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Dante Morn-Zenteno
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mxico (U.N.A.M.)

J. Urrutia Fucugauchi
G. Silva Romo
C. Caballero Miranda


From U.N.A.M.:

E. Cabral Cano
S. Alarcoa Parra
G. Mora Alvarez
S. Campos

From Instituto Naconal de Estadistica, Geografa e Informatca (INEGI):

J. Alvaro lruretagoyena
E. Campos Madrigal
J. Lus Moreno
J. Urbe Luna
J. Olivera


and with additional annotated bibliography by

James Lee Wilson


Luis Sanchez-Barreda

AAPG Studies in Geology #39

Published by

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists


Printed in the USA.

Translation of: Geologa de la Repblica Mexicana

First Spanish edition, 1984, copublished by INEGI & UNAM
Second Spanish edition, 1985
First Spanish reprinting 1990
First English edition 1994, by the AAPG
AH Rights Reserved
ISBN: 0-89181-047-1

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Association Editor: Kevin T. Biddle

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Publications Manager: Cathleen P. Williams
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Production: Custom Editorial Productions, lnc., Cincinnati, Ohio

On the cover: Canyon of Sumidero, incised in the Lower and middle Cretaceous Sierra Ma.dre
Limestone near Iuxtla Gutirrez, State of Chiapas, southern Mexico. Photo by R. K.
Goldhammer, Exxon E&P Research. Inset photo shows the Middle Cupido Formation in
Cortinas Canyon, Sierra Madre Oriental.

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About the Author

Dante J. Morn-Zenteno has been a research scientist at the Geophysics Inshtute

of the National University of Mexico (UNAM) since 1992. He spent eight years
working in the geoIogical mapping program of the NationaI Institute of Statistics,
Geography and Information Technology (INEGI). During this time he preplred
most of the present book. Since 1984 he has participated in research projects of
the Geophysics lnstitute dealing with the tectonic structure and paJeogeographic
evolution of southern Mexico. As part of these projects, he has applied paleomag
netic and isotope geochemical analyses to the study of the tectonic evolution of
the southwestern continental margin of Mexico. Since 1983 he has been lecturing
on geology at the Engineering Flculty of UNAM. From 1988 to 1990 he was at the
University of Munich, in Germany, carrying out isotope analyses of Mexican
rocks In 1992 he received his Ph.D.

About the Translators

James Lee WiIson was born in Waxahatchie, Texas, 1nd raised in Houston. He
attended Rice University and the University of Texas at Aushn, where he received
his B.A. and M.A. degrees. He received his Ph.D. fram Yale University in 1949.
Jim Wilson was a field geologist in the Rocky Mountains, Associate Professor at
the University of Texas at Austin, and from 1953 to 1966 worked as a research geol
ogist for Shell Development Company in Houston. During this period he spent
three years in the Netherlands working on Mesozoic geology of the Middle East.
In 1966 Jim returned to academia as Professor of Geology at Rice University;
he joined the University of Michigan in 1979. In 1975 he completed l book,
Carbonate Facies in Geologic History (Springer- VerJagl. Jim was President of sEPM
in 1975-1976, became an Honorary member in 1980, lnd was elected an
Honorary member of AAPG in 1987. In 1990 he received the Twenhofel Medal
from SEPM. He has participated in carbonate field lnd lecture courses 'with the
Laboratory of Comparative Sedimentation of Miami Unjversity, Florida; with
ERICO of London; the University of Houston; AAPG; and MASERA Corp. of
Tulsa, Oklahoma. His field experience ineludes work in Mexico, New Mexico,
North Africa, the I~ocky Mountains, the Austroalpine area, and the Middle East.
Jim is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and adjunct
Professor at Rice University in Houston. He resides in New Braunfels, Texas. As
a consultant, he is working on the geology of Mexico and is involved in a world
wide study of carbonate platforms.
Luis A. Sanchez-Barreda is currently senior consultlnt for Barreda and
Associates, Navasota, Texas. He received his B.5. degree in Oceanography in 1972
from the University of Baja California and in 1976 an M.A. degree in geology
from Rice University. He began his career as l field geologist in Libya and Spain.
After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981, he
worked as an explofltionist for Pecten lnternational (Shell Oil Company). In 1987
he left Pecten to fome his own consulting company. Luis has more than 20 years
of geologic experience working in Mexico, and presently specializes in frontier
exploration throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
His main areas of interest focus on seismic/structural interpretation of sub
Andean, forearc, and passive margin basins of Latin America.

Table of Contents



Section 1

The Geology of the Mexican Republic


1. GeoJogy of the Northwest Region of Mexico


Geology oi the Northern and Northeastern Regons of Mexico


3. Geology oi the Central Regon oi Mexco


4. Geology of the Southeastern Regon oi Mexico


Section II

The Bibliography of Mexicln Geology, 1983-1993

Introducton to the Bibliography oi Mexican Geology, 1983-1993


1. Stratgraphic and PaleontoJogic Studes,

Structural Controls of Sedmentation



Plate Tectoncs, Paleomagnetic Studies,

and Regional Structural Terrane Studies




3. Mineral Resources, Studies oi Igneous Metamorphic Rocks,

Neovolcanic lnvestgatons, Basement Studes, and Age Dating


4. Petroleum and Gas, Structure and Mapping, Engineering and

Environmental Geology, Hydrology, and Remote Sensing



translation. We are also grateful to the Instituto

Nacional de Estadstica, Geografa, e Informtica
(INEGI) for permission to publish this version, which
is complete except for outcrop photos whose originals
were lost after a move of lNEGI heildquarters from
Mexico City to Aguascalientes.
The geological map at the scale of 1/1,000,000
(eio-ht sheets) that accompanies the original text
sh~ws the general features of the geologic struch.ue of
the country, treating not only the different types of
rocks that outcrop at the surface, but also the geologic
times in which they were formed, i.e. their relative
positions within the stratigraphic column.
However, the geological map a t 1/1,000,000 scale
described aboye has been recently superceded by a
map of 1/2,000,000 scale that includes important
changes, particularly in southern Mex1co. Th1S map lS
accompanied by text describing the vanous forma
tions in the nltion. For this reason the appendix of the
original work, "Methodology of Formulation of the
Geologic Mlp at a Scale of 1/1,000,000," has not been
inc1uded in the English translation.
A fairly complete and briefly annotated bibliogra
phy of Mexican geology from 1983 to 1993 has been
added to update the original text references and com
prises Section 11 of this publica tion.

The N<ltionallnstitute of Statistics, Geography, and
Technical Inforrnation Technology ClNEGI) and the
Faculty of Engineering of the National Autonomolls
University of Mexico offer this work as l joint effort
to contribute to knowledge of the geology of Mexico,
employing the new concepts rellted to the dynamics
of the earth and as a step toward the teachmg and fur
ther development of professionals in Elrth Science.
This volume collects and interprets a large part of
the information gathered during more than 15 years
of geological mapping by the General Directory of
Geogrlphy and forms l compendium of scienhfic
contributions related to the Geology of MexiCo, many
of which result from research investigations within
the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Even though ten yelrs old, Dante Morn-Zenteno's
summary of the Geology of the Mexican Republic
remains the most complete report of this very l1fge,
structurally complex, and economicllly important
area thlt forms the southwestern margin of the North
American craton. Because Morn-Zenteno's work was
in Spanish only, it has not become wen known north
of the border. Zoltan De Cserna's excellent 32-page
Outline of the Geology of Mexico (1989, DNAG
Volume A) was until this point the only other good
general descri ption of Mexican geology in English.
The translators have attempted to render an accurate
and readable English text while retaining some of the
use of passive voice and indirect style of the elegant
Spanish langulge.
The translators and tILe American Association of
Petroleum Geologists are grateful to Dr. Dante
Morn-Zenteno for his work and for rus review of the

DI. James Lee Wilson

Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
and Adjunct Professor, Rice University,
Houston, Texas, USA

Dr. Luis A. Sanchez-Barreda

Barreda and Associates

Nlvasota, Texas, USA


Section 1

The Geology of the Mexican Republic


Map of the Republic of Mexico showing the regions described in each chapter.

Available knowledge concerning the origin and

geologic stmcture of Mexico is still incomplete. Each
day scientific discoveries, advances jn mapping, and
new techniques of explorabon offer more information
toward the development of our understanding.
Nevertheless, it is still difficult to acheve a complete
description of the geologic character of the territory of
the nabon, as well as to work out functional models to
explain the origin of its geologic structure. Along with
the development of geologic studies that science has
made in Mexico, there have been a few attempts to
fonnulate general works covering the many aspects of
geology that the country presents. Nevertheless, one
must recognize that the lack of informabon about cer

tain periods in the geological history of the national

territory, and the numerous unexplored aTeas, have
constituted sorne princi pal obstacles toward achiev
ing a finshed work of this type.
In reviewing past information, t is worth indicat
ing that in 1896 a somewhat unsettled state of knowl
edge resulted in a work in Spanish enttled A Sketch of
the Geology af Mexica formulated by Jose Guadalupe
Aguilera and Ezequiel Ordonez of the Geologic
Insttute of Mexico, a descripbve work that constitut
ed a11. important complement to and summary for the
Geologic Map of Mexico, which had been published ear
lier. Nevertheless, it was not until1949 that V. Garfias
and T.e. Chapin published the work entitled Ce%gy

Secton 1 The Geology of lhe Mexican Republic

of Mexico, in which reconstructions of the events that

occurred d uring the geological history oE the Republic
are included.
A more recent work is The Geolog}-/ ofMexico, whose
author was lng. Manuel Alvarez, Jr., and which the
Faculty oE Engineering of UNAM printed as notes of
the subject matter of the Geologt) ol Mexico, presented
by the same author. Fina1ly, in 1979, lng Ernesto
Lpez-Rarnos published his work, The Geology ol
Mexico, in two volumes. That publication constitutes
at present the most widely known text beca use it con
tains detailed descriptions of lithostratgraphic units
and references to numerous unpublished works, prin
cipally from Petrleos Mexicanos.
The present book has the double objective of offer
ing a geologcal synthesis oi Mexico as a general refer
ence work for a11 readers, and a presentation of
themes in organized and ddactic form so that it can
be utilized in upper level courses related to the geolo
gy of Mexico.
The first edition of this work was the responsibility
of the National Institute of Statistics, Ceography, and
TechnicaJ Information (TNECl) as a complement to
the geological maps that the Ceneral Department of
Ceography had prepared. The preparation oE the text
was the responsibility of lng. Dante J. Morn-Zenteno,
then chief of Petrography and PaleontoJogy of the
same department.
This second edtion is the result oE combined forces
of INECl, an administrative unt decentralized

between the Secretarat of Planning and Budget, and

the Faculty oE Engneering of UNAM. 1ng. Dante J.
Morn-Zenteno gives courses on the geology oE
Mexico and physical geology at UNAM and in addi
lon is a researcher in the Institu te oE Ceophysics at
the same university.
To deveJop the present work it was necessary to
divide the Republic into difierent regions, defined by
natural limits, which are descrbed in each of the
chapters that Eorm the work. This division does not
correspond to that of the original eight maps of the
Republic at the 1:1,000,000 scale, which were designed
at a scale to show topography, culture, and use oE the
substrate. In this work, the geologic maps that pertain
to each chapter are mentioned.
The information in this second edition can be
used as a point oE departure Eor regional projects oE
investigation and guidance. It offers, together with
the geologic maps at 1:1,000,000 scale, a general key
for localizing areas and objectives of economic or
particular scientiEic interest. It should make c1ear,
furthermore, key characteristics that are pertinent
for geological interpretation oE certain regions, and
it comments on the most recent models concerning
tectonic evolution and the geologic orgin of signifi
cant economc deposits. The bbliography that
accompanies each chapter makes it possible to orga
nize a wide varety of consulting work aimed at
studying in depth certain aspects or certain particu
lar areas.

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of




.....; ".::





,::: :~.



the summer, except in the north of Bajl California

where the rain is in winter.

For the description of northwestern Mexico the fol

lowing natural limits have been selected in this work:
to the east, the volcanic seq uence of the Western
Sierra Madre; to the west, the Pacific coasts of Baja
Cllifornia and Sinaloa; and to the south, the northern
edge of the Neovolcanic axis.
In accordance with the physiographic division of
the General Department of Geography (see Figure
1.1), the provinces of Baja California, the Sonoran
Oesert, Sierra Madre OccidentaL lnd the Pacific
Coastal Plain me included within this region. The cli
mate varies in general fram dry in Baja California,
Sonora, and northern 5inaloa, to subhumid in the
higher parts of the Sierra Madre Occidental and south
of Mazatln, In almost all the region rainfall comes in

The peninsula of Baja ClLifornia as shown on the
geologic map at 1:],000,000 scale (General
Department of Geography, DGG) offers l high struc
tural complexity and rocky outcrops, which mlke it
difficult to reconstruct a stratigraphic column for this
region and to ascertain events that have occurred,
Nevertheless a subdivision has been mlde, lS rational
as possible, that permits expllnation, \vith a certlin
clarity, of the geoLogic concepts of this province and
that coincides in lmge part with the physiographic
divisions of the OGG and with the division into the
geologic provinces of Lpez-Ramos (1979).

Section 1 The Geology of lhe Mexican Republic




.....,ULt--~'" ,~,1..)





Figure 1.1. Physiographic framework of the Republic of Mexico.

A Portion of N orthem Baj a California

In this zone exposures of a stratigraphic sequence

whose geochronologic range varies from Paleozoic to
Recent re encountered. The configuration of the dif
ferent units forms three pre-Tertiary belts (Figure 1.2)
that run the length of this part of the peninsula and
that present dearly differentiated petrographic, struc
tmal, and stratigraphic characteristics. These belts are
covered indiscriminately by volcanic bodies and Ter
tiary and Quaternary sedimentary deposits.
Ihe hrst belt, Jocated in the extreme western penin
sula, is composed of a sequence of marine and conti
nental Upper Cretaceous sediments that are poorly
consolidated and laek appreeiable tectonic deforma
hon. Ihis band of outcrops is of maximum width at
the lahtude of Punta San Antonio, a httle less than laL
30 N (Figure 1.3). The sequence was designated by
Beal (1948) as the Rosario Formabon and consists of
sub horizontal strata oi silty, shaly, and eonglomeratic
sandstone that contlin both marine iossils and sauri
an bones. Al! this attests to the development of envi
ronments that vary hom continental out to the
platform and slope with fluctuating coastlines orient
ed more or less paral!el to the line that divides this
belt from the terranes located to the east. The latter

constitute the source of supply for the sediments that

comprise this sequence since in this time emergence
occurred and formed mountainous masses exposed to
erosiono Gastil et al. (1975) defined the outer limit of
the cited belt as the "San tillan-Barrera Line" (Figure
1.2) and considered this feature to have controlled the
depositional history of Baja California for long time
periods. Ihese authors cite numerous paleontolagicaJ
determinations that stratigraphieally position the
Rosario Formaban in the Campanian and Maastrich
tian Stages.
Mina (1957) correlated this formation with clastic
sediments that erop out on the western border of the
State of Southern Baja California and called it the
Valle Formation.
Ihe sequence that comprises this western portion
of Baja California covers, in angular discordance,
older volcanic and sedimentary rocks, as well as
intrusives; it underlies Quaternary volcanics and con
tinental and marine sediments of the Tertiary and
Qua ternary .
The next belt is located to the east of that described
abo ve and is made of sequences oi volcanic rocks,
volcanidastics, and sedimentary rocks whose age is
principally Lower Cretaceous (see Figure 1.4). The
upper and more extensive part of the sequence was

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico









Figure 1.2. Pre-Tertiary terranes o Northem Baja


Sed,memary rocks 01 Aptian-Albien age

Figure 1.4. Distribution o volcanic, volcanoclastics,

and sedimentary rocks o the Lower Cretaceous.




30' .

28' -

-t - - - - - - - -


Rosario Fomlatlcn 01 Ihe Upper Crelaceous

Figure 1.3. Distribution of outcrops o marine sedi

mentary rocks o the Upper Cretaceous.

originally named by Santilln and Barrera (1930) the

Allsitos Formation from exposures on the Rancho
Alisitos located to the south of Ensenada It is consti
tuted chiefly of pyroclastic rocks and llVas of dacite
andesite composition, by bodies of reefaJ limestone
with Aptian and Albian fossils, as well as clasbc rocks
derived from volcanics. This forma han covers discor
dantly in some localities vo1canic and sedimentary
rocks of Triassic and Jurassic age. It is deformed and
partly metamorphosed, and it is affected by numer
ous faults and by emplacement of bodies of intrusive
granite of Cretaceous age. It underlies discordantly
the Rosario Formaban and extends persistently along
al! northern parts of the Baja California peninsula.
Numerous outcrops of this type of sequence exist,
correlative with the Alisitos Formation, mainly along
the western border of Mexico.
Rangin (1978) has interpreted this seguence as one
of the volcano-sedimentary belts that were devel
oped in northwest Mexico during the Mesozoic, that
formed in a similar manner to vu1canism in Sonora,
and that evolved on continental crust. These belts
have been related to subduction and partial fusion
associated with one or more con vergent borders (see
Figure 1.5) developed in northwest Mexico. The con
vergent borders seem to be tectonic features com
mon to al] of western Mexico since there exist
numerous volcano-sedimentary outcrops along this
side of tI1e country.

Seetion 1 The Geology of the Mexiean Republie

. ..-----. .:-.....

.... : .


Figure 1.5. ldealized block diagram that shows the tectonic situation of northwest Mexico for the
Late ]urassic. Based on ideas of Gastil et al. (1980), Mrquez-Casteeda (1984), and R. Garza (in
Mrquez-Castaeda, 1984).

