Sonora, State (1990 pop. 1,823,606), 70,484 sq mi (182,554 sq km), NW Mexico, on the Gulf of California, S of Arizona. Hermosillo is the capital. Sonora is mostly mountainous, with vast desert stretches; along the gulf are low, broad coastlands. Reclamation projects on the Yaqui, Sonora, Mayo, and other rivers have opened large areas to agriculture. The most extensively irrigated of all Mexican states, Sonora is a leading national producer of cotton and wheat; other cereals and vegetables are also grown.
Agriculture is highly mechanized. Cattle raising and fishing and aquaculture are important, and large quantities of shrimp are exported to the United States. Gold, silver, copper, and other metals are mined in Sonora. Power plants at Hermosillo and Guaymas have aided Sonora’s rapid industrialization. Food processing and textile and automotive manufacturing are major industries, and numerous maquiladoras, low-cost foreign-owned plants which finish products for export to the United States, exist throughout the region. Nogales is the chief point of entry from the United States. Systematic Spanish exploration of Sonora, principally by Cristóbal de Oñate, began after Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s expedition in 1540. Spanish missionaries, notably Eusebio Francisco Kino, were active in colonizing the territory during the 17th cent. Originally part of Nueva Viscaya, which also included the present-day states of Chihuahua and Durango, Sonora was later united with Sinaloa; they became separate states in 1830. Sonora played a key role in the Mexican revolution against Porfirio Díaz that began in 1910.
Main articles: indigenous peoples of the Americas and Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas
The archeological evidence suggests that Sonora area of Mesoamerica had permanent Paleo-Indian settlements as far back as 1500 BC. in the Sonoran Desert. The largest known indigenous cultures were of the Yaqui and the Mayo peoples. They flourished around AD 1300 and established settled agricultural communities. Both groups defended their communities and territories against nomadic tribes who traveled through their region. The Yaqui people inhabited the eastern part of Sonora near Mar de Cortés. The Mayo tribe lived primarily in the southern part of the state and established an important cultural center in what is now the city of Guaymas.
Main Article: Spanish colonization of the Americas
In 1531, Spanish conquistador Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán founded the city of San Miguel de Culiacán in the region that would eventually become Sinaloa and Sonora. Using the city as a central base, the Spanish launched excursions throughout the area to locate mineral deposits and establish new colonies.
Conquistador Diego Guzmán entered what is now Sonora in 1533. Encountering resistance from combined Yaqui and Mayo forces, he quickly abandoned the region. In 1536, Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and three companions passed through the region on foot in search of new wealth for Spain.
In 1599, Captain Diego de Hurdaide established San Felipe y Santiago on the site of the modern city of Sinaloa and launched a military campaign that subjugated many indigenous tribes, including the Sinaloa, Tehueco, Zuaque and Ahome people. In the 1687 the Jesuit missionaries, led by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, arrived in the Pimería Alta (upper land of the Pimas) and were given the responsibility to establish the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert. The missions were to convert in reductions the indigenous residents to Roman Catholicism and encouraged the assimilation of Spanish culture. However, clashes between the Spanish and the Yaquí and other tribes continued throughout the 17th century.