with neighboring Puebla the highest peak in Mexico, Citlaltépetl. Most of central Veracruz is mountainous. The few navigable rivers are the Coatzacoalcos, Papáloapan, Pánuco, and Tamesí. Abundant rainfall and extremely fertile soil permit the cultivation of numerous crops. The state is a leading national producer of coffee, sugarcane, corn, and rice, and produces a wide variety of other crops. Cattle raising is practiced in the semitropical and temperate zones. From the tropical forests come dyewoods and hardwoods, chicle, and rubber, and in the colder regions maguey, various cacti, and coniferous forests are found. The state's principal natural resource and dominant industry is oil. The mountains contain relatively unexploited deposits of gold, silver, iron, and coal. Veracruz ranks high in the production of foods and beverages, as well as chemical manufacturing and metalworking. In ancient times the area was a hub of pre-Columbian civilizations, including the Olmecs, the Huastecs, and the Remojadas. Some groups were tributary to the Aztecs by the time Juan de Grijalva explored the coast in 1518. Veracruz became a state in 1824. Major cities, besides the capital, include Veracruz, Córdoba, and Coatzacoalcos.