This process developed during the opening of the

Atlantic Ocean and the movement oE North America
toward the northwest. The sediments that form the
Alisitos Formation were subjected to a period of com
pression at the beginning of the Upper Cretaceous.
They were folded and partially metamorphosed. The
terranes that form this second belt emerged during
this period; and to the west of them sediments formed
that were to become the Rosario Formation.
The third belt, located on the eastern border of the
nortbern part oE the peninsula of Baja California, is
eomposed of complex outcraps of intrusive raeks and
metamorphies derjved principally fram the regional
metlmorphism of sedimentary rocks. To tbis beIt
belong the Mesozoic bltholiths (Figure 1.6) of the
northern part oE Baja California and the pre
batholithic metamorphic rocks formed before the
Alisitos Formation. Their lge has still not been well
The plutonic racks that eomprise the batholiths
vmy in mineralogical composition from tona lites to
granodiorites and granites. In contrast, in some
localties sma1l plutons of diorite and glbbro are
mapped. Some authors (Gastil and Krummenacher,
1978; Sjlver and Anderson, 1978), citing radiometric
studies, have postuJlted that in northwestern
Mexico there occurred a migration in time and space
of this type of plutonic emplacement from the
Cretaceous in Baja California to the Cenozoic in
Chihuahua. The major part of this b,Hholithic
empllcement occurred during and aher the sedi
mentation and magmatic extrusions that originated
the Alisitos Formation.
Pre-batholithic metamorphic sequences associated
witb this third belt present various metamorphic
facies, but their ages have not been determined.
However, McEldo\vney (1970) reported the presence
of Plleozoic crinoids, corals, and bivalves in sedimen
tary rocks that crop out southeast of Ensenada. There
also exist on the eastern edge of the peninsull some

Ensenada _1












Mesozolc granlllc racks

Figure 1.6. Distribution of Mesozoie plutonic out

erops in northem Baja California.
outcrops oE metamorphic ealcareous racks that proba
bly are related to the Paleozoic limestones which crap
ou t in the State of Sonora.
The Cenozoic history of the northern part of Bajl
California is characterized by the accumulation of
great thicknesses of continental sediments that crap
out in numerous localities; by the development of
marine deposits, particularly on the western edge of

1. Geology of lhe Northwest Regon of Mexco

the peninsula; and by importmt volcanc activity that

partly covers the Mesozoic belt described aboye.
During the Paleocene and Eocene, sediments accu
mulated in nearshore and deltaic environments
(Gastil et a!., 1975) on the western border of the north
ern portio n of the peninsula, following a coastline that
is located slightly to the east of the present shore.
These sediments came from emergent areas to the east
where time-equivalent continental sediments are
Santilln and Barrera (1930) termed the marine
Paleocene sediments that were encountered between
Punta San Isidro and Mesa de San Carlos the
Sepultura Formation. This formabon can be correlat
ed with the Santo Domingo, Tepetate, and Malarrimo
formations described by Mina (1956) in the southern
half of Baja California. The Pliocene and Miocene sed
iments correspond, it seems, to grelt thicknesses of
fluviatile and eolian strata that crap out at laL 31 in
the area of San Augustn and some localities located
about lt the latitude of the bays of Las Animas and
San Rafael. These sediments are found generally
capped by llvl. extrusions of Miocene and Pliocene
age. The Miocene contains outcrops of marine sedi
ments that are the oldest Cenozoic strata to appear in
the northeastern part of the Peninsula and that
rnarked the earliest advances of the sea over the area
that would become the Gulf of California.
According to Gastil et a!. (1975), in the Eocene the
Mesozoic mountains were completely denuded and
formed only small isolated hills. These areas were
drained by stream courses that flowed toward the
Pacific and fed their sediments into the marine
deposits on the western edge. Later in the Eocene, the
eastern part of the region experienced some subsj
dence where the Gutf of California later developed.
Some of the interior fluviatile stream courses were
directed toward this area.
Coastal deposits that formed in the littoral of the
Pacific during the Pleistocene lre found aboye a series
of terrlces developed in that epoch. Some of these
reach up to 500 m in altitude. These terraces have
been related to glacial changes nf sea level (Gastil et
l!., 1975) that were superimposed on a tectonic setting
of a series of u pi i fts and down warps in the coastal
zone of the peninsula during the Pleistocene (Ortlieb,
1978). In contrast, in the interior of the peninsula dur
ing this time llluviaL, colian, and lacustrine deposits
accumulated. Manv of these sediments continue to
develop today.
The Cenozoic vulcanism of the northern part of the
peninsula can be referred principally to four zones
where wide exposure of the volcanic rocks thlt origi
nated in this area are encountered and that mark the
Miocene as the mljor epoch of volcanic activity (see
Figure 1.7). The first zone, located in the southern part
of Sierra de ]urez between latitude parallels 31 and
32, contains an important sequence of silceous pyro
c1astic rocks of diverse types that are found capped in
some localities by basal tic flows of Pliocene and
Quaternary age (Figure 1.7). The second zone, located
on the coast of the Gulf of California l.t the latitude of



.. ' \1







i - - - - - - ~ - -



Slllceous and Jnlermedlale grade rocks of Mlocene age

Basallle raeks 01 PhoPlel$!ocene age

Figure 1.7. Distribution of outcrops of Cenozoic vol

canics of northern Baja California.

30, is represented by siliceous pyrocJastic sequences

that are seen to cover andesite flows in some localities
and are capped in other places by basaltic flows of
Pliocene-Quaternary age. The third zone corresponds
to extensive flows of llkllne basalts of the upper
Tertiary located in the central part of the peninsula at
the lltitude of Canoas Point. These flows are similar
to those that are localzed with minor distribution
around the Mesa de San Carlos and San Quintn. The
last zone is composed of outcrops of basaltic and
pyrocJlStiC rocks, principally rhyolites, tha t occur on
the island Angel de la GUlTdl lnd to the south of the
29 parallel. These cover great thicknesses of conti
nental and mixed sedirnentary rocks. This zone can be
considered as a northward extension of the Miocene
sequence that constitutes the Sierra de la Giganta in
southern Baja California.
Sierra de la Giganta
The Sierra de la Giganta, located in South Baja
California, is composed of ln impressive sequence of
pyroclastic rocks, lava f1ows, and continental sand
stones that together reach 1200 m in thickness.
Outcrops of this seCjuence are persistent in most of the
eastern half of the southern peninsula. Originally, Heim
(1922) termed these deposits the Comond Fonnation


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

(see Figure 1.8) and assigned their stratigraphic position

to upper Miocene. Later, Escandn (1977) indicated that
the upper member of this formation belongs to the
lower Pliocene. This sequence presents strong lateral
variation and is composed principally of volcanic
agglomerate, pumice-tuffs, ignimbrites, basalts,
litharenite sandstones, and conglomera tes. On the other
hand, the strata cover discordantly the main sedimenta
ry sequences of the Tertiary that crop out more widely
in the basins of Pursima-Iray and Vizcano, and the
plutonc rocks that are a southern continuation of the
batholiths of northern Baja California. Mina (1956) con
sidered that the source of supply of this great quantity
of volcanic sediments should have been located in a
volcanic belt to the east of the present coast of the Gulf
of California.
The sequence that makes up the Comond
Formation does not show strong tectonic deformation.
However, it reveals accentuated epeirogenic uplift and
an inclinabon of its strata gently toward the west.

geochronologic ranges vary from Triassic to Recent.

Structurally, these areas constitute two large synclinal
depressions with general northwest-southeast orien
tation. They are composed of Cretaceous and Ceno
zoic rocks (see Figure 1.9). Lozano (1976) has
interpreted the existence, at d epth, of an uplifted
block of ophiolitic rocks that separa tes these two
structural depressions, based on geophysical data and
wells drilled by Petrleos Mexicanos. This block
might have an orientation perpendicular to the gener
al structural tendency of the pennsula and would be
located between parallels 27 and 28. Above this
structural high, the Cretaceous sequences wedge out,
but these strata reach great thicknesses in the center of
both depressions. The southwestern flank of these
major structures is represented by outcrops of older
rocks that form ophiolitic complexes and partly meta
morphosed Triassic and Jurassic seguences (see
Figure 1.10). In the axial portion of the structures, out
crops of the younger Cenozoic formations occur,
while on the northeastern flank some bodies of the
batbolithic complex of Baja California are found,
although generally these are covered by the Miocene
and Plocene sequence of the Comond Formation.
The oldest seguence of this region is composed of
partly metamorphosed volcanic and sed imentary
rocks that crop out in Punta Prieta, Punta San
Hiplito, and Cedros Island (Figure 1.10). Originally

The Basins of Vizcano and Ballenas-hay-Magdalena

The basins of Vizcano and Ballenas-Iray
Magdalena, which take in the western haH of the larg
er part of the State oE South Baja California, are
represented by ZOnes of low and smooth topography
in which exposed sequences are encountered whose


-n::--i----r-----r- -


Volcanc and sedimentary rocks 01 lhe Comondu Formalion

Sedlmenlary manne rocks 01 Tertlary age In
Punsima-Iray and Magdalena baslns
Cabo San Lucas

Figure 1.8. Distribution of principal outcrops of Tertiary rocks of

southern Baja California.

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico
























10 1S





SECTION 11-11'











I'K.t,' 1







Figure 1.9, Vizcano Basin, Re. sect. 1-1' and Iray-Magdalena Basin, B.e. sed. 11-11' taken fmm Petroleum
Evaluation of the Peninsula of Baja California, by F. Lozano (1976).


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic




- - - -


Sta Rosalla




-1- - - - -




Ophlollle complex

Metamorphosed Jurasslc rocks

Cabo San Lucas
Lower Cretaceous sedlmentary rocks

Granlllc rocks

Figure 1.10. Distribution of the principal outcrops of Mesozoic rocks of

southern Baja California.

Mina (1956) designated these rocks the San Hiplito

Formation. They crop out in the type locality and cor
relate lithologically with the Franciscan Formation of
California. For this reason he tentatively designated
these rocks as Jurassic. Later, Lozano (1976) reported
a fauna of the Late Triassic at the top of the sequence
ami for this reason considered the rocks to be of this
In Cedros lsland, the Vizcano Peninsu la, and the
area of Magd:lena Bay, rocks exist that petrographi
cally resemble those of the Mesozoic and that form an
intricate mosaic of terranes of both oceanic and vol
canic arc affinity. Although Mina originally had pos
tulated correlation with the Upper Jurassic Franciscan
Formation, Finch ami Abbott (1977) la ter placed these
beds in the Upper Triassic, because of their content of
macrofossils and radiolarians. The association of
chert, litharenitic volcanics, and the inclusion of reefal
limestone blocks forming a sequence underlain by pil
low basalts, as well as the apparent absence of detri
tus derived from the craton, indicate that this unit
was deposited in an oceanic basin associated with a
volcanic island arc within a convergent tectonic
framework (Finch et aL, 1979; Castil et al./ 1981).

There also exist other outcrops of sequences with

oceanic affinity that resuIted in ophiolites and
melanges; these also have been attributed to the
Jurassic beca use of their radiolarian content (Rangin,
1978). These units crap out both on Cedros lsland and
on the Vizcano Peninsula. On the islands of Santa
Margarita and Magdalenil, partially serpentinized
ultramafic rocks crop out and are a pparently a frac
tion of an ophiolitic complex related to those of
Vizcano and Cedros. There have been recognized in
this regon combined volcanics, volcaniclastics, and
sedimentary rocks of Late Jurassic and Early Cre
taceous age with an ophiolitic basement-forming
sequence originally termed the Eugenia Formation by
Mina (1956).
The Upper Cretaceous is represented in the regio n
of southern Baja California by a detrital sequence of
Ceno manan to Maastrichtian age that overlies earlier
sequences with apparent angular discordance. This
unit was designated the Valle Formation by Mina
(1956) and inc1udes turbiditic toe-of-slope fan deposi
tion (Patterson, 1979). lt has been recognized in out
crops of the Vizcano Peninsula and in the subsurface
of the two Cenozoic basins of this region.


SecHon 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

sorne isolated outcrops of calcareous and very

badly deformed detrit,11 rocks occur that have been
a ttribu ted to the PaleozoiCo

1. Dominantly 01 oceanic affinity

2. Dominantly volcanics, volcanoclastics

and sedimentary rocks of
Jurasslc-Cretaceous age
3. Dominantly metasedimentary rocks 01
Paleozoic?-Triassic age

Figure 1.11. Tectonic beIts of Baja California (l)

dominantly of oeeanie affinity; (2) dominantly vol
eanie, volcanoclastie, and sedimentary roeks of the
]urassic and Cretaceous; (3) dominantly metasedi
mentary roeks of Paleozoie?-Triassie age.

combinations in California that include the

Franciscan Formation.
2. To the east of the aboye combinations of sediments,
a volcanic-plutonic fringe of Jurassic to Early
Cretaceous age is developed, at least partly, on
oceanic crust and constitutes an ancient calcalka
line volcanic are like those that typieaJly evolve as
fringes parallel to convergent borders. This vol
eanic-plu tonie belt occurs in the western half of
nortnern Baja California, is extended beneath tne
volcanic cover of the Sierra de la Giganta, and
stretches probably to the El Cabo region.
3. To the east of the aboye domain, a belt of metasedi
mentary continental border clastic sequences
appears (Gastil et aL, 1981), overlapped partially by
the combined volcanie-plutonic rocks. This belt is
probably of Triassic age and forms the eastern half
of northern Baja California. In the extreme east,

The tectonic evolution of Baja California during the

Paleozoie seems to have been related to the Cordilleran
continental margin of the western border of North
America, but nevertheless offers sorne distinctive
details in its own evolution. There are sequences
exposed in the east of northern Baja California, in addi
tion to the ealcareous and detrital sequences of Sonora,
whieh reveal the presence during this era of a passive
margin domain for northwest Mexieo. This type of tec
tonic situation has been interpreted for a large part of
the North American Cordillera. Two episodes of oro
genic deformation have been identified for this region.
The first of them oecurred in the Devonian
Carboniferous (Antler Orogeny) and the second in the
Permian-Triassic (Sonoma Orogeny). Both events have
been interpreted reeently as marking pathways of eolli
sions of intraoeeanic arcs against the passive margin of
North America that induced the emplacement of
allochthons of the Roberts and Galconda Mountains
over the miogeoclinal sequenees of the Cordillera
(Diekinson, 1979).
In contrast, passive margin conditions are recog
nizable between these two events. In northern Baja
California, neither episodes of collision nor allochtho
nous arc sequences have been identified. However,
Gastil and his eo-workers (1981) nave suggested the
possible existence of a trench or basin marginal to the
cratonic edge.
In nortnern Baja California, passive margin condi
tions persisted during the Triassic, evidenced by an
apparent tectonie stability in Sonora and by the
absence of volcanic arc components in the metasedi
mentary sequen ce of the Peninsula. Only the Upper
Triassic San Hiplito Formation in the Vizcano
region reveals a probable boundary of convergence
toward the ocean interior, later accreted landward
(Gastil et al., 1981).
In the Jurassic, the development of an isllnd arc
dominion was initiated to the west of the eratonie bor
der and its Triassic sedimentary wedge. This are
apparently evolved eontemporlneously with the one
reported aboye the continental crust in Sonora
(Rangin, 1978). Gastil et al. (1981) consider that these
two arcs were associated with different zones of sub
duchon that evolved in parallel, one of them related
to an intraoceanic treneh and the other to a treneh
bordering the craton (see Figure 1.5).
The collision of the intraoeeanic arc rellted to the
Alisitos Formation against the eratonic margin appar
ently occurred in distinet episodes owing to the pres
ence of transform faults between trenches that
displaced distinct segments of the are. The principal
episodes of collision seem to have oceurred in Bajl
California during the Cenomanian. This phenomenon
generated a primary phase of deformation that fold
ed, metamorphosed, and elevated the volclnie, vol
eanoclastic, and elrlier sedimentlry seguences at the
same time of the principal emplaeement of batholiths
(Gastil et aL, 1981).

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico

Thc Cenozoic sedimentlrv formations form the

larger piHt of the blsin-fill of Vizcano and PursimCl
lray-Magdalenl downwarps lnd are principally char
acterized by little consolidation, subhorizontaJ
position of the strata, and a marine dastic lithology.
Outcrops of Paleocene sediments are rare, notwith
standing that a.thickness of more than 2000 m can be
recognized in the su bsu rface, thanks to the welJs
drilled by Petrleos Mexicanos (Lozano, 1976). These
wells encountered diverse lithologies with predomi
nance of slope shale facies. To this epoch belong the
Santo Domingo and Malarrimo formations (Minl,
1956), the latter of which rests in discordm1Ce on the
Cretaceous formltions. The outcrops of the Eocene
are represented principally by sandy and shaly
sequences that have been designated as the Bateque
Formation in the area of Vizcano and as the Tepetate
Formation in the La Pursima Mea where the 100ver
part of the sequence belongs to the Paleocene. Sedi
ments corresponding to this epoch have been recog
nized in the Pemex wells (Loz\no, 1976), principally
in the La Pursima area where they reach a thickness
of IIp to 500 m. In this pMt of Baja California, Oligo
cene sedimentary rocks do not crop out, attesting to a
period of emergence for that time.
The Miocene is Ollnd Clmply exposed in the
regions of VizcClno and PursimCl and consists of sedi
mentMY and volcanic rocks. The lower Miocene is
represented in the area of Vizcano by agglomerates,
sands, and shales of the Zacaras, Santa Clara, La
Zorra, and San Joaqun formations (Mina, 1956). In
the area of Pursima it is composed of lutites with
diatomite intercalations of the Monterrey Formation
(Oarton, 1921) and white sandstones of the San
Gregorio Formation (Heim, 1922). The middle
Miocene is formed by diverse sequences that show
much llteral variltion lnd are composed of tuffl
ceous slndstones, bentonitic shaJes, and sandstones of
the lsidrio (Beal, 1948), San Ignacio, Tortugas, and San
Raymundo form<ltions (Mina, 1956) that represent the
constal and lagoonal platform environments.
The lbove formations underlie discordantly the
continentll sedimentary and volclnic deposits of the
Comond Formation that reach maximum develop
ment in the Sierra de la Giganta, located to the east of
this described region.
Ouring the Pliocene, sediments of COlStll environ
ments were deposited in the Vizcano and Pursima
basins, with discordance over the Miocene fonnations.
These are represented by the Almejas Formation in the
area of Vizcano (Mina, 1956) and the SaIadl
Formation in the Pursima arel (Heim, 1922).
Region of the Cape (El Cabo)
The extreme south of the Bljl Cllifornia peninsula
breaks abruptly across the general geologic aspect of
the basins described aboye; the area is forroed bv a mas
sive batholith that is expressed in the form of ~ mOlU'\
tainous complex lnd thlt is interrupted in the central
part by a depression known as the Santiago Valley and
in the northern part by the La Ventana Valley.


