Veracruz is the largest city in the Mexican state of Veracruz, located 105 kilometers (65 miles) along federal highway 140 from the state capital of Jalapa. It is often referred to as Puerto de Veracruz or Veracruz Ciudad to distinguish it from the state; it is also known as Veracruz Llave. In 2000 the city had a population of about 500,000.
The sea port was founded by Hernan Cortes, who first landed here in 1519 at the start of his quest to conquer Mexico for Spain. It was named La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz ("The Rich Town of the Holy Cross"). It was the main port of New Spain. The port was harassed by hostile powers and by pirates; pirate bands succeeded in pillaging the city in 1653 and in 1712. In response to such dangers the large fortress of San Juan de Ulua was built on an island in the harbor, beginning in 1565 and substanitally expanded several times later.
Veracruz is the largest city and most important port on Mexico's east coast. A natural harbor, Veracruz has been fought over throughout its history, and boasts the title "Four Times Heroic" in reference to the expulsion of the Spanish in 1815, the 1838 expulsion of the French Navy in the Pastry War, and resistance to the United States's occupations of 1847 and 1914.
During the Mexican-American War, US forces led by General Winfield Scott took the city on March 29, 1847 after a siege. It was caputred by France in 1838 and again in 1861. In 1914 it was occupied by the United States for 7 months.
The malecón walk along the harbor draws many tourists, more from within Mexico than internationally.