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Orizaba is a city and municipality in the Mexican state of Veracruz. It is located 20 km west of its sister city Cordoba, and is adjacent to Rio Blanco and Ixtaczoquitlan, on Federal Highways 180 and 190. The city had a 2005 census population of 117,273 and is almost coextensive with its small municipality, with only a few small areas outside the city. The municipality's population was 117,289 and it has an area of 27.97 km2 (10.799 sq mi).
The name Orizaba comes from a Hispanized pronunciation of the Nahuatl name Ahuilizapan [awil-lis-a-pan], which means (more or less) "place of playing waters". The town lies at 1200 m. (4000 ft.), at the confluence of the Rio Blanco with several tributaries, including the Rio Orizaba, near the mouth of a large valley heading westward into the eastern Sierra Madre. This location, at the bottom of the ascent into the mountains, is an important transition point along what has been for centuries the main trade route between Mexico City and Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. The climate is generally pleasant, though often cloudy and rainy, and the soil of the Orizaba valley is extraordinarily fertile. Overlooking the valley from the north is the Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltepetl), a volcano that, at 5636 m. (18,490 ft.), is the highest mountain in Mexico and third highest in North America.
In the town of Ixhuatlancillo north of Orizaba, and in a large mountainous area to the south (the Sierra de Zongolica), live many thousands of people who speak a variant of Nahuatl which is often called Orizaba Nahuatl [ ISO code nlv]. The "Palacio de Hierro"
Orizaba was already an important town at the time of the Spanish conquest, and it was in Orizaba that La Malinche, Hernan Cortes's interpreter and mistress, was married to the Spanish gentleman Juan Jaramillo. A plaque in Orizaba commemorates this event.
During the colonial period, Orizaba became an important city. On January 27, 1774, the Spanish king Carlos III conceded town status (villa) to Orizaba, and in November 29, 1830 Orizaba was declared a city.
When Lucas Alaman established, in 1836, the first textile factory (Cocolapan factory) of Orizaba, the city started its economic life as an industrial city.
In 1839 the newspaper La Luz was created and the Veracruz governor Francisco Hernandez y Hernandez gave the name of Veracruz-Llave (remembering the General Ignacio de la Llave, who was born in Orizaba) to this state of Mexico.
On May 8, 1874, Orizaba was declared the capital city of Veracruz, but in 1878 the status was transferred to Xalapa.
During the government of Porfirio Diaz, Orizaba was declared the most educated city in the Mexican province.
The old City Hall El Palacio de Hierro (The Iron Palace) in the centre of the city was designed by Eiffel. Built with 600 tons of Belgium steel, its parts were shipped from Austria during El Porfiriato (the government of Porfirio Diaz), to be built in Orizaba. The palace cost $100,000 pesos (sterling Silver) a very large sum at the time, and it was Don Manuel Carrillo Tablas who not only loaned the money to the city, but also had to pay the additional cost of unloading the palace from the port and having it reassembled at its present location "the Plaza de Armas". Unfortunately Don Manuel Carrillo Tablas died New Years Eve of 1899 without ever having received a cent from the city for his loan. He was a very charitable man though, having donated the land where the present Cathedral of Orizaba now stands as well as the adjacent shopping center known as "El Mercado." El Palacio de Hierro served as the City Hall until the city felt it was not large enough for the growing needs of the local government and therefore moved to its present location.
Partial view of the city of Orizaba.
Orizaba has an important industrial life. There is, for example, the Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma company (a brewery), which was established in 1896 in Orizaba.
In the late years of Porfirio Diaz' Government, two important workers strikes occurred, those of Cananea and Rio Blanco, the latter taking place in Orizaba and being an important prelude to the Mexican Revolution.