The batholith thlt composes this mountainolls

zone has characteristics similar to those masses that
crop out in the north of Baja California and is made
up of granodioritc and granite. The rectilinear borders
of these mountains suggest faults of great displace
ment that jllxtapose and eIevate the batholithic region
aboye the leve] of the areas of Cenozoic outcrops.
In the northern and western portions of the Sierra
de In LagunCl, one can recognize the existence of a pre
batholithic metamorphic complex formcd principally
by metasedimentary rocks derived from lutites, sand
stones, and limes tones with some apparently
metavo!canic bodies bearing epidote and amphibole.
In the metasedimentary sequence, Ortega-Gutirrez
(982) has identified (l dosely juxtaposed succession
of isograds of biotite, andaIucite, sillimanite, and
cordierite. There exist also catac1lstic belts and diorit
ic and gabbroic intrusions that form north-south-ori
ented lineations. In the neighborhood o the main
batholithic body, inside the metamorphic complex,
zones of migmatites and numerouS intrusions of fel
sitic character Me present lpparently associated \vith
the batholith.
The Santiago Valley is structurllly l tectonic
graben in which the principal sedimentary sequences
of the region are developed. The blse of these
sequences is formed by conglomeratic deposits that
are correlative with the Comond Formation and that
rest above the crystalline basement represented by
intrusive Cretaceous rocks. The outcrops of these
deposits are located chiefly in the ex treme north of
Slntiago Valley. Over the lbove sequence, the sedi
ments of the Pliocene Trinidad Formabon rest with
angular discordance (Pantoja-Alor and Carrillo
Bravo, 1966). These sediments form a sequence of
sandy clays and silts with some diltornite horizons,
all of which attest to a marine depositiona] environ
mento Above this unit rests in concordance a sequence
of marine sandstones that represents the Sajada
Formation (Heim, 1922), which has isolated outcrops
along the Slntiago Valley. The Cenozoic sedimentlry
sequence that fills this tectonic graben is covered dis
cordantly by a series of sandy-conglomeratic deposits
of the Pleistocene that are seen in the form of ancient
piedmont fans and belts.
Tectonic Summary
The principal tectonic elemcnts of the Blja
California Peninsula cln be summed up as follows
(see Figure 1.11):
1. It is possible to recognize on the western border at

Cedros lsland, the Vizcano Peninsula, and the

islands in Magdalenl Bay the presence of com
bined tectonical1y controlled rock types oE oceanic
affinity that include portions of ophiolite complcx
es lnd typicnl melange sequences that range from
Triassic to Late Jurassjc. Tbese combinations of
sediments have been interpreted to result from the
structural evolution of a paleo-ocelnic crust and to
mark an ancient line of convergence. They have
been related, furtherroore, to similH Iithologic

l. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico

In the Late Cretaceous ilnd part of the Cenozoic

only a subduction zone persisted located on the west
ern margin of Baja California and marking the con
vergent boundary between the Farallon and North
American plates Generally the uplifts of Baja
Ca1lfornia and northwest Mexico during the Late
Cretaceous made for an important contribution of
detritus directed toward the east within a general
framework of eastward marine regression. The vul
canism associated with the subduction on the western
margin of Baja California during the Late Cretaceous
and Paleogene has been recognized chiefly in the
continental part of Mexico and as late as Miocene
time it is expressed in the Peninsula by pyroclastic
sequences in the Sierra de la Giganta and other erup
tive centers in northern Baja California.
In ligocene time the collision of the Pacific ridge
with the North American plate was initiated. This
ridge divided the Farallon plate now extinct from the
Pacific plate and is apparently formed of segments dis-


placed by numerous transform faults. According to a

model of McKenzie and Margan (1969) and Atwater
(1970) the collision of the first segment of the ridge
against the North American plate was initiated approx
imately 30 million years ago at a point located in pre
sent-day Baja California. Starting from the first contact
of the Pacific and North American plates, there began a
right lateral movement along the growing border of
both plates with a velocity of 6 cm per year (see Figure
1.12). This lateral movement could have occurred in its
initial stages along the continental border of North
America and later couId have occupied the present belt
of the San Andreas System and the Gulf of California
(Atwater, 1970). The opening of the Gulf of California
and the development of its ridge system was initiated
about 4 million years ago. This system is the manifesta
tion of the relative movement between the North
American and Pacific plates and is the southern pro
longation of the San Andreas System. The movement
of Baja California toward the northwest is possibly



Figure 1.12. Tectonic evolution of northwest Mexico in the Tertiary. Oifferent stages in the co11ision of
the eastern Pacific oceanic crest, and the development of right lateral movement between the North
American plate and the Pacific plateo S = Seattle, SF = San Francisco, LA = Los Angeles, GS =Guaymas
MZ =Mazatln (after Atwater, 1970). (A) 10 million years before the present; (B) 20 million years before
the present; (O 30 million years before the present; (O) 40 million years before the presento


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic


related to the tectonic lineaments that cut the
Peninsub diagonally and to the alkaline basaltic extru
sions of the Pliocene-Pleistocene that are encountered
in numerous localities.
Economic Deposits
According to Gastil et al. (975), the northern por
tion of the Baja California Peninsula can be divided
into five mineral provinces (Figure 1.13). The most
western of these comprises deposits of mesothermal
iron and copper sulfides as well as oxides of iron.
These deposits are found emplaced in the partially
metamorphosed volcanic sequence of Mesozoic
and have been attributed to hydrothermal origin
related to the Cretaceous granitic intrusions. The prin
cipal known localities thElt manifest this type are: El
Sueo mine (loe 1), San Antonio (loc. 4), Mision SEln
Vicente (loe 11), San Isidro Point (loe lO), R"ncho
Rosario (loc. 12), zones to the east of El Rosario (locs.
17, 18), Elnd to the southeast of San Fernando (locs.
19-21). To this province also belong the deposits of
the El Arco mine (loe 29), which accounts for one of
the rnost important copper reserves of the nation.
The second province eomprises veins of gold con
tElined in metasedimentary rocks that are distributed

along the axis of the peninsula. Their occurrence,

restricted to metasedimentary rocks, leElds to the pos
sibility that they have been reworked from ancient
placers before their metlmorphism. The principal
localities known for this type of deposits are: Las
Cruces (loe. 7), El Alamo (loe 9), Socorro (10e. 13),
Arroyo Calll"naj (loe. 23), Cerro San Luis (loc. 24),
Desengao (loc. 25), Len Grande (loe. 26), and
Coltunbia Mine (loc. 27).
The third province comprises tungsten deposits
rela ted to contact metamorphism of pre-batholithic
calcareous rocks where precious stones may be found.
The intrusives that affect the calcareous sequences
were empllced chiefly in the Cretaceous. The locali
ties known are: La Olivia (loe. 3), Los Gavilanes and
El Fenomeno (loe. 6), as well as in the Sierra de los
Cucap, Sierra Mayor, and Sierrl San Pedro Mrtir.
The fourth province includes superficial deposits of
travertine with sulfides of manganese, copper, silver,
and lead as well as deposits of wulfenite, stibnite, and
other minerals. These deposits have the peculiarity of
having formed in the Cenozoic near the edge of the
Gulf of Californil. The distribution of these deposits is
very complex Elnd the localities are numerous.
The final province includes deposits of placer gold
developed in the Cenozoico The principal localities

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico



4 '


7 eL\.













Placer gold


Hot springs

Figure 1.13. Principal mineral deposits known in Baja California: copper

iron, gold, tungsten gold-silver placer gold hot springs.

are: Campo Jurez (loe. 2), Los Pinos and Campo

Nacional (loe. 8), Socorro (loe. 12), Valledores (loe. 36),
Los Enjambres (loe. 40), Real del Castillo (loe. 14) and
Pozo Alemn (loe. 28).
In the southern pan of the Peninsula of Baja
California, occurrences of mineral deposits are rarer

beca use Mesozoic rocks are less exposed (Figure 1.14).

On the coast of the Gulf of California sOrne deposits of
manganese exist, but these are of little importance.
They are in the form of oxides occurring as hydrother
mal veins. The principallocalities are: Lucifer (loe. 1),
Muleg (loe. 21), and Misin San Juan (loe. 3)


Seclion 1 The Geology o the Mexican Republic

defined by the General Department of Geography

have been followed because they present suitable nat
urallimits for better descri ption.


,&---- -


Areas 01 eopper
O Gypsum
'1'/ Mn oxide
D Tale
Areasol Mg


.... Gold-sllver

'~, I

Figure 1.14. Principal mineral deposits known in

soulhern Baja California (taken from the metaloge
netic map of the Mexican Republic, 1ng. Guillermo
P. Salas, 1975). Gold, copper deposits, gypsum, man
ganese oxides, talc, magnesite deposits, phosphorite,
The most important copper deposits are in the
form of the sulfides of El Bolo (loe. 4) developed in
Mesozoic voicanic rocks of the Santa Rosala area.
Their metallic deposits are represented by hydrother
mal deposits of gold and silver in the Cabo region
(loes. 5-7), as well as in the Vizcano area.
Various occurrences of nonmetallic deposits exisl
including the magnesite deposits found in Magdalena
Bay (loes. 8, 9) and Eugenia roint (loes. lO, 11), the
ta1c deposits of Comond (loe. 12), and the phospho
rite deposits of San Hilarla area. These last consttute
the major reserves of phosphorite in Mexico.
The most important petroleum occurrences are
localized in Paleocene sediments in the Pursima
basin, as seen in exploratory wells drilled by Petrleos
Mexicanos (Lozano, 1976) and in some oil seeps of
this same region.


In the Sta tes of Sonora and Sinaloa, one observes as
in Baja California a greal complexity of rocky out
crops owing to similarly intricate slructure and to the
great lithologic heterogeneity of the various unts;
particularly those of the pre-Tertiary form highly
variable stra tigra phic columns in this region. This
geologic terrane contrasts markedly with that
observed to the east of the Sierra Madre Occidental
where the structures are more regular and the stratig
raphy more homogeneous.
To describe effectively the geologic characleristics
of this region, lhe physiographic division of provinces

Sonoran Desert
This zone is characterized by the presence of com
plex mountains, separated by alluvial valleys that
beco me wider toward the northwest portion of the
state, where they contain important eolian deposits.
The complex mountains are found to conform with
pTe-Tertiary terranes that are covered toward the east
by the piles of Cenozoic volcanics forming the Sierra
Madre Occidental. Here they turn up in the form of
isolated outcrops, under the ignimbrite cover.
In the State of Sonora, units of rock are exposed
that ha ve d geochronologic range varying hom
Precambrian to Recent.
The Precambrian is represented by two well
defined groups of rocks (see Figure 115): one older
group composed of metamorphic rocks derived from
igneous and sedimentary rocks, and a younger group
composed of sedimentary sequences of quartzite and
dolomite tha t overlie dscordantIy the earlier strilta.
The metamorphic Precambrian occurs in northwest
Mexico as an extension of the Precambrian shield that
crops out widely in the Unlted States and Canada.
This Precambrian basement in North America shmvs
a series of provinces that are older toward the nucleus
of the Cl'aton, suggesting accretionary development of
the continental crust of this region. In northern
Sonora, two Precambrian metamorphic terranes exist
that aTe of different ages and are structurclily juxta
posed along one major strike-slip zone that originated
in the Jurassic. It crosses the northern part of Sonora
diagonally with a northwest-southeast orientation.
This strike-slip zone has been proposed by Silver and
Anderson (1974) as the "Mojave-Sonora Megashear,"
with a left-lateral movement that is extended toward
the sta tes of Arizona and California (see Figure 1.16).
The Precambrian block located to the southwest of
the "megashear" is represented by outcrops of meta
morphics in the area of Caborca, where the oldest
known rocks of Mexico are located. This block has
rectilnear limits, both to the south and to the .vest,
marked by the sudden disappearance of Precambrian
outcrops. As far away as Sinaloa, rocks this oJd ap
pear again as outcrops, represented by the Sonobari
Complex (Rodrguez and Crdoba, 1978); however,
their age has not yet been confirmed.
The Precambrian metamorphic outcrops of the
Caborca area are represented by gneous rocks and by
metasedimentary rocks of greenschist and amphibo
lite facies (Anderson et aL, 1978) formed during a
period of from 1700 to 1800 milJion years (Sil ver and
Anderson, 1979). These metamorphic units llave been
designated by Longoria et al. (1978) as the Bamori
Complex. They have suggested that the existence of
massive anorthositic rocks could correspond to the
unificabon of two Precambrian continental areas.
In opposition to the aboye ideas of unification,
there exist to the northeast of the zone of " mega
shear" Precamb(an metamorphic rocks, such as those

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico






28, _ _ 1






Cd. Obr;egon

Precambrian melamorphic rocks

Precambrian sedlmentary rocks

Figure 1.15. Distribution of outcrops of Precambrian rocks in Sonora.

cropping out in the Sierra de los Ajos, whose ages

range between 1600 ,md 1700 mil1ion years and that
have been correlated with the Pinal del Sur schists of
southern Arizona.
A sedimentary group of late Precambrian age crops
out in the Caborca area and covers, with tectonic dis
cordance, the metamorphic Precambrian (Longoria et
al., 1978). Originally this sequen ce was named by
Keller and Wellings (922) as the Gamuza beds, and
later Stoyanow (1942), on the basis of Collenia algal

reefs, placed it in the late Precambrian. The seguence

ineludes the Pitiqui to and Gamuza formations
(Longoria and Prez, 1978) and is composed princi
pally of dolomite with stromatolites (lnd with quartz
sandstone and shale. The upper contact of the
Gamuza Forrnntion is discordant with the overlying
Paleozoic seqLlence.
The Paleozoic sequence crops out in numcrous
localities in the State of Sonora and is eomposed prin
cipally of limes tones and sandstones tha t were


Section I

The Geology of the Mexican Republic




:-1.'" ' .". :..-=.':''-~"

". - ,

" .



'" j:


~ ~ ""1


~ , , '...



I ,,".

























.. t


~ _.'~..



" ";


- -J-

... ." ,. .





, ' ' "


.: n.' '., "

28'~ ~I~ ~












Locatlon 01 ,ndiVidual samples

Terrane underlain by rocks between 1600 and 1700 m y. old

Terrane underlaln by rocks belween 1700 and 1800 m.y old


Figure 1.16. Localities of Precambrian crystalline rocks (ages established by means of isotopic studies of
Anderson and Silver, 1979). Cities, localities of individual samples, lerranes underlain by rocks of ages
between 1600 and 1700 million years, terranes underlain by rocks with ages of 1700-1800 million years.

deposited in l plalform environment (see Figure 1.17).

Ths ancient continental platfonn would be a south
ward continuabon of the miogeosynclinal Cordilieran

belt. Fries ("1962) proposed lhe n<lme Sonora n Trough

for this southern extension of lhe Cordilleran
Geosyncline and indicated that during the whole


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic


Dominantly paleo-oeeanle

Magmatie are of Early Cretaeeous

(AlIsitos Formatlon)
Magmalle are al end 01 Jurass/e

(San Andres-Cedros Formation)

Magmatle are 01 early Middle Jurasslc


Cretaeeous (Aptian-Albian) 01

Chihuahua basin

Coaslal basin-Paleozolc and Preeambnan

Texas platform

Figure 1.19. Schematic paleogeography of a portion of northwest Mexico during the Mesozoic. After
C. Rangin (1978).

whose composition varies from rhyolite to andesite.

The appearances of vulcanism in this Epoch seem to
extend toward the base of the volcanic sequen ce of
the Sierra Madre Occidental, where the presence of
rocksl00 million years old has been reported
(McDowell nd Clabaugh, 1979).

According to Rangin (1978), a t the beginning of the

Tertiary an important assemblage of plutonic-volcanic
rocks that is responsible for the mineralization of dis
seminated copper developed in northeastern Sonora.
The volcanic rocks are generally related to intrusive
bodies tllt affect and mineralize them (Si llitoe, 1973).

1. Geology of lhe Northwest Region of Mexico



- - - __ -.J






28' -!- - -






Paleozolc sedmenlary outcrops

Figure 1.17. Distribution of outcrops of Paleozoic rocks in Sonora.

Plleozoic this arca underwent a slow lnd uninter

rupted subsidence According to F. Rangin (1978), at
the time of the Cambrian and Ordovician periods
there existed l grada tion from platform facies in the
north of Sonora to a more iuternal facies toward the
south of the state where the Paleozoic facies have a
tectonic style of much llLOre intense deformabon. The
calcareous facies nf the Carboniferous and Permian
constitute a more homogeneous facies over al! the
state. The two abo ve major intervlls are separated by
a phase of major deformation that occurred in the
The Pa leozoic of the Caborca area is represented in
<lscending stratigraphic order by the following forma
tions: Puerto Blanco, Provedora Quartzite, Buelnil,
Cerro Prieto Arroyos, and Tren. AH of these belong to
the Cambrian (Cooper et al., 1952) and consist of
sequences principally of calcareous-detritaJ lithology.
Small isolated outcrops of calcareous strata thlt repre
sent parts of the Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, llld
Mssissippan Systems (Cooper and Arellano, 1946)
exist in the BiSlni area. In the vicinity of Antimonio, a
Permian sequence crops out that conssts of beds of
shale and sandstone with limestone lenses and that
was termed the Monos Formaton by Cooper and
Arellano (1946). In the mineral district of Cananea

there exists l Cambrian sequen ce of quartzite and

limestone comprising the Capote Quartzite and
Esperanza Limestone (MuJchay and Velasco, 1954;
Valentine, 1936) as well as lmestones of Devonian,
Mississippiln, Pennsylvanian, and Permian age. In
northwest Sonora there exist calcareous outcrops of
Paleozoic strata in Cabullona (Taliefferro, 1933),
Sierrl del Tigre, N acozlfi, a nd the Sierra de
Moctezuma (lmlay, 1939). In the Hermosillo area and
in the regio n loca ted more to the sou th, isolated ou t
crops of Ordovician and Permiln exist (King, 1939).
The first deposits after the Paleozoic in the state of
Sonora are continental sediments of the Upper
Triassic and Lower Jurassic belonging to the Barranca
Formabon that crops out in the centrll and southern
portions of the sta te. There are in addition marine
deposits of sandstone, Ijmestone, and shale in the
areas of Antimonio and Santa Rosa in northwest
Sonora. The deposits of the Antimonio area form a
marine sequence sorne 300-400 m thick, They contain
amrnonites, belemnites, '\nd bivalves whose age
vlfies !rom Late Triassic to Early Jurassic, are
exposed prncipaJ1y in the Sierra de El Alamo, and
have been informally designated as the Antimonio
Formation by Gonzlez (1979). This sequence is cor
rdative with the lower part of the sedimentary and


