This white confection includes a long sleeveless undergarment beneath the full-skirted lace gown with a contrasting black flowered apron. An ornate fan hangs from the neck, the traditional rebozo circles the wrists, and red and white blossoms are fixed in the hair to the left side, meaning this lady is married. If worn on the right, she's single.
Veracruz, which curves along the coast on the Gulf of Mexico, is a major international port, producing and exporting sugarcane, oranges, and one of the world's favorite flowers - vanilla.
In the picturesque village of Papantla, climbing orchids grow attached to trees, taking nutrition from the air. Their exotic flowers die in just a day, but the pods (the orchid's fruit) take four to nine months to ripen, turn black (the Mexicas call the plant tlixochitl, black flower) and eventually produce tiny crystals containing the delicious familiar flavor. Artisan's carve the remaining pods into animal figures used to perfume clothing in closets and drawers.
The village is also known for the Voladores de Papantla. In front of the local cathedral,, five men perform a mesmerizing ritual, twirling from an 83-foot tall pole to the sounds of flute and drum. The ritual was originally a tribute to the god of sun and rain.
Three different cultures occupied Veracruz simultaneously: the southern Olmecas who thrived long before the Maya; the northern Huastecos, robust inhabitants of the thick forests and rugged mountains of the coastal region; and the central Tepehuas and Totonacos.
Know in ancient times as Totonacapan, they were one of the largest pre-Hispanic civilizations. Evidence of their occupation includes one of Mexico's finest pre-Colombian structures, the seven-level Pyramid of the Niches in Tajin (from the Totonac word for "Thunder"). Many Totonacos have moved to large cities, but more than 200,000 still live in their place of origin, cultivating natural resources and preserving their traditions. Along the Gulf, members of these groups work in the huge sugar mills or cultivate land in the increasingly scarce forest regions.
Like the other southern states, Veracruz has a strong African influence, including many mulattos (people of mixed race). The War of Independence from Spain was fought by Indians, mestizos, and mulattos.
Veracruz's extinct volcano, Pico de Orizaba, is the highest mountain in Mexico, and the third highest in North America at over 18,000 feet. The Aztecs called it Citlaltepetl, or Star Mountain, because the snowy peak looks like a star under a full moon. Since 1979, the region of the San Martin volcano has been a Special Biospheric Reserve, protecting the tropical Sierra de los Tuxtlas' rare flora and fauna, including orchids, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, otters, and one of the most venomous snakes in all Mexico, the nauyaca real.
Did you know...?
The name Veracruz dates back to 1519, when Spanish captain Hernan Cortes landed at the beach of Chalchihuecan. It was Good Friday, also known as the day of the Vera Cruz or true cross. Hernan Cortes founded the settlement of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz and created the first town council in Mexico. The town was built 80 kilometers to the north of the modern day city of Veracruz, near the Totonac community of Quiahuiztlan.