Nayarit näyärēt´ [key], state (1990 pop. 824,643), 10,547 sq mi (27,317 sq km), W Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean. Tepic is the capital. Mostly wild and rugged, Nayarit is broken by western spurs of the Sierra Madre Occidental. In the northeast are broad, tropical plains watered by the Santiago River, a continuation of the Lerma. Nayarit has two volcanoes, Ceboruco and Sangangüey. The volcanic soil, heavy rains, and altitude variations permit the cultivation of a variety of products of tropical and temperate agriculture—grain, sugarcane, cotton, coffee, and tobacco. Cattle raising is also important. Forest wealth, little exploited in the past, is rapidly being developed. With large deposits of lead, copper, silver, and gold, mining is a significant part of the state's economy. The coastal swamps are noted bird refuges. The Nayarit region was known to the Spanish early in the 16th cent., and one of its towns, Compostela (near Tepic), was the first capital of Nueva Galicia . Spain did not finally conquer the area until the early 17th cent. Shortly afterward, Nayarit became a dependency of Guadalajara and, upon Mexican independence, part of Jalisco. Continued turbulence led to Nayarit's separation as a territory in 1884; it became a state in 1917. The name Nayarit is given to pre-Columbian clay figurines that are found in the vicinity.
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