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

volcanoclastc sequence of the Rajon Group (Longoria

and Prez, 1978) that crops out in the hi11 of the same
name located to the southeast of Caborca. According
to Alencaster (1961), the region that ineludes these
localities constituted a former bav in which 'Nere
deposited sediments coming from the northern and
northeastern parts of the sta te. In the area of San
Marcial, to the southeast of Hermosillo a sequence
crops out that consists of fine-grained clastics with
coal beds and with limestone intercalations; this was
deposited in a swampy basin contemporaneously
with the marine deposits of the Sierra de El Alamo.
This sequence was named by King (1939) the
Barranca Formation, and Alencaster (1961) later ele
vated its deposits to the rank of Group. The absence
of Lower Triassic deposits and the disconformable
relationship observed within the Upper Triassic
seeuence abo ve Permian rocks in the Sierra de El
Alamo reveal important tectonic movements in the
region during the close of the Paleozoic and the initia
tion of the Mesozoic.
The Jurassic in the State of Sonora is characterized
by the development of an important volcanic-plutonic
arc with a general northwest-southeast direction, evi
denced by numerous outcrops of andesitic volcanic
and vo\canoclastic rocks (see Figure 1.18). The devel
opment of this arc has been related to episodes of sub
duction occurring on the Pacific margin of Mexico
where an oceanic plate was being subducted under
the continental crust of Mexico.
In the area of Cucurpe, to the southeast of Santa
Ana, Rangin (1977a) reported a sedimentary seeuence
with volcanic intercalations that contain Jurassic
ammonites. In the Sierras de la Gloria (Corona 1979),
El Alamo (Gonzlez, 1979) and in various localities in
northwest Sonora, Mesozoic voicanic and voicanoclas
tic rocks of prob(lble Jurassic age have been reported
but unconfirmed. In sorne localities these rocks are
partly affected by dynamic metamorphism and are
genercdly of andesitic composition. Anderson and
Silver (1978) have r port U-Pb ,\ es in various locali
ll~~ uf
lL<-llllL clIlu ulC:dnoL1a'l e I'vck" Ve rylni;;
between 180 and 150 million years. According to these
authors the voicanic-plutonic activity in the Jurassic
originated owing to the presence of a zone of plate con
vergence to the west and was interrupted by the initia
tion of lateral displacement along the so-called
Mojave-Sonora Megashear. The prevalence of the mag
matism tha trema ined in the convergent zone is also
evidenced by vO\c(lnic and volcanoclastic Cretaceous
rocks that a1so crop out in various localities in Sonora.
In the Cretaceous, two realms in Sonora that have
clearly distinctive characteristics can be defined
(Rangin, 1978) (Figure 1.19) The first of these is found
in the central and western belts in the state and
evolved over a permanently emergent band of
Jurassic volcanic and volcanoclastic rocks. In this belt
were developed lava extrusions, principally of
andesite, which in the central and southern portions
of the state contan intercalations of Lower Cretaceous
marine sedimentary rocks (King, 1939; Roldn and
Solano, 1978). The second real m, located in the east

ern belt of the state is composed of Lower Cretaceous

marine sediments tha t afford evidence of a marine
transgression coming from the Chihulhua basin dur
ing the Aptian-Albian (King 1939; Rangin, 1978).
These strata partly cover the volcanic and volcan
oclastic Jurassic terranes.
In the Upper Cretaceous, both realms are affected
by compression11 deformation ilnd by granitic pluton
ism accompanied by andesitic lava extrusions that
become more intense toward the western plrt of the
region of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
Evidence exists, in various outcrops, of volcanic
activity that occurred in Sonora during the Eilrly
Cretaceous. In the Cerro Lista Blanca, south of
Hermosillo, a unit of andesitic volcanic rocks of prob
ilble Early Cretaceous age crops out. Earlier, Dumble
(1900) designated these beds the Lista Blanca Division
and assigned an Upper Triassc postion to them
Later King (1939) assigned to them the name Lista
Blanca Formation and positioned them stratigraphi
cally in the Lower Cretaceous. This same author
noted numerous outcrops in the central and southern
zones of the state where volcanic rocks of the L\ver
Cretaceous appear intercalated in marine sedimentary
sequences also indicating that volcanic rocks of this
epoch incre(lse proportionally toward the west and
southwest. In the northwest coasts of the state, Silver
and Anderson (1978) recognzed so me volcanic rocks
dated by radiometric methods as belonging to the
Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous.
Marine sedimentary sequences are seen to crop out
in diverse localities and contain generally fossil faunas
of the Aptian and Albi<1l1 Stages. In the northwest of the
state and southwest of Arizona, a sequence crops out
that constitutes the Bisbee Group, formed in lscending
stratigraphic arder by the following: Glance Conglom
erate; sandy shales and quartzose and feldspathic sand
stones of the Morita Formation; lmestones of the Mural
Formation that vary from forereef to backreef; sandy
shales and redbed sandstones of the Cintura FOIT(l(ltion
(R<~nsome, 1904; Rangin and Crdoba, 1976; Gamper
dll(l Lunguria, 1~O). In the ilhudripa area, a sequence
of more than 3000 m exists composed of conglomerate,
shale sandstones, and limes tone that represent the
Palmar Formation in its lower part lnd the Potrero
Formation in the upper part (King 1939). Other marine
sequences occur in the areas of Cucurpe, Sta. Ana, and
Sierra Azul. These are formed chieny of ca1careous and
sandy sediments of the Lower Cretaceous.
During the Late Cretaceous the territory of Sonora
State underwent an uplift and general emersion
resulting from a phase of compressional deformation
that was active over a large part of western Mexico at
the beginning of this epoch. The principal igneous
activity consisted of granitic emplacements that
migrated in time toward the east and the extrusion of
lavas that varied from andesite to rhyolite, chiefly
along the eastern belt of the state and tmvard the base
of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The exposures of Cretaceous batholithic bodies in
Sonora constitute one of the outstanding characteris
tics of the region. These granite-granodiorite bodies

1. Geology of the Norlhwest Region of Mexico






-- -

1--------__ - - r







Paleozoic outcrops, some melamorphosed

Jurassic andesltic volcanic rocks

Figure 1.18. Dislribution of outcrops of Mesozoic igneous rocks of Sonora,

have obscured in large part the deformational phe

nomena that occurred before their emplacement.
There is exposed in the Agua Prieta area a conti
nental sedimentary sequence of Upper Cretaceous
Ihal covers with angular discordance the deformed
units of the Bisbee Group. This sequence was desig

nated by Taliefferro (1933) as the Cabullona Group

and is made up of continental clastic sediments with
intercalations of volcanic rocks, and contains dinosaur
bones and an Upper Cretaceous flora (Rangin, 1978).
Over al! the northeastern part of Sonora, numerous
ou tcrops exist of U pper Cretaceous volcanic rocks

1. Geology of the Northwest Region oi Mexico






t>. (J
~ i)'i'.o










L __



Basic vulcanlsm In the Plo-Qualernary

Olgocene-Mlocene vulcanlsm

Figure 1.20. Cenozoic voIcanic rocks in Sonora.

These volcanic rocks vary in composition from

andestes and trachytes to dacites and rhyoJites. In the
central and southern part af the sta te, volcanic rocks
of the lower Tertiary crap out \vhose composition is
mainly intermedia te. They caver with angular discor
dance the deformed Mesowic sequences.
The principal volcanic eyent of the TertilfY of
Sonora consists predorninantly of ignimbrite extru
sions of Oligocene-Miocene age that become a \vest
ward C'xtension of the yolcanic episodes responsible
for the Sierra Madre Occidental (see Figure 1.20).
The exposures of this c1ass of volcanic units gener
ally form dissected tablelands that coyer in large part
older terranes and geological structures.
During the late Tertiary the whole regio n of
Sonora was subjected to a series of normal faults that
cut complctdy independently acrass lll e,nlier struc
tural units. This phenomenon resulted in a system of
northwest-southeast faults and consequent forma
han of depressions that were fiHed by continental
detrital sediments of the Baucarit Formation. Ihis
unit crops out in various localities of the state and is
made up generaHy of lithic fragments of diverse
composition that vary from subangular to rounded

in only slightly cansolidated strata (Dumble, 1900;

King, 1939).
At the end of the Tertiary and beginning of the
Quaternary, an impartant episode of aJkaline
bClsaltic vulcanism took place, together with tectonic
distension of the normal faults, concurrent with
episodes of opening of the Culf of California (Clark
et aL, 1980; Rangin, 1978). Ihis vulcanism has its
clearest example in the Serrania del Pinacate located
in the Altar Desert.
Pacific CoastaJ Plain
This regia n is characterized by the development of
a plain constructed by the evolution of a system of
deltas that have advanced gradually toward the \vest.
These deltas were formed at the mouths of the rivers
Mayo, Fuerte, Sinaloa, Culiacn, San Lorenz.o, 1nd
Mocorito and have surrounded rocky prarninences
that formed old islands.
This zone is bordered on the west by a shoreline
that developed sandy sediments, the sand being a
product af the action of littoral currents, tides, and
\vaves that have reworked the deltaic sediments and


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republc

caused formation of bars, tombolos, and hooks. The

eastern border of this zone is made up by the foothills
of the Sierra Madre Occidental; here appears a moun
tan chain formed from rock units whose geochruno
logic range vares from Precambrian to lower
Tertiary. These units are partially covered by the vol
canic sequence of the Sierra Madre Occidental, a
sequence that becomes dominant eastward.
The history of thc pre-Tertiary terranes tha tare
exposed on the eilstern edge of Sinaloa share many
affinities wth the tectonic and paleogeographical
styles that prevailed in Sonora and B<1ja California,
which were united befare the Pliocene.
It appeus that the most ancient rocks that crup out
in the State of Sinaloa are the metamorphics in the
Sierra de San Francisco to the north of Los Mochis. A
Precambrian lge has been assigned to these roeks by
previous authors (Rodrguez and Crdoba, ]978). De
Cserna and Kent (1961) termed these rocks the
Sonobari Complexo The unit consists of intercalations
of muscovi!e and biotite gnciss with amphibolites. In
addition, intrusions by bodies of gabbro and granodi
orite are present and development of pegmatites and
migmiltites is observed. According to Rodrguez and
Crdoba (1978), the gneisses were derived from
sandy and argillilceous sedimentary rocks with possi
ble intercalations of basie lava that have undergone at
least two metilmorphic events.
Along the eastern border of the Pacife Coastal
Plain there exists a series of isolated OlltCropS of mod
erilte extension that are of marine Paleozoic roeks.
These sequences are eomposed principal1y of sand
stones, shales, silts, and limes tones; in sorne localities
they have been affected by various grades of meta
morphism. The stratigraphic relationship between
this sequence and the Sonobari Metamorphic
Complex hilS not been observed, and it is apparent
that the contact with Mesozoic rocks is generally tee
tonie. Rodrguez and Crdoba (1978) report the dis
covery of the fuslllinid Millerella sp., which indica tes
that the lower part of the sequence is probably of Late
Mississippian to Early Pennsylvanian age.
These authors indicate that the Paleozoie sequenees
of Sinaloa were deposited in shallow water platform
cond itions. In general, one can consider tha t these
sequences were deposited in a miogeosynclinal belt
that could be a southward continuabon of the
Paleozoie Cordilleran geosyncline developed in the
western United States.
The Mesozoie in Sinaloa exists as a very heteroge
neous series of rack types tha! consists seemingly of a
volcano-sedimentary assemblage which becomes a
southeilstward contin uation of the volcano-volcan
oclastic and sed imentary arc rocks of the Alisitos
Formiltion of Baja California (Rangin, 1978). Along
the eastern border of the coastal plain, extensive out
crops of volcanic rocks are observed. There are both
lavas and pyroclastics whose composition varies from
acidic to bilSic and thilt show the effects of both
regional and contact metamorphism (Figure 1.21).
The Mesozoic sedimentary rocks are represented
by sequences of limes tones that in some localities are

observed to be partialJy metamorphosed. Outcrops of

these rocks are isotated; they are present aboye the
intrusives in the form of roof pendants or of windovvs
under the Tertiary eover. In sorne loealities they are
apparently intercalated within the Mesozoic metavol
eanie sequenee, but the contaets are not clearly
The major part of the ealcareous rocks that crap out
in Sinaloa are seemingly of Cretaceous age, but
Rodrguez and Crdoba (978) consider that some of
these rocks could be Jurassie, or perhaps older.
AH the Mesozoie volcanic and sedimentarv assem
blages are affected by the emplacement of Mesozoie
and Tertiary plutons. These intrusive bodies are the
units that erop out most extensively in the State of
Sinalol. Their petrographic classification varies fram
granite to monzonite, with biotite and homblend as
principal mafie minerals. The extensive outcrops of
this unit disappear under the volcanic eover of the
Sierra Madre Occidental.
The periods of emplacement of the intrusive bodies
appear to be similar to those oecurring in Sonora.
These emplaeements migra te in age from Cretaceous
in Baja California to early Tertiary at the border of
Sinaloa and Chihuahua (Sil ver and Anderson, 1978).
During the Tertiary, important volcanic episodes
oceurred in the State of Sinaloa; chief among them are
those that oeeurred in the middle Tertiary and that
gave rise to the ignimbrite cover of the Sierra Madre
Occidental. This ignimbrite sequence covers () lc1fge
part of the Mesozoie rocks of the eastern border of the
Pacific coastal plain and the intennediate and basic
volcanics of the lower Tertiary.
Tectonic Surnmary
The outcrops of Preeambrian metamorphic rocks in
northern Sonora eonstitute one of the most character
istic fea tu res of this region. Aceording to Anderson
and Silver (979), these metamorphie rocks form two
magmatic and orogenic belts with a northeast-south
west orientation, truncated and juxtaposed by move
ment a10ng a 112ft lateral zone of slippage thilt was
active d1..lring the Jurassic in a northwest-southeast
direchon. These two orogenic belts form part of the
Precambrian terranes with orientation similar to that
eneountered in the sou th west portian of the N orth
American craton.
According to rad iometric da tes obtained by
Anderson and Silver (1978), these sequences were
d eformed and me tamorphosed 1650-1660 million
years ago. However, periods of igneous intrusion
between 1410 and 1440 mili ion years ago have also
been recognized, as well as one that is about 1100 mil
!ion years old. This last episode of intrusion consti
tutes the first report of Grenvillian rocks in this region
of the North American craton (Anderson et al., 1978).
These metamorphic tenanes make up the base
ment, aboye which episodes of marine platform sedi
mentation oecurred at the end of the Precambrian and
d uring the Paleozoie. Accord ing to Fries (962) this
platform eonstituted a southern extension of the mio

1. Geology oE the Northwest Region of Mexico



24' -


Volcanics-volcanoclastics of Mesozoic age

Cretaceous plutons

Figure 1,21. Outcrops of igneous rocks in Sinaloa.

geosynclne of the Cordillera n Geosyncline. He desig

nated this area the Sonoran Trough. This trough
underwent a slow subsidence during the whole
Paleozolc, with some interruptions marked by hiatus
in the sequences that crop out in Sonora and Sinaloa.
Fries (1962) considers that at the end of the Permian, a
period of gentle folding occurred, resulting in uplift
and block-faulting that destroyed the earlier geosyn
cJinal pa ttern.
In the Late Triassic-Early Jurassic, two paleogeo
graphic elements provided the setting for processes of
sedimentation in Sonora. On the one hand, the
ancient bay of Antimonio existed in the present north
western part of the state, in which a thick marine sedi
mentary sequence accumulated to the east, derived
from positive areas. In contrast, tbere existed the
swampy basin of San Marcia!, located southeast of
Hennosillo, in which beds of coal, gypsiferous lime
stones, sandstones, and shales accumulated
(Alencaster, 1961).
Overlying the sedimentary seguence of Antimonio
there is l package of volcanic and volcanoclastic
rocks. These together with the Lower Jurassic volccmic

intercalations crap out in tbe Cerro Rajn southeast of

Caborca and indicate the initiation of volcanic activity
in the Mesozoic. This volcanic activity has been attrib
uted by many authors to the presence of a zone of
convergence located to the west. The subsidence of a
paleopacific plate beneath the continental crust of
Mexico, cmd the partial fusion of a plate at the leve! of
the asthenosphere, originated the construction of a
magmatic arc that was active during the Mesozoic.
The magmatic activity related to this arc is interrupt
ed only by the development of a left-lateral strike-slip
zone, the Mojave-Sonora Megashear of Silver and
Anderson (1974).
The setting of convergence of the Paleopacific and
North American plates is developed in two principal
phases of deformation whose relationships can be
clecHly observed in the Cabullona area to the south of
Agua Prieta and Naco. The first of these occurred at
the beginning of the Late Cretaceous and is indicated
by angular discordance between the sandy calcareous
Lower Cretaceous sediments and the detrital conti
nental sediments of the Upper Cretaceous that crop
out in the Cabullona basin. The second phase corre


Seetion 1 The Geology oi the Mexiean Republie

sponds to the compressive deformabon from the end

of the Cretaceous to tbe beginning of the TertiMY.
This deformltion originlted foJds with a northwest
sOlltheast axial direction; they can be observed on the
western flank of the Sierra Madre Occidental as well
as in the overthrusting of the Lower Cretaceous and
Paleozoic sequences aboye the Upper Creti1ceous
Cabullona Group of tbe Naco ilnd Agua Prieta region
(Rangin, 1977b). According to Rangin (1978) there
seems to hlve developed between the Late Jurassic
and the Early Cretaceous a phase of deformation, still
not well known in Sonora, that correlates with the
NevadclJ1 orogeny developed in North America.
At the beginning of the Li1te Cretaceolls, the conti
nental history of Sonora and Sinaloa comrnenced. ln
this epoch the most important plutonic emplacements
of the region occurred. These become youngcr east
wc1rd. Also in this epoch the first volcanic episodes
occurred that form the base of the Sierra Madre
Occidental, whose principal period of construction
W(1S ignimbrite activity occurring in the late Oligo
cene (McDowell and Clabaugh 1979).
In the Miocene, activity of the convergence zonc to
the west seems to have ceased and the development
of the Culf of Ccdifornia was initiated. This is aCC0111
panied in the adjacent regions of Sonora and Sinilloa
by d istensive tectonics consisting of horsts and
grabens that "vere active into the Quaternary and are
responsible for the present-day distribution of the
chicf orographic elements of the Sonoran deserto
The setting of this type of tectonism gives rise to
the deposition of great thicknesses of conglomera tic
continental sediments, the Bilucarit Forrnation.
Economic Resources
In the State of Sonora (Figure 1.22), the most
important resoUfces Me the deposits of copper and
molvbdenum that are chieflv located in an eastern
belt 'of the state. The origin o{ most of these resources
has been attributed to the emplacernent of granite and
granodiorite porphyries that occurred at the end of
the Late Cretaceous and the beginning of the Tertiary.
The principill rocks encompassed by this minerillizil
tion me Cenozoic volclnic rocks of intermedia te com
position, intrllsives of the same type, and in sorne
cases sedimentary rocks of marine origino
The chid reserves of copper porphyry in Sonora are
encOllntered in the areas of Cananel and Nacozari
Oocalities 1, 2, lnd 3); other more minor deposits are
loclted filrther south and west of these localities (loe. 4).
The origin of this order of resources has been
attribllted by Sillitoe (1975) to the partial fusion of the
oceilnic crust under the continent and the li1ter ascen
sion of magma tic material with solutions rich in cop
per and molybdenum that formed "stockwork"
deposits in roof pendants of large plutons and breccia
pipe deposits.
The deposits of lead and zinc in the State of Sonora
are present in zones of rnetasornatic replacement and
in hydrothermal veins. A major parl oi the first are of
Laramide age while the second are generally associat

ed witb middle Cenozoic volcanic rocks (Echavarri et

a1., 1977). The principal localities with these types of
deposits are: C<1nanea, San Felipe, El Tecolote, Sierrl
de Cabullona, Lampazos, and San Javier. The gold
lnd sil ver deposits are located at shallow levels in
hvdrothermal veins Ihat contain the <1bove-rnentioned
r~serves of lead and zine. Principal locllities with
these types of deposits are El Tigre, Las Chispas,
Lampazos, and San Javier.
Tungsten is an element with significant occurrencE'
in the zones of contact metamorphism in the State of
Sonora. Genera]]v it occurs in the form of the mineral
scheelite and on' occasions is found associated with
metasomatic deposits of copper, zinc, and collapse
breccias ilssociilted with deposits of copper-bearing
porphyry (Echavarri et al., 1977). The most important
deposits of tungsten are found near Baviacora.
The 1110St irnportant nonmetallic deposits me fluo
rite lnd gr<1phite. The first mineral is of hydrothennal
origin and consists of veins that are exploited princi
pally in Esqueda and Santa Rosa; the second is found
lssociated with coal and is present lS intercalations in
the paludal sequence of the Barranca Group of the
Upper Triassie.
In the State of Sinalol (Figure 122), deposits of
copper and molybdenum form resources of the cop
per-bearing porphyry type such as occur in Santo
Toms-Cuchicari and Tameapa. Deposits associated
with stocks or veins of quartz with the presence of
wolfr<1mite and tungsten are found in the mines of El
Magistral, La Guadalupana, Siln Jos del Desierto,
lnd El GuaYlbo. Deposits of molybdenum in stock
work form exist in the mines of Los Chicharrones and
Las Higueras and breccia and hydrothermal vein
deposits occur in El Magistral (loe. 5), Bahuitil, Las
Pastillas, La India, as well as the regions of Sinaloa de
Leyva, Culiacn, San Ignacio, and Plomoso. There are
important amounts of lead, zinc, and silver in
deposits found in hydrothennal veins.
These !atter veins are part of a belt that runs along
the eilstern half of the state and that includes, further
more, deposits of Ihe western borders of Chihuahua
and Durango. Epithermal veins predominate in this
belt. They contain gold, silver, lead, and zinc, which
are most important in the State of S.inilloa. The enclos
ing rocks of tbis class of deposits are generally
andesites at the base of the vo!canic sequence of the
Sien<1 Madre Occidental, and in place~ some plutonic
rocks. The zones of GU<1dalupe lnd Cllvo, Rosariltilo,
Guadalupe de los Reyes, Pnuco, and Tayoltita con
tain these types of deposits. The latter site contains
the richest gold mineral district in the nation.


