Michoacán mēchōäkän´ [key], state (1990 pop. 3,548,199), 23,202 sq mi (60,093 sq km), S Mexico. Morelia is the capital. Dominated by the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the volcanic chain of central Mexico, Michoacán extends from the Pacific Ocean northeastward into the central plateau. The Lerma River and Lake Chapala form part of its northern boundary with Jalisco; the Río de las Balsas marks the southern border with Guerrero. The climate and soil variations caused by topography and varying elevation make Michoacán a diverse agricultural state, producing temperate and tropical cereals, fruits, and vegetables. The forests yield fine cabinet woods and dyewoods. Mining is a leading industry; gold and silver are most important, but iron, coal, and zinc are also major minerals. Industrial development is modest, centering around iron and steel production. Michoacán, having no important Pacific port, ships its products from the cities of Morelia and Uruapan. Federally sponsored irrigation and hydroelectric power projects have aimed at developing the coastal region, and a reforestation program was instituted in the mountains in the 1990s, where (along the Mexico state border) monarch butterflies overwinter. Lake Pátzcuaro (where UNESCO and the Organization of American States have a training center for Latin American rural teachers) and the Paricutín volcano attract many tourists. Most of the state's inhabitants are native Tarascans; in recent years the state has seen a large outmigration to the United States. Michoacán played a leading role in Mexico's revolution against Spain and in subsequent struggles. In the early 21st cent., the state was the scene of drug-related violence and of anti-drug-cartel vigilante movements.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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