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Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, usually just called Veracruz State, is the site of the first landing of Cortez on his conquest of Mexico. Because of its long tradition the state is home to several amazing colonial towns. The state is located in the middle section of the country along the gulf coast and enjoys a hot and humid climate. The state is located in Eastern Mexico. It is bordered by the states of Tamaulipas to the north, San Luis Potosí and Hidalgo to the west, Puebla to the southwest, Oaxaca and Chiapas to the south, and Tabasco to the southeast. On its east, Veracruz has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. The state is noted for its mixed ethnic and indigenous populations. Its cuisine reflects the many cultural influences that have come through the state because of the importance of the port of Veracruz.
The natural geography can be categoried into nine regions: The Sierra de Zongolica, the Tecolutla Region, the Huayacocotla Region, the Metlac River area, the Tuxtlas Region, the Central Region, the Laguna del Castillo Region, the Pueblo Viejo-Tamiahua Region and the Laguna de Alvarado Region. The topography changes drastically, rising from the narrow coastal plains to the highlands of the eastern Sierra Madre. Elevation varies from sea level to the Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest peak at 5,636 metres above sea level. The coast consists of low sandy strips interspersed with tidewater streams and lagoons. Most of the long coastline is narrow and sandy with unstable dunes, small shifting lagoons and points. The mountains are of the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Mountain ranges include the Sierra de Topila, Sierra de Otontepec, Sierra de Huayacocotla, Sierra de Coxquihui, Sierra de Chiconquiaco, Sierra de Jalacingo, Sierra de Axocuapan, Sierra de Huatusco, Sierra de Zongolica and the Sierra de Los Tuxtla. Major peaks include Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m (18,490.8 ft)), Cofre de Perote (4,282 metres), Cerro de Tecomates (3,227 metres), Cerro del Vigía Alta (3,055 metres) and Cerro de 3 Tortas (2,997 metres). The Pico de Orizaba is covered in snow year round; the Cofre de Perote is covered in winter. Major valleys include the Acultzingo, Córdoba, Maltrata, Orizaba and San Andrés.
More than 40 rivers and tributaries provide water for irrigation and hydroelectric power; they also carry rich silt down from the eroding highlands, which is deposited in the valleys and coastal areas. All of the rivers and streams that cross the state begin in the Sierra Madre Oriental or in the Central Mesa, flowing east to the Gulf of Mexico. The important ones include: Actopan River, Acuatempan river, Río Blanco, Cazones River, Coatzacoalcos River, Río de La Antigua, Hueyapan River, Jamapa River, Nautla River, Pánuco River, Papaloapan River, Tecolutla River, Tonalá River, Tuxpan River and Xoloapa River. The largest in terms of water discharge are the Pánuco, Tuxpan, Papaloapan, Coazocoalcos and Uxpanapa. The Panuco, Tuxpan, Papaloapan and Coatzacoalcos are navigable. Two of Mexico's most polluted rivers, the Coatzacoalcos and the Río Blanco are located in the state. Much of the pollution comes from industrial sources, but the discharge of sewerage and uncontrolled garbage disposal are also major contributors. The state has very few sewage treatment plants, with only 10% of sewage being treated before discharge.
The state also has ten major waterfalls and ten major coastal lagoons. There is only one significant lake, called Lake Catemaco. Off the coast are the islands of Isla de Lobos, Isla de los Burros, Isla de Sacrificios, Isla de Salmendina, Isla del Idolo, Isladel Toro, Isla Frijoles, Isla Juan A Ramirez, Isla Pajaros and Isla Terrón and the ocean reefs called Blanquilla, Medio, Tangüillo, Tuxpan, Gualleguilla, Gallega, Anegada de Adento Anegada de Afuera and Cabezo.
Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexico where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.
The large variation of altitude results in a large mixture of climates, from cold, snow-topped mountain peaks to warm wet tropical areas on the coast. 32% of the state is classified as hot and humid, 52% as hot and semi humid, 9% is warm and humid, 6% as temperate and humid and 1% is classified as cold. Hot and humid and hot and semi-humid climates dominate from sea level to about 1,000 metres above sea level. Average annual temperature ranges from 22 to 26 °C with precipitation varying from 2,000 mm to just over 3,500 mm per year. Cooler and humid climates are found at elevations between 1,000 and 1,600 metres. These have an average temperature of between 18 and 22 °C with precipitation varying between 2,000 and 2,500 mm. Temperate climates are found at higher altitudes, between 1,600 and 2,800 metres. Temperatures here vary from 12 to 18 °C with precipitation varying more, between 500 and 2,500 mm. Cold climates are found at the highest elevations, reaching up to the Cofre de Perote and the Pico de Orizaba. There is a small semi arid region around the city of Perote and the west of the Huasteca area. This is due to a rain shadow caused by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and the Sierra Madre Oriental, which do not permit the flow of moist Gulf air to this region.
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