The Sierra Mild re Occidental is formed from an
extensive vo!canic meseta affected by normal faults
and grabens that detract from its homogeneous and
pseudohorizontal appearance, especially along its
flanks <Figure 1.23). The eastern border of the Sierf.'l
grades into the Basin and Range Province of

1. Geology of the Northwest Region of Mexico



3Z' .-





O : Cananea









CIJ, CuFe Cu-Ag

2 N_coz",






So, Jose
,je Moradlna\;
28' -


I .O ,OO:>La Caridad







Au-Ag, Ag

La Re10rma

D.. W,W-Mo











.! '"

Note Slze of svmbol denotes

ItS Impor1ance .

Figure 1.22. Known mineral deposits in the States of Sonora and Sinaloa
(taken from the metalogenic map of the Republic of Mexico, G,P, Salas,

Chihuahua, while the western border consists of an

abrupt termination with normal faults of major dis
placement and zones of deep borrancas (steep-walled
Accord ing to McDO\vell and Clabaugh (1979), the
Sierra Madre Occidental is composed of two impor
tant igneous sequences, whose contad marks an inter
med ia te period of volcanic calmo The older sequence
is formed main),\, fmm voIcanic rocks of intermediate
composition, a~d igneous bodies whose ages vary
between 100 and 45 million years. The more recent is
Cmposed of rhyolitic lnd rhyodacitic ignimbrites in
generally horizontclI position or slightly inclined and
whose ages vary between 34 and 27 million ye<lrs.
The lowE'r volcanic complex is dominantly in the
form of lava flows and pyroclastic units and also con
tains intercalations of siliceous ignimbrites. This
lower complex contrasts in large me<lsure with the
upper one, because of its slightly deformed character
and intense faul ting lnd dist\,Hbed aspecto The

sequences that comprise it ore, in general, the host

rocks for the principal mineralization of l large port
of this region of Mexico. The outcrops of this lower
complex are, as expected, more restricted than those
of the upper but have been recognized over aH the
slope toward the Pacific in Sonora and Sinaloa. The
upper contact displays <ln irregular surface \vith
strong relief and shOl'vs marked contrast in the degree
of alteration of the sequences.
The upper complex constitutes the most continu
OLlS dnd extensive ignimbrite cover in the world and
is observed to form an area elongated northwest
SOll theast abOLl t 250 km brocld and more than 1200 km
long. Toward the north, this blanket has its lasl out
crops about <lt the border with lhe United States and
to the SOLllh it disappears beneath rocks of basic lnd
intermediate composition that make L1p the
Neovolcanic axis.
According to Demant <lnd Robin (975), lhe thick
ness of these ignim.brites in some localities approaches


Sedion 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

Figure 1.23. Volcanic cover of the Sierra Madre Occidental.

more than 1000 m. McDowell and Clabaugh consider

that the number of calderas originated during the
emission of this great volume of rack ought to have
been between 200 and 400. Many of these have a
diameter greater than 40 km, although the semicircu
lar configuration today is obscured by the presence of
normal fauIts and recent alluvial deposits.

The lower volcanic complex constitutes a typical

calcalkaline magma tic arc related to a convergent con
tinental margin where the Farallon plate is buried
under the continental crust of Mexico. This phenome
non of convergence lasted until 29 miJlion years ago,
when the system of the expanding eastern Pacific
impinged against the western margin of Mexico

1. Geology of the Northwest Regon of Mexico

(Atwater, 1970). Nevertheless, the jnterruption of

magmatism in the interval of 45 to 34 million years
demonstrates a break in the continuity of these
processes. McDowell and Clabaugh (1979) consider
that this period of calm has two possible causes: one
of these is a lowered amount of convergence or a
change of indinaban of the plate being subducted; the
other is the subduction of an active oceanic ridge.
These same authors do not set forth a satisfactory tec
tonic explanabon for the sudden voJcanic activity
indicated by the upper complex and the bimodal
character of this volcanic secluence when compared
with a silica and anorthosite standard.
Demant and Robin (1979) explain the origin of the
ignimbrite blanket as the typical vulcanism of a rift
zone behind an andesitic arc caused bv the reaction of
the crust to the subduction moveme~ts and indicate
the coexistence of compressive and distensive vuJcan

The principal mineralization within the Sierra

Madre Occidental was partly discussed in the sections
aboye, but the discussion is cornplemented by consid
eration of the whole Chihuahua mea. It is thus conve
nient to indicate some generalities related to this
The larger part of the mineral masses that are locat
ed in the Sierra Madre Occidental are strictly related
to the lower volcanic complexo The copper-bearing
porphyries of Cananea and Nacozari are related to
the episodes of intrusive emplacement at the
Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary and the hydrothermal
deposits belong to a period that fluctuates between 49
and 28 miUion yea rs (Clark et aL, 1980) With respect
to the hydrothermal veins, belts are encountered situ
ated on both flanks of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The first of them, located to the west, comprises the
deposits of gold and silver of Sinaloa and Sonora,
such as those of Tayoltita and San Jos de Grcia. The
second belt, on the east side of the Sierra, includes
areas with lead, zinc, and silver, such as Santa
Barbara and San Francisco del Oro.


Abbreviation UNAM is Universidad Nacional
Autnoma de Mxico
Alencaster, Gloria, 1961, Estratigrafa del Trisico
Superior de la parte central del Estado de Sonora.
Paleontologa Mexicana 11, parte 1, Instituto de
Geologa, UNAM, 18 P
Anderson, D.L., 1971, La FaIJa de San Andrs, in Tuzo
Wilson, 1974, Deriva Continental y Tectnica de
Placas. Selecciones de Scientific American, W.H.
Freeman and Company, San Francisco y Londres,
Anderson, T.H., and L.T. Silver, 1978, junlssic mag
matism in Sonora, Mexico: Geological Society of
America Abstract with Programs, v. 10, p. 359.
Anderson, TH., and L.T Silver, 1979, The role of the
Mojave Sonora Megashear in the tectonic evolution


of northern Sonora, Guidebook Field Trip no. 27,

Geology (lf Northern Sonora: GeologicaJ Society of
America. Annual Meeting in San Diego, p. 59-66.
Anderson, T.H., J.B. Eels, L.T. Silver, 1978, Rocas
Precrnbricas y Paleozicas de la regin de
Caborca, Sonora, Mxico. Libreto Guia del Primer
Simposio sobre la Geologa y Potencial Minero del
Estado de Sonora. Hermosillo, Sonora, Instituto de
Geologa, UNAM, p. 5-34.
Atwater, T, 1970, Implications of plate tectonics for
the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of western North
Arnerica: Geological Society of America Bulletin V.
81, p. 3513-3536.
BeaJ, CH., 1948, Reconnaissance of the geology ,lI1d
oil possibilities of Blja California: Geological
Society of America Memoir 31, 138 p. (Original not
consulted, cited in R.G. Gastil et aL, 1975, Recon
naissance geology of the State of Bljl Californil,
Geological Society of America Memoir 140, 170 p.)
Clark, K.F., PE. Damon, S.R. Schutte, and M.
Shaffiquillah, 1980, Magmatismo en el norte de
Mxico en relacin con los yacimientos metalferos.
Revista, Geomimet, no. 106, p. 49-71.
Cooper, G.A., and AR. Arellano, 1946, Stratigl'aphy
near Caborca, northwest Sonora, Mexico. AAPG
Bulletin, v. 30, p. 606-611.
Cooper C.A, et al., 1952, Clmbrian stratigraphy and
paleontology near Caborca, northwest Sonora,
Mexico: Smithsoniln Miscellaneous Collections, V.
119, 184 p.
Corona, F., 1979, Preliminal)l reconnaissance geology
of Sierra La Gloria and Cerro Basura, northwestern
Sonora, Mexico. Guidebook Field Trip 27, Geology
of Northern Sonora: Ceological Society of America
Annual Meeting in San Diego, p. 41-58.
Darton, N.H., 1921, Geologic reconnaissance in Baja
California: Journal of Geology, V. 29, p. 720-748.
(Originll not consulted, cited in F. Lozano, 1976,
Evaluacin petrolifera de la pennsula de Bajl
California, Mexico. Boletin Asociacin Mexicana
Gelogos Petroleros, v. 27, no. 4-6, p. 106-303.)
De Cserna, Z., and B.H. Kent, 1961, Mapa gelogico
de reconocimiento y secciones estructurlles de la
regin de San Bias y el Fuerte, Estados de Sinaloa y
Sonora. Instituto de Geologia, UNAM, cartas geo
logicas y minerales, no. 4.
Demant, A., and C Robin, 1975, Las fases del v01
canismo en Mxico; una sntesis en relacin con
la evolucin geodinmica desde el Cretcico:
Revista Instituto de Geologia, UNAM, V. 75, p.
Dickinson, W.R., 1979, Plate tectonics and the conti
nental margin of California, il1 W.G. Ernest, ed.,
The Geotectonic Development of California: Rubey
volume 1, Prentice Hall, p. 1-28.
Dumble, E.T., 1900, Notes on the geology of Sonora:
Geological Society of America Bulletin, V. 11, p.
Echavarri, A., AO. Saitz, and C.A. Salas, 1977, Mapa
Metalogentico de Estado de Sonora: Revista
Geomimet 2a Epocha July-August, no. 88, Consejo
de Recursos Minerales.


Section 1 The Geology ai the Mexican Republic

FlIlCh, J.W., and P.L. Abbolt, 1977, Petrology of a

Triassic marine scction, Vizcano Peninsula, B<lj<l
California Sur, Mxico: Sedimentary Geology, v.
19, p. 253-273.
Finch, J.W., E.A. Pessagno, and P.L. Abbott, 1979, San
Hipolito Forrnation: Triassic marine rocks of the
Vizcano Peninsula. Field Guides and Papers of
B<lja California, Geological Society of America
Annual Meeting in San Diego, p. 117-120.
Fries, e., 1962, Resea geolgica del Estado de
Sonora, con nfasis en el Paleozica: Boletn
Asociacin Mexicana Gelogos Petroleros, v. 14, p.
Gamper, M., and F.J. Longoria, 1980, Bioestratigrafa y
f<lcies sedimentrias del Cretcico Inferior de
Sonor<l: Resmenes de la V Convencin Geolgica
Nacional, Mxico, D.F, p. 14-15.
Gastil, R.G., and D. Krummenacher, 1978, The migra
ton of the axis of Pacific margin magmatism across
Baja California, Sonora and Chihuahua. Resmenes
del Primer Simposio sobrc la Geologa y Potencial
Minero del Estado de Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora:
Instituto de Geologia, UNAM, p. 63-64.
Gastil, R.G, RP PhiUips, and E.e. Allison, 1975,
ReconnaisSclnce geology of the State of Baja
California: Geological Society of America Memoir
14, 170 p.
Gastl, R, C. Morg<ln, and D. Krummenacher, 1981,
The tectonic history of peninsular California, in
W.G. Ernest, ed., The Geotectonic Development of
Californi<l: Rubey volume 1, Prentice Hall, p.
Gonz1lez, C, 1979, Geology of the Sierra del Alamo.
Guidebook Field Trip no. 27, Geology of Northern
Sonor<l: Geological Society of America Annual
Meeting in San Diego, p. 23-31.
Heim, A., 1922, Notes on the TertiiHV of southern
Lower California: Geological Maga~ine. (Original
not consulted, cited in F. Mina, 1956, Bosquejo
geolgico de la parte sur de la peninsula de Baja
California, Excursion A-7 of the XX Congreso
Geolgico Internacional, Mxico, p. 11-42.)
Tmlay, R.W., ]939, Paleogeographic studies in north
eastern Sonora: Geological Society of America
BuUetin, v. 50, p 1723-1744.
Keller, W.T., and FE. Wellings, 1922, Sonora: Ca
Petrolera el Aguila, Gcological Report no. 180,38 p.
(unpublished). (Original not consulted, cited in
T.H. Anderson, J. H. Eells, and L.T. Silver, 1978,
Rocas Precmbricas y Paleo;;icas de la regin de
Caborca, Sonor<l, Mxico. Guia del Primer
Simposio sobre la Geologa y Potencial Minero del
Estado de Sonor<l, Hermosillo, Instituto de
Geologa, UNAM, p 5-34.)
King, R.E., 1939, Geological reconnaissance in north
ern Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. Geologicll
Society of America Bulletin, v. 50, p 1625-1722.
Longoria, F.J., Clnd V.A. Perz, 1978, Bosquejo geolgi
co de los cerros Chino y Rajn, cuadrngulo
Pitiquito-Lel Primavera (NO de Sonora): Bulletin
Department of Geology, UNI-SON, v. 1, no 2, p.

Longoria, F.J., M.A. Conzle, J.]. Mendoz<I, and V.A.

Prcz, 1978, Consideraciones estructurales en el
cUldrngulo Pitiquito-La Prim<lvera, (Noroeste dc
Sonora): Bulletin Department of Geology, UNT
SON, v. 1, no. 1, p 61-67
Lpez-Ramos, E., 1979, Geolog<l de Mxico, 2a edi
cin, Mxico D.F., Edicin escolar, 3 volmenes.
Lozano, F., 1976, Evaluacin petrolfera de la peninsu
la de Baja California, Mxico Boletn Asociacin
Mexicana Gelogos Petroleros, v. 27, n. 4-6, p.
Mrquez-Castaeda, 13, 1984 Estudio geolgico del
rel de Santa Barbara, Chihulhul. Unpublished
Report of the Faculty of Engineering, UNAM.
McDowell, FW., and S. Clabaugh, 1979, Tgnimbrites
of the Sierra Madre Occidental and their relation to
the tectonic history of western Mexico, in e.E.
Chapin and W .E.Elston, eds., Ashflow Tuffs:
Geological Society of America Special Pelper 180.
McEldowney, RC, 1970, An occurrence of Paleozoic
fossils in Baja California, Mexico: Geological
Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 2,
p. 117. (Original not consulted, cited in Re. GastiJ
et al., 1975, Reconnaissance geoIogy of the State of
Baja California: Geological Society of America
Memoir 140, 170 p.)
McKenzie, DP, and W.]. Morgan, 1969, Evolution of
triple junctions: Nature, v. 224, p 125-133.
Mina, F., 1956, Bosquejo geolgico de la parte sur de
la pennsull de Bljl California: Excursion A-1 of
the XX Congreso Geolgico Internacional, Mxico.
p 11-42.
Mina, F, 1957, Bosquejo geolgico de la parte sur de
la pennsula de Baja California, Boletn Asociacin
Mexicana Gelogos Petroleros, v. 9, p 139-269.
Mulchay, R.B, and J.R Velasco, 1954, Sedimentary
rocks at Canlnea, Sonora, Mexico with the sections
at Bisbe and Swisshelm Mountains, Arizona: AIME
Transactions, v. 199, p. 628-632 (Original not con
sulted, cited in Ca Minera Cananea, SA, 1978,
Geologa del Distrito Minero de Cananea, Sonora,
Libreto Guia del Primer Simposio sobre la Geologa
y Potencial Minero del Estado de Sonora, Instituto
de Geologa, UNAM, p. 57-70.)
Ortega-Gutirrez, F., 1982, Evolucin magmtica y
metamrfica del complejo cristalino de La Paz,
B.CS.: Resmenes de la VI Convencin Geolgica
Nacional de la Sociedad Geolgica Mexicana, p. 90.
Ortlieb, L., 1978, Reconocimiento de las terrazas mari
nas Cuaternrias de la parte central de B<ljl Cali
fornia: Revista, Instituto de Geologa, UNAM, v. 2,
no. 2, p. 200-211.
Pantoja-Alor, J., and J. Clrrillo-Bnwo, 1966, Bosquejo
geolgico de la regin de Santiago, San Jose del
Cabo, Baja California: Boletin AsociaCIn Mexical11
Gelogos Petroleros, v. 17, nos. 1-2, p. 1-11.
Pa tterson, D. L., 1979, The Valle Formation: physical
stratigraphy and depositional modeL southern
Vizcano Peninsula, Baja California Sur: Field
Guides and Papers of Baja California: Geological
Society of America Annual Meeting in San Diego,

1. Geology of he Northwest Region of Mexico

Rangin, C, 1977a, Sobre la presencia del Jursico

Su perior con amon ita:; en Sonora :;epten trional,
Mxico: Revista, Instituto de Geologa, UNAM, v.
1, p. 1-4.
Rangin, C, 1977b, Tectnicas sobrepuestas en Sonora
septentrional: Revista, Instituto de Geologa,
UNAM, v. 1, p. 44-47.
Rangjn, C, 1978, Consideraciones sobre la evolu tin
geolgicas de la parte septentrional del Estado de
Sonora. Libreto Guia del Primer Simposio sobre la
Ceologa y Potential Minero del Estado de Sonora,
Hermosi1Jo, Sonora, Instituto de Geologa, UNA M,
Rangin, C, 1979, Evidence for superimposed subduc
tion and colljson processes during Jurassic
Cretaceou:; time along Baja C:lifornia continental
borderland. Field Guides and Papers of Baja
California: Geological Society of America Annual
Meeting in San Diego, p. 37-52
Rangin, F., 1978, Consideraciones sobre el Paleozico
sonorense: Resmenes del Primer Simposio sobre
de Geologa y Potential Minero del Estado de
Sonora, HermosilJo, Sonora: 1nstituto de Geologa,
UNAM, p. 35-56.
Rangin, F., and D.A Crdoba, 1976, Extensin de la
Cuenca Cretcico Chihuahuense en Sonora
septentrional y sus deformaciones: Memria del
Tercer Congreso Latinoamericano de Geologa,
Mxico, 14 p.
Ransomc, F.L., 1904, Description of the Bisbee quad
rangle, Arizona: US Geological Survey, v. 112, 17 p.
Rodrguez, R., and D.A. Crdoba, 1978, eds., Atlas
geolgico y evaluacin geolgico-minero del
Estado de Sinaloa: Instituto de Geologa, UNAM y
Secretara del Desarrollo Econmico del Estado de
Sinaloa, 702 p.


