Tabasco täbäs´kō [key], state (1990 pop. 1,501,744), 9,783 sq mi (25,338 sq km), E Mexico, on the Gulf of Campeche. Villahermosa is the capital. Tabasco is predominantly a tropical plain, once densely forested, that is broken by numerous rivers, swamps, and lagoons. The climate is sultry, and rainfall in some areas exceeds 200 in. (508 cm) annually. The state is subject to severe flooding, most recently in 1999 and in 2007, when waters inundated more than three fourths of the state, destroying the state's crops and affecting more than 1 million people. Although Tabasco has modern roads and railways, rivers (especially the Grijalva and the Usumacinta) are still used for travel and transport. Tropical agriculture (bananas, cacao, sugarcane, hardwoods, and fruits) and cattle raising were the leading economic activities, but rich oil fields discovered along the coast have become Tabasco's economic mainstay. The area, first explored by the Spanish in 1518, was conquered in 1530 by Francisco de Montejo. During the 17th and early 18th cent., Tabasco was contested between Spain and England. From 1921 to 1935 it was the virtual fiefdom of the caudillo Tomás Garrido Canabal.
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