Mexican StateThe state of Tamaulipas is bounded on the north by the USA (Texas), on the west by Nuevo León and on the south by San Luis Potosí and Veracruz. The eastern edge of the state is the Gulf of Mexico with its wide beaches and many lagoons, while the western part is characterised by mountain ranges belonging to the eastern Sierra Madre and tropical valleys. The northern part of the state consists mainly of broad arid plains. Today the southern part of Tamaulipas is still populated predominantly by Huastec Indians.HistoryIn the very early history of the present-day state of Tamaulipas ("High Mountain") there were only nomads crossing through the territory. Later individual tribes settled here and as early as 1100 BC a ceramics-based civilisation had developed here, which is generally supposed to be that of the Huastecs. The first phases of this formative period have been called Pavón, Ponce and Aguilar (up to 350 BC) and the later pre-Classic, Classic and post-Classic Pánuco I to V. Whence and when the Huastecs really arrived in the area is not known with any certainty. It is thought that they migrated from the southern Gulf coast, which was probably the cradle of Meso-American civilisation. The fact that their language belongs to the Maya group, and that other external similarities are apparent, has led experts to conclude that they are in fact a Maya tribe which had wandered a long way from its original home. The tribe inhabits an area extending from Tamaulipas across parts of San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, Querétaro and the north of Veracruz.The Huastecs have had a considerable influence on the civilisations of the Mexican highlands and the whole of the north of the country during the course of their long history. Early on, there were cultural exchanges with Teotihuacán which persisted for many years. According to a chronicle the Huastecs are later supposed to have taken part in the dynastic struggles in Tula (Tollán), which finally led to the downfall of the Toltec empire. It is thought that the Huastecs' influence in the north even extended as far as the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. In the end the Aztecs forced them to pay tribute at the end of the 15th c., although they were not subjugated. Other peoples, including eventually the Aztecs (Mexica), adopted some of the Huastecs' gods, such as Quetzalcóatl as the wind god Ehécatl, Xipe Tótec, the "broken god" as a symbol of renewal and Xochiquétzal, the goddess of love and flowers. Although their cultural achievements cannot compare with those of the Mayas to the south, they have bequeathed much of interest to posterity. A high level of invention and artistry is apparent not only in their fine clay figures and large stone statues of priests and noblemen but also their metalwork, and craftwork involving shells and semi-precious stones. Huastec architecture is characterised by circular and conical buildings.When the Spanish arrived in the region they found no united Huastec empire but instead a large number of small "domains" which defended themselves implacably against the invaders. Hernández de Córdoba and Juan Grijalva arrived first in 1518, but it was Francisco da Garay, Hernán Cortés and Gonzalo de Sandoval who succeeded in subduing the area between 1521 and 1526. The province was then administered by Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, under whose harsh rule a lucrative slave trade was set up between Huasteca and the West Indies.In more recent times the fortunes of the region have tended to follow those of its largest port, Tampico.EconomyThe ports on the Gulf coast and the border with the United States (Texas) have made the state one of the most economically vibrant in Mexico. Oil and its exploitation are at the main focus of this activity, followed by the farming of cotton, maize and sorghum (a kind of cereal). Cattle-rearing and fishing are also important. Recently, processing industries in the frontier areas have developed at a staggering rate.SitesThe following large towns are important as ports, trans-shipment centres, or new industrial and agricultural centres: Tampico, Matamoros (12 m (39 ft); population 500,000), Reynosa (37 m (121 ft); population 450,000), Nuevo Laredo (171 m (561 ft); population 350,000) and the state capital, Ciudad Victoria (altitude: 321 m (1053 ft); population 300,000).