Roldn, J., and Solano B., 1978, Contribucin a la

estratigrafa de las rocas volcnicas del Estado de
Sonora: Bu1Jetin of thc Dcpartment of Ceology,
UNI-SON, v. 1, p. 19-26.
Salas, G.P., 1980, Carta y provincias metaJogenticas
de la Republica Mexicana, Consejo de Recursos
Minerales 2nd Edicin, 199 p. (Mapa con texto.)
Santilln, M., and T. Barrera, 1930, Las posibilidades
petrolferas en lo costa occidental de la Baja
California, entre los paralelos 30 y 32 de la ti tud
norte: Anales de Instituto de Geologa, v. 5, p. 1-37.
Sillitoe, R.H., 1973, The tops and bottoms of porphyry
copper deposits: Economic Geology, v. 68, p.
Sillitoe, R.H., 1975, A reconnaissance of the Mexican
porphyry copper belt.
Silver, L.T., and TH Anderson, 1974, Possible left-lat
eral early to rniddle Mesozoic disruption of the
soutl1western North A01erican craton margin:
Geologcal Society of America Abstracts with
Programs, v. 6, p. 955.
Silver, LT., and T.H. Anderson, 1978, Mesozoic mag
matism and tectonsm in northern Sonora and their
implications for mineral resources, Resmenes del
Primer Simposio sobre la Geologa y Potencial
Minero del Estodo de Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora:
Instituto de Geologa, UN AM, p. 117-118.
Stoyanow, A., 1942, Paleozoic paleogeography of
Arizona: GeoJogical Society of America Bulletin, v.
53, p. 1255-1282.
Taliefferro, N., 1933, An occurrence of Upper
Cretaceous sediments in northern Sonora, Mexico:
Journal Geology, v. 41, p. 12-37.
Valentine, W.C., 1936, Geology of the Cananea
Mountoins, Sonoro, Mexico: Geological Society of
America Bulletin, v. 47, p. 53-86.

2. Geology of the N orthern and

Northeastern Regions of Mexico





. /.. (~







/ . SAN LUI:,>..\ ....

,.. . <.,

"'.:" ~'\,



.,>.. \.,)

Additonal1y, precipitation records reveal that the clj

mates vary from dry to semi-arid in the west of this
zone and from humid to subhumid in the Sierra
Madre Orientol and the Coastal Plan of the northern
Gulf of Mexico.

For description of the northern and northeastern

regions of Mexico, one can use the following natural
limits: to the west, the Sierra Madre Occidental; to the
east, the Gulf of Mexico coast; and to the south, the
northern edge of the Neovolcanic axis.
The region comprises, according to the physio
graphic division of the DGG (see Figure 1.1), the
provinces of Sierras and Plains of the North (Basin and
Range), the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Great Plain of
North America, the Central Mesa, and the Coastal
Plain of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Nevertheless, the
division that is used is based fundamentally on the
paleogeographical elements of the Mesozoic in this
part of Mexico. In vorious forms, these elements have
a general correspondence with the physiographic
provinces mentioned aboye, chefly in the orgn of
orographic forms thot are particular expressons of the
types of geologieal phenomena that generate them.
The clima te of aH the region varies in general from
hot to temperate, and regular summer rains oceur.

General Geology
The area of the State of Chihuahua is eharacterized,
particularly in its eastern part, by the presenee of fold
ed mountains formed from marine Mesozoic strata.
These mountains make up prominent topographic
peaks that oecur separated by great plains that were
elevated as thev were filled. These are tectonc
troughs filled \vh continental sediments and sorne
lava debris blocks. They originated as local filled
basins termed bolsones. The folded sedimentary
sequenees gradually disappear toward the western
margin of the sta te, to an edge under the ignimbrite
cover of the Sierra Madre Occidental.


Seclion 1 The Geology oi lhe Mexican Republic

The folded sediment<uy rocks, which crop out in

the majc)f pclft of the arca, developed aboye a
Precambrian and l'aleozOlc basement that is exposed
in some localities and that also hls been reported in
wells drlled by Pemex. In the area of the Sierra del
Cuervo, Mauger a.nd co-workers (1983) obtained a K
Ar c1ge corresponding to the Grenville from ct meta
morphic block included in a Permictn sequence.
Quintero and Guerrero (1985), in addition, rcported
the exposure of a srnilar metcllnorphic unit to the
south of Mina Plomosas that could be an outcrop of
the Chihuahua Precambrian basement.
The Paleozoic rocks that crop out widcly in sorne
areilS of Texas have in northeastern Mexico very
restricted exposures wh the result that it is difficult
to reconstruct the paleogeographic elements of thot
c1H'a (Figu re 2.1). Gonzles (1976) considers tha t the
outcrops of limes tones and dolornites of the lower
Paleozoic of Chihuahua reflect a platform environ

ment similar to the focies deveJoped across the North

American craton and considers it logical that this ete
ment continucs toward Mexico. In contrast, he indi
cates tha! in the Pennsylvaniiln-Permian interval, the
sedimentological pattern prescnts more irregular con
ditions caused by the action of block faulting that
devcloped intracraJonic platforms and ba.sins on
\vhich were deposited respectively carbonates and
terrigenous sediments. The Diablo Platfonn dates
from this time; its southwest border forms a rnarked
lineament thlt coincides approximately ""ith the
course of the Rio Grlnde along a belt from Ciudad
Jurez to jinilga. This tectonic feature has main
tained its influence on sedimentological events and
deformation during the Mesozoic and even the
Cenozoic. DeFord (] 969) makes note of the suelden
disappearance, at the Mexican irontier, of the
Ulchita belt composed of deformed Paleozoic ter
rigenous sediments. Ihis leads onc to believe that this















- - - - - I - - -

Sedlmenlary rocks

Figure 2.1. Paleozoic sedimentary rocks of Chihuahua.



2. Geology of the Northern and Northeastem Regions of Mexico

bdt continues under the Mcso7.oic sequencc ol

ChihuClhud to the east of the calclfeous outcrops o
the Paleozoje at Plilccr de Guadi\lupe-Minl Plomosas.
Nevertheless, one Cdnnot rule out the pns<;iblity that
thi::; bdt plsses to the west of the lbove-cited lOCllity,
siJlce in the area of Aldlml the presence of a consid
erable seqw'nce oE dlfk grlY siltstones similar to
those utcropping on the northern flank of the
OUlchitl belt in -, exas ha:, been reported.
The dilliculty in defning the Paleozoic tectonic e1e
ments in Chihuahua is Glused by the very scarce out
crnps ano the fact thlt this regio n encompasses the
confluence of the North Amerc,m ([aton, the OUlch..ita
belt, lnd ["he Cordillera n miogeosyncline, al! uf whose
nterrelahonships are still somewhcl.t confusing.
Thl-' pflncipil Plleozoic outcrops of Chihuahlll
inelude the seqlll:'nces cxposed in Ihe arel around
Minl Plomosls northelst of Chihlllhu1 (mostly Iime
stones); Aldlma sillsl mes, \vhch are present to the
north of Chihulhuil Citv; lnd variollS minor loca!ties
that occur in the north~vest corner of the state where
]jmcslone and dolomite pllltorm flcies appelr. In the
oil wells Moyotes no. 1 lnd Chinos no. 1, I'lleozoic
c;"quencl:S \Vere drilled. In the latter well Ordoviciln,
Cambriln, and metlmorphic Preclmbrian rocks \Vere
ene luntered (N,warro lnd Tovar, 1973).
Thc urugenic dcformation of the Marathon
Ouachila olC'osyncJine during the jVl~i:,sippian
Pennsylvlnian nterval lnd the normal faulting of toe
soutbern portion of the North American crllon "vere
followed by <l long periocl of eme(sion (PermiiHI to
lVIiddle Jurassid during wbich redbeds \Vere deposit
ed within l tectonic setting of intense normal faulting.
This episodc of continental deposition is \'11 1dely
known ayer the neighboring regions of Torreon clnd
northern Zlcalecas,
A t lhe bq;inn m?; of ~11e Kim meridgi 11, lhe eastern
pl1rtion of Chihuahua IOrmed l marim' basin as a con
sequence of a transgression initiilted during this time
(DeFord, 1969). This basin i~ limited to the norlhelst
bv the Dilblo l'Jatform, to the south"vest by the
J.\Jdama Peninsul1, lnd to the elst by the Coa'huila
P 'ni nsula or J~la nd (see hgure 2.4). onzcJes (976)
clles cm unpublished \vork by R. Carza of Pemex in
which it is sughcsted thlt the Aldlml Peninsula lmi
the COlhuila lsllnd might h,we constituted l single
positive element be:,ide which the Chihu1hua basin
might have had communication lcross t11(' Gulf uf
S,lbinas In _oahuila. The [irst sLlgl'" (lf th
pp '1"
rllrl~sic lTldflne tr,ll1sgress'ion coverng ti e Lll11u.'ilm,
basin g,we rise to deposition of an ev~porite sequence
thcll is nolV mlnifested by dilpiric struetures of salt
dnd gypsum Joclted lo ('he south uf Ojinag<l and
Ciudld Jurez, lS well as encountered in oi! wells
clrilled by Pemcx in the Sierra de Cuchillo Plfldo
(DeFord, 1969). The chicf outcrops of the Upper
Jurassic contain argiJllceolls lnd ellclfeoLls
sequences and are loclted principllly between
Ciudad Jurez lnd Chihuahua, mainly to the llorth of
Sierra de Si1Ll1alaYllca, in lhe Sierra de Jl Alcc1plrrl, in
the Sierra El Kilo, lnd in the Sierrl La Mojna.
At the beginning uf the Cret<1Ceous, dllring the


f\ t'uconlian, mlfine sed il11l'nla tion con ti nueo in Ihe

Chihuahua basin, chiefJy with deposlts of lil11eslone
and gypSlll11 of the Alcaparra hHmation as w(,11 as
with the clays lnd sdndstones of the Ll c' V'n1S
Formabon. During this epoch the Coahuill si wd
remlined still emcrgent and the Aldlm,' Pcnin:::lll,1
was covered by a l11lrine trlns -1,,'. sion. At the end oi
the Neocomjln lnd beginning uf the Aptian, the seas
beglll l very impo l<lnl transgression oV't'r 11.
COlhLlill IsJlnd lnd the inlernll terrlnes of Sunor,
and SinaJoa (Rangin lnd Crdoba, 1976) In thr
Chihuahul basin l very thiek, fllndamentillJy . kMl'
ous sequence then developed that inchdes he
Cuchillo Formltion and the Chihuahul Group
(Benigno and Lgrima formltions, the Fin <l)'
Llmestone, and Benavides Formltion) (Crdoba,
1Y70). This transgression lcross the positivc c1emenb
reaches its maximum d '\'eloprnent in lhL'
Albian-Cenomlniln intervll, during which impor
tant red facies were developed over the AldlJn<I
Platform (Frlnco, 1978). During the _, le Crcl<l'l'DUS,
lerrigenolls sedimentation in the Chihudhua r , ion
marks the uplift and volclnic lctivily of the vVl'stern
part of Mexico. These tcrrigenous deposits ,on~litut
the Ojinagl Group, rewgnized in the ,He,l oi the it".
of this name; they rcfJect l deltlic environment th< t in
the Clmpanian marks the ,1dvlnee of lhe COlO:; line lo
lhe Clst (Gonlcz, 1976). The absenct. (lf L'pper
retlceOllS sedlments in the Hel of Ihe Aldlm,1
Peninsull sLIggests th,11 lhis region remlincd ('ni 'r
gent durng most of Llte Cretll'cous lime.
The end of the Me~ozoic ErJ is markecl by folding
of the Meso:oic cover (Jigure 22) ZlS l result 01 a
"decollement" or sliding lt the leV'L'! of thL' bd~.i1! eVilp
orite seqllence. On the other hand, the strucluraJ axes
present gencrllly a northwest-southelsl orientatioll.
The recumbence of the inh'rse faulls, which hl\'(;'
oppo~itl' vergence on bolh sides of the ba.sin, hlS been
interpreted lo be dlle to the up-Itehing of el central
beJt lt lhe level of the basement, which originah-'d the
slipplge toward the Diablo ,1nd Aldama plltform~,
respectively (Gries and Hlcn~gi, ':i 711,.
In lhe Cenozoic Eri\ Ihe Chihuahua region evoJved
as an emergent 20ne that was panly covcrcd (almo:',[
complete]y so in the western portion) by emis~i,lIls uf
i::.,nimbrites of Olgocene-Mocene age. McDowell and
CJaballgh (1979) indicnte that the volcanic rocks to the
casI side of Chihulhu, {Figure 2.12) hlve ,1 ditfcrent
chemicll composition from lhe majnr VOlc.llC .1rC<1S
inl1 L'O :,titu! ,In inll'r,nCl11ll" prov I1lt bd 'l't' t\ lb'.'
calcllk1line series of the Sierra Madre OLcidcnl,l!
(west of Chihuahul) lnd the llklline series of Tran~
Pecos Texas. The distention;,l teelLlnics of the late
TertiJry caused the formiltion of grlbens in which
considerable thicknesses of continental sediments
\Vere deposited.
Economic Resources
Aecording to the mi)p of Melllk)bl'nc Provinces of
the Mexcan Republie (Sllls, 197<;), the Stilte of
Chihuahua beJongs to the Metlllosenie Province of


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

deposits within which the localities of Talamantes,

Tenantes, and Casas Grandes occur.
The iron deposits of eastern Chihuahua belong to a
belt associated with the return to the west of magma
tism related to arc migration (Clark et a!., 1980) The
chief deposits are encountered in the mines oE La
Perla and Hercules in the vicinity of Coahuila.
The uranium-bearing volcanogcnic deposits of
Chihuahua are linked to the migration of magmatisrn
toward the east and are related to rhyolitic and tra
chytc lavas about 40 million years in age. The princi
pal locabon of this type of deposit is the Sierra de
Pea Blanca, located in the north of Chihuahua.
With respect to petroleum reservoirs, tile calcare
ous Paleozoic rocks that possess platform facies,
chief1y those that crop out in the northwest part of the
state, occur at depth with petroleum possibilities.
They show considerable porosity and resemble pro
ductive rocks of western and central Texas (Gonzlez,
1976). Information from petroleum wells has revealed
possibilites in the Jurassic of Chihuahua since they
have penetrated calcareous-argillaceous sequences
with high organic content, which could serve as
source rocks as well as some porous sequences of
platform facies that could be reservoirs (Gonzlez,



Normal fault


nverse lauH




Tertlary volcanlc rocks

Figure 2.2. Structures in Mesozoic rocks of


the Sierra Madre Oriental. The princi pal deposits of

this region ore the hydrothermal deposits of sil ver,
lead, zinc, and gold that are localized principally in
the central belt of the state and that follow in large
part the axis of the Mexican Republic (see Figure 2,3).
The mineral districts of Santa Eulalia, Naica, Hidalgo
del ParraL Santa Barbara, and San Francisco del Oro
belong to this central belt of Chihuahua sta te,
According to Clark et o!. (1980), during the end of the
Mesozoic and a large part of the Cenozoic, there
occurred an eastward migration in time and space
and a la ter return of the magmotic arc related to the
convergent morgin that was developing along the
western border of the country. The episodes of
hydrothermal mineralization mentioned aboye
occurred 28-40 million years ago (Clark et al., 1980).
These episodes were related to the magmatic activity
that is a product of the partal fusion induced by the
Farallon plate under the continental crust of Mexico
during which time a return to westward migration of
the magma tic arc was occurring.
The hydrothermal deposits of manganese, con
tained generally in ignimbrites, also form a belt of


General Geology
This region is characterized by the predominant
presence of folded Mesozoic sedimentary rocks that
rest upon a Paleozoic and Precambrian basement. The
most significant physiographic feature is the flexure
that the Sierra Madre Oriental undergoes at the lati
tude of Monterrey; fram here the fold belt acquires a
general east-west orientation. To the north of this flex
ure the orographic elements become more widely sep
arated and the geologic structures less narrow.
Furthermore, the topographic relief diminishes grad
ually to the east grading into the coastal plclin of the
Gulf of Mexico.
The Paleozoic basement, above which the Mesozoic
seguence of this region developed, has been interpret
ed as a continuation of the Ouachito belt of the south
eastern United States. Denison et al (1970) have
indicated that the Granjeno schists of Peregrina
Canyon rnaintain a great similarity to the eastern inter
nal zones of the Ouachita belt. This affirmation seems
lo be corroborated by the metamorphic basement
reported in the petroleum wells of the States of Nuevo
Len and Tamaulipas. In contrast, the detrital Pennian
sediments reported fram the Delicias-Acatita area are
similar to those of the frontal belt east of the Ouachita
Periods of emersion and normal faulting occurring
during the Triassic and part of the Jurassic controlJed
the paleogeography of the upper part of the Mesozoic
and gave way to continental redbed deposition that
has been reported chiefl y within and to the sou th of
the Monterrey-Torreon transverse sector.

2. Geology of lhe Northem and Norlheaslem Regions of Mexico












A Iorrn

Sta. Eulalia

S!m frBn5Cil d.QI ru




- --1-


1- - -


.... Pb-Zn-Ag






Figure 2.3. Distribution of principal rninerallocalities known in the State

of Chihuahua (taken froro the MetaUogenic Map of the Republic of
Mexico by G.P. Salas, 1975).

In the Late furassic, a transgression occurred over

northeastern Mexico; it concurred with the formation
of the Sabinas Gulf, the Coahuila lsland, and the
Peninsula and Archipelago of Tamaulipas (see Figure
2.4). This phenomenon has been related by various
authors to the opening of the western extremity of the
Tethyan Sea during the initial disintegration of the
supercontinent Pangea. During this process the
Paleogulf of Sabinas was defined in the Oxfordian. 11
possesses the characteristics of an intracratonic basin
developed in the more tectonically stable southern
North American cralon. Terrigenous and calcareous
evaporite deposits were developed in the first stages
of transgression in the Sabinas Gulf. They formed

under conditions of strong evaporation (Gonzlez,

1976), mainly in the Oxfordian (see Figure 2.5). The
Minas Viejas, Novillo, Olvido, Zuloaga, and La Gloria
formations belong to this epoch. The last two forma
tions represent respectively the extra-littoral and
near-coastal facies of the upper Oxfordian (Rogers et
al., 1961). The advance of the marine transgression
during the I<immeridgian and Tithonian created
deposits of the open sea, the La Caja and Pimienta
formations, which are composed of calcareous-argilla
ceous sequences with carbonaceous horizons, just as
in the La Casita Group (see Figure 2.6).
During the beginning of the Early Cretaceous, lhe
marine transgression of the Late Jurassic continued


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic



240 km

Figure 2.4. Paleogeography of Upper Jurassic, after Ral Gonzlez-Garcia, 1976.

and gave way thcoughout ClI1 the Neocomian to depo

sitian of a heterogeneous sequence camposed of vari
ous formations. The S,\l1 Mc1fCOS llrkose constitutes a
littorll and continental facies encompassing Cl major
part of the f\Teocomian deposited simultaneously with
other diverse formltions. The configuration of the San
Marcos arkose permits the observation of intercala
tions of the unit between formations deposited con
temporaneollsly in marine platform environments.
This is indiclted by various lentils formed off the
coastline of the COilhuila Isllnd in different strati
graphic levels. The MenchClca Formation is formed by
a seguence of limestones and some intercalations of
mar! and shale. This formation constitutes the base of
the plalform sequence of the Neocomian that is repre
sented higher up by the shales and sandstones of the
Barril Viejo Formation; the limestones and shales of
the Padilla Formltion; the calcareous-argillaceous
sequence of the La Mula; and the limestones,
dolomites, and evaporites of the LCl Virgen Fonnation.
In the southeast sector of the Sabinas Gulf, the argilla
ceous limestones of the Tlfaises Formation ,vere
deposited during the Berriasian-Hauterivjan interval.

