Hernán Cortés arrived in Veracruz on Good Friday (April 21), 1519, and thus began his siege of Mexico. By 1521, he had crushed the Aztec Empire.
Veracruz provided Mexico’s main gateway to the outside world for 400 years. Invaders and pirates, incoming and exiled rulers, settlers, silver and slaves – all came and went, making Veracruz a linchpin in Mexico’s history. In 1567, English sailor Francis Drake survived a massive Spanish sea attack. He continued career as a pirate and never ceased to harass the Spanish. In 1683, vicious Frenchman Laurent de Gaff, with 600 men, held the 5000 inhabitants of Veracruz captive, killing escapees, looting, drinking, and raping. Soon after, they left much richer.
In 1838, General Antonio López fled Veracruz in his underwear under bombardment from a French fleet in the Pastry War. But the general managed to respond heroically, expelling the invaders. When Winfield Scott’s army attacked Veracruz during the Mexican–American War, more than 1000 Mexicans died before the city surrendered.
In 1861 Benito Juárez announced that Mexico couldn’t pay its debts to Spain, France and Britain. The British and Spanish planned only to take over the customhouse, but retreated seeing that Frenchman Napoleon III sought to conquer Mexico. After Napoleon III’s five-year intervention ended, Veracruz experienced revitalization. Mexico’s first railway was built between Veracruz and Mexico City in 1872, and foreign investment poured into the city.
In 1914 US troops occupied Veracruz, halting a delivery of German arms to dictator Victoriano Huerta. Later in the Revolution, Veracruz was briefly the capital of the reformist Constitutionalist faction led by Venustiano Carranza.
Today, Veracruz is an important deep-water port, handling exports, manufacturing, and petrochemical industries. Tourism, particularly from the domestic sector, is another large income earner.