From the H,lUterivian to the Aptian, in al! of north

east Mexico, caJcareous deposits fonned; these occur
in various facies. In a large part of the Sabinas Gulf,
limes tones of the Cupido Formation were deposited
in a platform environment. Furthermore, there devel
oped a reeill lineament that trends from Llfedo to
Monterrey and from there to the west toward
Torreon. This is considered an integral part of the
Cupido. Finally, outside of the reefal margin that
bounds this formation, facies of the open sea devel
oped, constituting the upper Tamaulipas Formation
(see Figure 2.7).
At the Aptian-Albian boundary, there suddenly
appeared a general influx of fine terrigenous clastics
into the Gulf of Sabinas; this forms the La Pe\a
Formation. This infiux could be a response to
epeirogenic uplifts of the surround ing positive ele
rnen ts or to a eustatic fll1 in sea level (Smith, 1970;
During the Albian-Cenomanian intervaL an impor
tant marine transgression, cornpletely covering ele
ments that until then had remained positive, began
the development of thick sequences of carbonates

2. Geology of the Northem and Northeastem Regions of Mexico




100 km



Plalform carbonates-evapontes 01 Olvido-Novillo Formallon

Shelf margln oollte banks 01 ZLJloaga GroLJp (?)


Plafform clastlcs 01 La Glolla Formatlon

ArglllaceoLJs open manne Ilmeslone of unknown lormatlon

Figure 2.5. Paleogeographical configuration of northeast Mexico during the Oxfordian, after Alfonso



Seetion 1 The Geology of the Mexiean Republie



.00 VICTO /A





Terngenous La Casita Group

Argillaceous sandy carbonate 01 Pimienta Formalon

Argllaceous carbonates 01 La Caja Formallon

Figure 2.6. Paleogeographical configuration of northeast Mexico during the Kirnrneridgian and Tithonian,
after Alfonso-Zwanziger, 1978.

2. Geology of the Northern and Northeastern Regions of Mexico





'). ...

. r ... _.
J ....

' ....


.0:--.. . . / ...

[!9 .

\..... I



Temgenous deposlts


Platform Ilmestone





.... -1


..... .....


__ ... -,





200 km

Conllnenlal depos,ts

Figure 2.7. Paleogeography of Neocomian-lower Aptian for northern and northeast Mexico, after Ral
over al! of northeast Mexico. Over the Burro platform
(Tamaulipas Peninsull) and the COlhuila Island,
sequences of shallow marine and evaporite flcies
were deposited owing to the presence of reefs that
bordered the tectonic elements. The Aurora, Acatita,
and upper Tamaulipas formations belong to this
intervll (see Figure 2.8).
During the Late Cretaceous, over aH the region in
general, terrigenolls sediments coming from western
Mexico were deposited. These underwent orogenic
deformation at the beginning of this epoch and later
l general uplift With the gradual retreat of th seas

tow8rd the east, successive cOlstlines and deltas

developed with consequent detrital cllstic deposi
tion (see Figure 2.9). In the Ll Popa lnd Parrls
basins slow subsidence induced the accumulation of
grelt thicknesses of shales and sandstones. The for
mations of Del Rio, Suda, Indidura, Eagle Ford,
Caracol, Austin, Parras, Upson, San Miguel, Olmos,
Escondido, and Difunta are units belonging to the
Upper Cretlceous. Sediments that constitute the last
formation have been considered bv Tardv et al.
(1974) as flysch deposits that preced~ the o~ogenic


Seclion 1 The Geology of lhe Mexican Republic










200 km

Figure 2.8. Paleogeography of the Albian-Cenomanian for northern and northeastern Mexico, after Ral
Gonzlez-G arcia,1976.
Deformations of the Laramide Orogeny occllrred
mainly in the early Cenozoic. The anticJinal and syn
clinal structures so characteristic of the Coahuila. land
scape belong to these epochs. The style of
deformabon of the Slbinas Culf Mea is less intense
than thlt observed in the front of the Parras basin
where recuUlbent folds and overthrusts have signifi
cant development. The folds are somewha.t narrow
and onlv are recumbent and overthrust toward the
positive' elements at the edges of the Sabinas Culf.
Over the old posjtive elernents the structures are even
more gentle and can be observed to have the form of
large periclines. From the time of these orogenic
deform<l.tions the continental cvolution of the region
begll1 with importlnt continental dcposits nduced
by Late Cretaceolls normal faulting.

During the Cenozoic, isolated pulses of igneous

acbvty occurred in this part of the country, chiefly
in the Oligocene, when intrusions of nepheJinc syen
ite were emplaced (Bloomfield and Cepeda, 1973).
Clarl< and co-workers 09RO) consider these igneolls
bodes lS part of an all<alic igneous belt that is
extended from New Mexico into Mexico. These
authors consider that this alkaline magmabsrn was
caused by the subduction that was occllrring in
western Mexico and that constitutes the most distant
manifestabon of the ancient ocean trench tbat was
forming more Ihan 1000 km away. There <1lso exist
Oligocene volcanic occurrences similar lo the
siliceous rocks east of Chihuahua, in addition to
small basaltic emissions in Ihe Pliocene and

2. Geology of the Northern and Northea.stern Regions of Mexico







~-... ./


.. .


/ '>" '


























400 Km

Figure 2.9. Paleogeography of the Upper Cretaceous for northern and northeastern Mexico, after Raul
Gonzlez, 1976.

Economic Resources
Thc Meil of thc S,lbinas palcogulf and thc platforms
of Coahuila and Tamaulipas have been the object of
very extel~sive petroleum exploraton because they
contain favorable characteristics for the dcvelopmcnt
uf this resource, imd, furthermore, abundant commer
cial production has been obtained in adjacent regions.
The stratigraphic levels with major possibiJities are in
the Upper jurilssic and Lower Cretaceous, since in
thesc rocks both SOllrcc beds and strata with reservoir
characteristics appear. Petrleos Mexicanos has

drilled numerous exploriltion wells <1nd hilS encoun

tered important shows of hydrocarbons in the Sabinils
paleogulf Mea.
The coal-bearing zone of Sabinas is formed by sedi
mentary deposits located within the deltlic sequence
of the Upper Cretilceous. Specificillly, these bcds
belong to the Olmos Formabon of Maastrichtian age
thilt was deposited in a dominantIy swampy environ
mento This zone is the principal producer of coal in
the nation and its major reserve (see Figure 2.'13).
There also exist numerous deposits of t1uorite and
barite distributed in belts generally oriented north


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

west-southeast. These belts c1early parallel mineral

ization belts developed in northern Mexico as a conse
quence of the magmatism associated with subduction
in the west. These fissures are hydrothermal yeins
that occur general1y within the host rock of Lower
Cretaceous limes tone. This area is the principal pro
ducer of fluorite in Mexico. The State of Coahuila also
contains resources of phosphorite of sedimentar)' ori
gin th(lt forms horizons in strata of the La Caja
Formation of the Upper Jurassic; this constitutes one
of the most important sources of this material in the


General Geo1ogy
The Eastern Sierra Madre and the adjacent areas
are composed chiefly of Mesozoic sedimentar)' rocks
that were deposited and developed over a Paleozoic
and Precambrian basement. The Sierra consists of an
orogenic mountain belt that follows, in its southern
segment, a general northwest-southeast trajectory,
and at the latitude of Monterrey, turns to follow an
east-west trajectory toward Torreon. The Sierra
Madre is composed oE narrow foJds ""ith an orienta
tion that folJows tbe general strike of the mountain
belt. In the direction of the Mesa Central the valleys
are wider, the Sierra anticlines less narrow, and
toward the west they become gradually covered by
the volcanic rocks of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The Precambrian and Paleozoic basement can be
observed in isolated outcrops that occur in erosional
windows in the folded Mesozoic sequence (Table 2.1).
In the area of Ciudad Victoria, numerous authors
have described an important sequen ce of upper
Paleozoic rocks that rests on metamorphic rocks of
early Paleozoic and Precambrian age (Carrillo-Bravo,
1961; Fries and Rincn, 1965). The lower metamorphic
sequence is composed of the Novillo gneiss oE
Precambrian age, La Pres quartzite of the Cambrian,
and by the Granjeno schist, Iater than both of the
aboye units. According to radiometric dating of
Denison et al. (971), the Granjeno schist originated
by metamorphic processes that occurred in the
Pennsylyanian-Permian interval. These authors sug
gest thM the schist was positioned tectonically in jux
taposition with the sedimentary sequen ce of the
upper Paleozoic that is contemporaneous with it. De
Cserna et al. (1977) consider this unit to be allochtho
nous, positioned in tectonic contact on the N ovillo
gneiss in an episode later than the formation of the La
Presa quartzite and before the deposition of the upper
Paleozoic sequence. Furthermore, these authors have
dated the metamorphism of the Granjeno schist and
have assigned it to the Ordovician (446 million years).
Ramrez-Ramrez (978) has suggested that the tec
tonic emplacement uf the Granjeno schist occurred in
the late Paleozoic, at the time of in tense folding uf the
upper Paleozoic sedimentary sequence. According to
the model of this author, the Granjeno schist comes

from an eastern belt belonging to an internal zone of

the Ouachita trend that was metamorphosed during
the Carboniferous. The sedimentary sequence
deposited in the Silurian-Permian interval has been
considered by most authors as a tectonic autochthon
developed aboye continental basement represented
by the Novlllo Gneiss and belonging to the Ouachita
belt of southern North America.
Other Paleozoic outcrops of the Sierra Madre
Oriental are located in the area of Huayacocotla at the
latitude of the 21st parallel At this lo~ality Paleozoic
rocks are seen exposed in the nucleus of a major anti
clinorium whose flanks are composed of a thick
sequence of Mesozoic sediments. Here the Paleozoic
constitutes l metamorphic sequence of gneiss, schist,
and metaconglomerate probably belonging to the
early part of the era and a flysch sequence more than
2000 111 thick that is Permian in agc. In addition,
Mississippian shales, sandstones, and conglomerates
havc been reported in the area of Calnali, Hidalgo
(Carrillo-Bravo, 1965).
The Triassic is represented in the Sierra Madre
Oriental and in neighboring areas by redbeds belong
ing to the Huizachal Formation. These continental sed
iments attest to a long period of emersion in this part
of the country. This originated later than the orogenic
deformation at the end of the Paleozoic (Table 2.1).
The Mesa Central contains numerous ou tcrops of
metamorphie sequences that could belong to the
Triassic or the end of the Paleozoic. In the area of
Zacatecas City, above a metamorphic sequence, there
rest marine partially metamorphosed sedimentary
rocks that contain fossils of Carnian (Late Triassic)
age (Burckhardt, 1930). These, together with those at
Peon Blanco and Charcas, S.L.P., constitute the only
known outcrops of marine Triassic in this part of
Mcxico. Other outcrops of schistose rocks of probable
late Paleozoic or Early Triassic age are located in the
areas of Caopas, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato.
During the beginning of the Jurassic, continental
deposition continued in this part of Mexico with
redbed sedimentaban, except in the region of the
Huayacocotla anticlinorium, where an advance of the
seas that induced marine sedimentation of an argilla
ceous and sandy sequence is recorded. Carrillo-Bravo
(1971) termed this area the "Liassic Basin of
Huayacocotla." These sedimentary strata, named by
the smne author the Huayacocotla Formation, were
deformed at the end of the Early Jurassic leading to
the predominance oE continental deposition in the
whole region during the Middle Jurassic.
In the Lilte Jurassic, there is recorded generally in
all of nortbern and northeastern Mexico a marine
transgression that Tardy (1980) related to the western
opening of the Tethyan Sea during the disintegration
oE the supercontinent Pangea (Table 2.1). Pilger (978)
indicated that the opening oE tbe Gulf of Mexico was
earlier than the opening of the Atlantic, from whicb it
might be supposed that the marine transgression of
the first half oE the Mesozoic ought to have come from
the Pacific rather than from the east. The affinity of
the faunas of eastern Mexico with those of the Pacific






a~ >-,~


central and E Por\lon

N Pomon














'M ,




















































FJ.I O1,l,U;S






















C cuelDO









lA~Ai~Ei~~~ i i








































HEn ArK1JA.\j










14. I







ffin. "'<




























Table 2.1. Stratigraphc correlations for northeast Mexico.

Complled by Ennque Cabral. 1984




Section 1 The Geology of lhe Mexican Republic

(LonSllJlrl, pcrsonll eommunication) is a flet that sup

j'orts Ihis -;uppasition. In a time eClrlier than the
[1 '?~~ic !T,ln~~r('~"ion, duriJlc~ Trido>sic continental
d"'posilion, a llf~e part of whlt is now lVIexico
l,,-'Io ~"l to the \'\ 'stern sector of the above-mtc'n
lioned cuntinl'nl lngea.
With the invC\~ion of the Lite Jurlssic selS over
1.1\0<; uf northern and northeac,lern Mexico, the major
pclleogeographic e!elllents begrlll to be defined-ele
ments .lchve during the whole Mesozoic and that cal1
lmlkd :, dimentation at this time and later tectonc
d<c'tonll<'ltion. Among the principal elements that were
,1,live during the lVIesozoic in the pr '5l'nt area of the
,'ierra M,ldre Orientll and ldjacent regions are the
\1psozoic basin of Mexico ar Mexican geosyncline, the
V,lll'~-San Luis Potos platform, the Peninsula ar
IsJlnd of'oilhuill, the Peninsula or Archipclago of
Tcl'llziUliFil::', <1nd tlll' anci'nt Guli of Mexica.
The Mesozoic basin, deveJoped in the zone of the
Ml::'-;a -':'I1tra! and the Sierra Madre Oriental, hlS been
considl'r~d by nUJl)erous cluthors as il geosyncline, in
thl~ st'nst: of el linear belt of subsidence where a con
siderable lhickncss nf sediment lccumulated lnd thlt
laler WdS d "slro:,ed by orogeny. Burkbard t (L 930)
consid"r d tbilt tor the Llte Jurassic in this res ion l
m~jor entrance of the seil that bordered the positive
le nds took place, except in the southclst toward the
Slk' of Verlcrllz.
rm lay (] 938) mentions the ex istence in this region
of a M"xiGln geo~yncline, separdted from thilt devel
oped in w 'stern Mexico, that WlS termed the Pacific
geosyncli[1(:. This iluthor indiciltes, furthermore, thlt
in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods communicl
tion developed with portals bctwcen both geosyn
clines; lhe . clre evidenced by the migrilton of
cl1arlcl('ristic Mediterralleln biotil tOvv<lrd the Pacific
provine' ot th(! north and vice vcrSl.
More recently, Tlrdy (l ':180) cOllsidered that tbe
eJst-central portion of Mexico evolved lS l geosyn
cline in whidl there were individullized t\Vo bilsins
(Ancestrill Culf of Mexico lnd the Mcsozoic bilsin of
Mexico), Thesp possessed l NNVV-SSE orientltion,
"'vH' si 's 0.- Gdc, rl::'OUS pel1gic sedimentltioll, illld
were S 'plfated by il cresta I Mea (the Vll\es-Sln T llis
Poto~ll'liltform) over which neritic sedimentation
dcvelop-'d. Schmidt-Effing (1980) belie\'cd in tbe
presencc of ,1n auJilcogell in the area of Hu,lyacocotlil
dllri ,!.., the )-o.Mly Jurlssic; lhe possibility was suggest
ed tb<lt this piHt of the country might hlve evolved as
an (luJ?lcogen syslcm dllring the first half of the
Ml'sozoic, i.e., lS l series nf marine-lIlvaded tectonic
derressions ,1$ -ociilt ,d with the initill explnsion of
tl1l::' Atlclntic. '1Ill? constant lctivity of these troughs
cilLlsed draslic changes in the bathymetry that pro
vok -d, in cert,llfl ,1rlCC\S, dl::'position of pelagl': stmtl
cstabIJshed 011 continenLll crust without re<lching ln
ultil1late proc 's., of oceanizatiol1. in a large part of the
Mes%le bilsin of Mexico (f\,[ '. el Cl'ntrll lnd the
wcstern belt of the Sierra Madre hiental), the
Oxlordiln marine trilnsgression is m, rked bv an ini
kll deposit of the gyps~m Minas Viejas, indicating a
shlllow water basin under climatic conditions of

strong evaporation. These gypsum deposits playa

very important role in the orogenic deformation t the
end of the Mesozoic, according to the modeJs ot \'ari
ous authors, In the Ancestral Culf of Mexico, Hw
Oxfordian transgression illso is initiatel by evaporil .
deposits. OnJy at tbis tirne did shallow w<Jter ckposib
on'ur in both blsins, since during lIw resl of the
Mesozoic sedimentary conditions were peil~ic in the
Culf blsin in contrast to the inIand where nerit
ic deposits den'loped 011 llll' Valll's-San Lui. Pot()~i,
Tlmaulipas, lnc! COilhuilil platforms.
The {Trper Jurlssic deposits in the Mesozoic blsin
of Mexi~o consist in stratigrlphic order of the Mineb
Viejas Gypsum, tbe Zuloagl Lirnestol1cs, and lhe silt
stones, limestones, lnd shales 01 the L'I Caja
Formation, lhe clastic strata equivalent lu ne,1f
cOilstal facies nf tbe last two formations are respec
tively th,: La Cloril ilnd [ a Cilsita forllliltions. Thc
marine transgression initialcd in tbe Oxfordian die!
not completely cover the Vltles-San Luis Potos plilt
forlll, ancl some ,1r(',lS rell1.lined emcrgent during all
of the Lille Jura 'sic (Carrillo-Brlvo, 1971). In lddition,
the platform or archipelago of T<llllaulip<1s WilS plrtly
emcrgent and the CO.lhuill pliltform totillly so.
During the first pi1rt of the Early Cret;lceous
(Nl'ocomiln--Aptiiln), open sea deposition occurred in
tht' Mesozoic bilsin nf Mexico (Taraises anJ lower
Tlmaulipas fornlltions) while over the Vall?S-Siln Luis
POlllS platforlll ,1 sequence that was chiefly evaporitic
(Cnuxcam Formation) occurred. With the ,.. . Ibi.ln there
came a general marine transgression that covered the
last positive elements and that cxp,lnded over the
western portions of Mexico (Rangin and Crdoba,
1976). On the perimeter of the Vall's-San Lui Potosi
pliltform there developed at this tinll' a n~(:!f 1 b 'I:t
fllnked by bilck-reef ilnd forereef deposlts (5ee Figure
2.10). This whole facies assemblage was terllled the El
Abra Forml tion (Carrillo-Bravo, 1971). Simillr re (,'1.1
developments have been interpreted to occur around
the Coahuila and Burro ptllforms contemporilneous
with the Aurora lnd Cuesta del Cura formiltions, and
llso in the arCl of Tuxpan where l reef in the form (lf
an atoll forllls the reservoir for hydroclfbons in the so
cllled ColeJen Lane (Figure 2.1 n
At the beginning (Jf the Late Cretilceous, the re 'i
men of scdimentation in eilstern Mexico changed
drlstically with l influx of detritcll sedimcnts cominh
from the west \\fhere an uplift il socilted with vol
cilni, and plutonic lctivity was lodking place. During
this epoch the seas retrelted gradually toward the
east, with associated prograding deltas. [n the arelS of
the MesoLoic basin, d posits of the Turonian lndidurl
Formation (!irncstoncs and shaJes) were laid down,
followed bv the Carilcol Frmiltion in the
C()niacian-M~lstrichtian('h.lIes and s'lIldstones), lhe
Pilrras ShaJe from the Santonian, and the Dilunta in
the CampClnian to Mlastrichti111 (shales anu ~. nd
stones). Over the Va Iles-Sa n lu i Potos pla tform
during most of the Late Cretaceous, Cl cllcareous corn
plex of pliltform type developed, This is composed of
pure limes tones and argilldcou'i lmestones of the
TlllllSOpl Formation belon['.ing to the intervll from

2. Geology of the Northem and Northeastem Regions of Mexico


La Asurlclon
Cd Vlctona

Cd Mante




San LUIS Polosl

Approxlmale Ilmls
ol plalform dunrlg the
Early Crelaceous wlth
reel growth on Ihe margins

( ' \ Arrecife


Platform Ilmll dunng Ihe mlddle

Crelaceous w'lh reel development
on lhe marglns

0====50 km

El Doctor

Approxlmate platlorm Ilmlls dunng the

Lale Crelaceous wlth developmenl
o( reefs dunng Turorllan and Senonlan

Figure 2.10. Limits of the Valles-San Luis Potos platform during the

upper Turonian to upper Senonian. This underlies the

shales, sandstones, and limestones of the Crdenas
Formation of Campanian-Maastrichtian age. These
formations are the platform equivalents of the Agua
Nueva, San Felipe, and Mendez formations of the
Ancestral Gulf of Mexico.
The first manifestations of the orogenic deforma
tion at the beginning of the Cenozoic are flysch
deposits associated with prograding deltas of the Late
Cretaceous and with the foredeeps formed in the
areas of Parras (Campanian-Maastrichtian) and the
Chicontepec (Paleocene) where thick terrigenous
setluences were deposited in deep water. These defor
mahons began the construction of the Sierra Madre
Oriental and initiated the continental history of a
large part of this sector of the country.
In the period of maximum orogenic deformation in
the Mesa Central area, deposits of molasse-type con
glomerates belonging to the Ahuichila Formation and

the Red Conglomera tes of Guanajuato beg<:1l1 to formo

Generally these are polymictic conglomera tes derived
fram erosion of the folded Mesozoic fO,rmations.
Great thicknesses of continental alluvium accumulat
ed in the synclinal depressions and tectonic troughs
that imprinted a characteristic geomorphology on the
landscape of the Mesa Central. The extreme western
part of this zone of Mesozoic folds appears covered
by mesetas of ignimbrites dissected and split into trib
utaries from the Sierra Madre Occidental. These sedi
ments originated chief1y in the Oligocene.
In the Ancestral Gulf of Mexico, two principal
Tertiary sedimentary basins are separated from each
otber by the Laramide folds of the Sierras de
Tamaulipas and San Carlos. The Burgos basin, Iocated
to the north, contains marine sequences that are
chieflv detrital and more than 1500 m thick, ,vith the
devel~pment of numerous growth faults contempora
neous with sedimentation, recognizable in the wells


Seclion 1 The Gealagy ai the Mexican Republic











100 200 km

Figure 2.11. Distribution of reefs of Lower and middle Cretaceous around the margins oi the Gulf oi Mexico,
after Carrillo-Bravo, 1971.

drilled by Petrleos Mexicanos (Lpez-Ramos, 1979)

In the Tampico-Misantla basin, thick marine sandy
argillaceous sediments developed. This basin is seen
to be limited to the following geographic borders,
principally by orogenic structures from the early
Cenozoic: to the north by the Sierra Tamualipls, to
the east by the Sierra Madre Oriental and the
Chicontepec foredeep, and to the south by the
Tezuitlan massif. In the two basins, the Tertiary
deposits occur within the setting of general eastward
regression that left successive belts of outcrops porll
lel to the present coastline.
The pJutonic and volcanic activity in the Sierra
Madre Oriental and Gulf of Mexico coastal plain was
very minor during the Cenozoic and is represented
only by isolated plutons emplaced in the Mesozoic
strata, and SOme flows in the areas of the Sierra
Mldre Oriental and the Neovolcanic axis. These are
mineralogically similar to the alkaline province of
eastern Mexico. The most important plutonic
emplacements Me located in the Sierra de San Carlos,
in Tamaulipas, where nepheline syenites, gabbros,
and monzonites disposed in laccoliths, dikes, and
mantos are found (see Figure 2.12). These rocks con
stitute a southward continuation of the alkaline
province that begins toward the north in tlle Big Bend
orea in Texas (Clmk et ll., 1980). Radiometric studies
of intrusive rocks in the Tamaulipas area, published
by Bloomfield and Cepeda (973), reveal dates that
vary between 28 and 30 million years. The flows of

alkaline basalt located to the north of Tampico repre

sent a later event attributlble to l distension
(Cantagrel and Robin, 1979).
Tectonic Summary
The characteristics of the Precambrian and
Paleozoic basement, aboye which the great Mesozoic
sequence of eastern Mexico evolved, are not dear
because in general there are very scarce outcrops. The
belts that form this basement should ha ve been
strongly dislocated by lateral and vertical movements
during the first half of the Mesozoic. These tectonic
movements prepared the paleogeographic distribu
tion of basins and platforms that would control the
sedimentation and the Laramide deform,ltions during
the end of the Mesozoic. In whatever structural form
and orientation they might have, the Paleozoic out
crops of the Sierra Madre Oriental have been consid
ered to be a prolongation of the Ouachita belt of the
southeastern United States, since many writers have
pointed out similarities with the rocks of this belt (De
Cserna, 1956; Flawn, 1961; Denison et aL, 1971;
Ramrez- Ramrez, 1978). This belt was formed as a
consequence of the closing of the proto-A tlantic
During the Triassic this part of the country evolved
in continentll aspect with the development of disten
sive tectonics that caused the formatlon of troughs
filled with thick continental sediments. In the Jurassic,

2. Geology of lhe Northern and Northeastern Regions of Mexico


1 Ollgocene Ignimbntes

2 Lower Cenozoic granitic intrusives

3 Alkaline Intruslve rocks associated with lower Cenozoic granileS

4 8asaltic-alkallne rocks 01 the upper Tertiary and Quaternary

Figure 2.12. Distribution oi outcropping igneous rocks in northeastem

two important domains were estab1ished in Mexico as
a result of the opening of the Atlantic and the Gulf of
Mexico, as weIJ as by the northwestward movement
of North America. The first of these, located in west
em Mexico, was represented by a convergent margin
and a zone of magmatic arc of Andean type, resulting
from the subsidence of the Farallon plate under the
North American continent. The second domain of
geosynclinal type or of an aulacogenic system origi
nated during the marine transgression over the east
ern part of tbe country at the time of the opening of
the Gulf of Mexico. This transgression caused a great
thickness of calcareous deposits within a setting of
intermittent subsidence and the presence of emergent
cratonic elements and marine "highs."
At the beginning of the Late Cretaceous, a marked
change occurred in the sedimentary regimen in this
region, as a consequence of the uplift and deformation
of the western area where there was continuouslv
active subduction of the Farallon plate under the co~
tinental portion of Mexico. The detrital sediments that
began to cover the G]careous sequence of the east
were distributed widely and came to relch grelt thick

nesses in the foredeeps of Parras (Upper Cretaceous)

and Chicontepec (Plleocene). Their formation
presages the orogenic activity thlt would affect aH the
region. In this way the western and eastern domains
of Mexico, which had acted in a relatively indepen
dent mlnner, elch wilh its own characteristics, are
seen to be closelv interrelated with the final Mesozoic
deformations. '
According to a model proposed by Coney (1983),
the orogenic deformations lt the end of the
Cretaceous and beginning of the Tertilry coincide
with a change in movement of the tectonic plates,
since the North American and Farallon plates that
converged obliquely in western Mexico began to face
each other frontllly and to move with greater veloci
ty. De Cserna (1956) considers that the folds of the
Mesozoic sequence increased in intensity from the
Mesa Centrll toward the Sierra Madre Orien tal
beca use of the presence, in the time of deformabon, of
the massive cratons of the Coahuila platform and the
Tamaulipas Peninsula. The forces coming from the
southwest provoked the deformation of the sequence
from the base of the Oxfordian evaporites on up. The


SectioIl T The G eology oi the Mexican Republic

eVClporiles served as a surrace of sliding or decolle

ment in the style of the Jura Mountains of Europe (De
Cserna, 1979). Tardy el al. (1975) supposed the exis
tence of a nappe with NNE direction, i.e., Cln over
thrust of hundreds of kilometers that relocated the
pelagic sequence of the internal blsin (Mesl Centrll
Clnd High Chain of the Sierra Madre Oriental) over the
Coahuila and Valles-San Luis Potos platforms with
reef(ll and subrecfal sequcnccs that form similar pale
ogeographical uplifts. The model of this author pre
sumes the unbuckling of the internal basinaJ sequence
at the level of the Oxfordian gypsum and establishes
the possibility that the basement might have taken
part in this tectonic phenomenon. According to the
rnodel of Padilla y Snchez (1982), the distribution of
the tolds and ovcrthrusts of northeast Mcxico can be
explained by movement of North America toward the
northwest with respect to Mexico, more than by the
action of compressive forces coaxial with a southwest
northeast orientaban.
Economic Resources
The Gulf Coastal Plain and adjacent areas consti
tute a very important region for petroleum produc
tion, which has been obtained from both Mesozoic
and Tertiary sequences.
The Faja de Oro (Golden Lane) has been tradition
ally a productive zone that years ago constituted the
principal source of hydrocarbons in the nation. The
productive unit is a reef that developed in the Early
Cretaceous and that extends in a semicircular form
out to the continental sheif at the latitude of Tuxpan.
Tbe Tam<1br<1 belt in the Poza Rica Mea that consists
of iln ilncient forereef zone has also been ln importlnt
source of hydrocarbons. fn the Burgos basin zone to
the north of Tamaulipas and east of Nuevo Leon, <1n
import<1nt petroleum-producing TertilrY sequence is
encountered. Furthennore, the Paleocene sequence of
the Chicontepec area consists in actuality of an assem
bl<1ge of very important reserves. Other ZOnes with
petroleum potentials, principally in Mesozoic rocks,
are the Valles-San Luis Potos platform, where impor
tant reefal development is present in the Lower
Cretaceous and the Mesa CentraJ has <1 significant
mMine sedimentary sequence of ]urassic lnd
Cretaceous age.
In sllmmary, the oil and gas productive districts of
the region north of the GulfCO<1stal Pllin are Pnuco
Ebano, Faja de Oro, Poza Rica, and Vera cruz (Dfaz,
Mineral deposits include notable hydrothcrmaJ
developments in the Tertiary of the Mesa CentraJ lrea
and on the \-vestern flan k of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
The most important recognized resources of leld, sil
ver, and zinc cHe localized in the eneas of Fresnillo,
Zacatecas, Sierra de Catorce, Charcas, and Zimapn,
in addition to the mine,al district of GUilnajU<1to,
where the principal association is silver and gold.
Likewse, of outstanding importance are the
hydrothermal deposits of fluorite of the area of Las
Cuevas and Ro Verde. These constitllte a sOllthern

continuation of the northwest-southeast-oriented belt

that developed in Coahula during the Tertiary, the
time in which the m<1gmatic arc reached its most east
ern position. Finally, it is appropri<1te to indic<1te that
the barite deposits that were developed on the eastern
slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental are also substan
tial and bear reJationshi p to this episode of vO!c<1nic
and subvo!canic activity (see Figure 2.13).


Abbreviation UNAM is Universidad Nacional
Autnoma de Mxico
Alfonso-Zwanziger, ].A., 1978, Geologa regional del
sistema sedimentario Cupido: Boletn Asociacin
Mexic<lna Gelogos Petroleros, v. 30, n. 1 and 2.
Bloomfield, K., and D. L. Cepeda, 1973, Oligocene
alkaline igneous activity in N.E. Mexico: GeoJogical
Magazine, v. 110, p. 561-559
Burckh<lfdt, C, 1930, Etude Synthtique sur de
Mesozoique Mexicain: Memoire Socit
PaJeontologique Suisse, v. 49-50,280 p.
Cantlgrel, ].M., and C. Robin, 1979, K-Ar dating on
eastern Mexican volcanic rocks-relations between
the andesitic and the alkaline provinccs: Journal of
Vulcanology GeothermResearch., v. 5, p. 99-114.
Cilrrillo-Bra VOl L 1961, Geologa del Anticlinorio
Huizachal-Peregrina al noroeste de Ciudad
Victoria, Tamaulipas. Boletn Asociacin Mexicana
Gelogos PetroJeros, v. 13, p. 1-98.
Carrillo-Bravo, L 1965, Estudio de una parte del
Anticlinorio de Huayacocotla: Boletn Asociacin
Mexicana Gelogos Pe troJeros, v. 17, p. 73-96.
C<1rrillo-Bra VO, L 1971, L<I plat<lforma Valles-San Luis
Potos: BoJetin Asociilcin MexiClnl Gelogos
Petroleros, V. 23, nos. 1-6, p. 1-112.
Charleston, S., 1973, Stratigraphy, tectonics, and hydro
carbon potential of the Lower Cretlceous, Coahuila
Series, Coahuila, Mexico. Doctoral Dissertation,
University of Michgan, Ann Arbor, 268 p.
Cl,1rk, K, P. Dlmon, S Shutter, lnd M. Sh<1fiqullah,
1980, Magmatismo en el norte de Mxico en
relacin con los yacimientos metalferos: Revista,
Geomimet, no. 106, p. 49-71
Conev, P., 1983, Pllte tectonics <1nd the Laramide
Or~geny: New Mexico Geological Society, Special
Publica tion no. 6, p. 5-10.
Crdobl, D., 1970, Mesozoic stratigraphy o nortb
eastern Chihuahua, Mexico: The Geologic
Framework of the Chihuahua Tectonic Belt.
Symposium West Texas Geological Society, in
honor of Prof RK DeFord, p. 91-96.
De Cserna, Z" 1956, Tectnica de la Sierra Mldre
Oriental de Mxico, entre Torren y Monterrey, XX
Congreso lnternacionat 87 p.
De Cserna, Z" 1979, Cuadro tectnico de la sedi
mentacin y magmatismo en algunas regiones de
Mxico durante el Mesozoico: Programas y
resmenes del V Simposio sobre la Evolucin
Tectnica de Mxico: Instituto de Geologa, UNAM,

2. Geo(ogy of the Northern and Northeastern Regions of Mexico



Sla i=ulaJ'




'- ""---,

Pb. Cu

Pnnclpally Pb-Zn-Ag


Na. Mg





Pnnclpally Mn





Figure 2.13. Distribution of the principal known mineral resources found in northeastem Mexico (taken from
the Metallogenic Map of the Republic of Mexico, G.P. Salas, 1975).
De Cserna, Z., TL. Graf, and F. Ortcga-Gutirrez,
1977, Alctono dcl Pa leozCo Inferior en la regin
de Ciudad Victoria, Estado de Tarnaulipas: Revista
del [nstituto de Geologa, UNAM, v. 1, p. 33-43.
DeFord, R.K, 1969, Sorne keys to the geology of

northern Chihuahua, New Mexico Geological

Society Guidebook, 20th Field Trip, p. 61-65
DenisOl1, R.E., et aL, 1971, Basement rock framework
of parts of Texas, southern New Mexico, and north
ern Mexico: GeoIogic Framework of the Chihuahua


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

Tectonic Belt, Midland: West Texas Geological

Society, p. 3-14.
Diaz, J., 1980, En qu consiste una reserva petrolera?
El Petrleo en Mxico y en el Mundo, CONACYT,
2nd edition, p. 221-223.
Flawn, P.T., 1961, Rocas metamrficas en el armazn
tectnico de la parte septentrional de Mxico.
Boletn Asociacin Mexicana Gelogos Petroleros,
v. 13, p. 105-116.
Franco, M., 1978, Estra tigra fa del Albiano
Cenomaniano en la regin de Naica, Chihuahua:
Revista, Instituto de Geologa, UNAM, v. 2, no. 2,
Fries, c., and O.c. Rincn, 1965, Nuevas aportaciones
geocronolgicas y tectnicas empleadas en el
Laboratorio de Geocronometria: Boletn Instituto
de Geologa, UNAM, no. 73, p. 57-133.
Gonzlez-Garcia, R., 1976, Bosquejo geologico de la
Zona Noreste: Boletn Asociacin Mexicana
Gelogos Petroleros, v. 28, no. 1 and 2, p. 2-49.
Gries, c.J., and W.T. Haenggi, 1970, Structural evolu
tion of the eastern Chihuahua tectonic belt:
Geologic Framework of the Chihuahua Tectonic
Belt: Symposium of West Texas Geological Society,
in honor of R.K. DeFord, p. 119-137
Imlay, R.W., 1938, Studies of the Mexican Geosyn
cJine: Geological Society of America BulLetin, v. 50,
p. '1-77
Lpez-Ramos, E., 1979, Geologa de Mxico, 2nd edi
tion, Mxico, D.F.: Scholastic edition, 3 volumes.
Mauger, R L., F. McDowell, and J.c. Blount, 1983,
Grenville Precambrian rocks of the Los Filtros near
Aldama, Chihuahua, Mexico. Geology and Mineral
Resources of north central Chihuahua: El Paso
Geological Society, p. 165-168.
McDowell, F.W., and S.E. Clablugh, 1979, 19nimbrites
of the Sierra Madre Occidental and their relation to
the tectonic history of western Mexico, in C.E.
Chapin and WE. Elston, eds., Ash Flow Tuffs:
Geological Society of America Specill P\per 180.
Navarro, A., and R. J. Tov1T, 1975, Stratigraphy and
tectonics of the State of Chihuahua: Explorltion
from tlle Mountains to the Basin: El Paso GeoJog
iCll Society, p. 23-27.
Padilla y Snchez, R., 1982, Geologic evolution of the
Sierra Madre Oriental between Linares,
Concepcin del Oro, Saltillo, and Monterrey,
Mexico: Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Texas at
Austin, 217 p.
Pilger, RH., Jr., 1978, A dosed Gulf of Mexico, pre
Atllntic Ocean plate reconstruction lnd the early
fift history of the Gulf and the north Atlantic:
Transactions Gulf Coast Association Geological
Societies, v. 8, p. 385-593.

Quintero, O., lnd J. Guerrero, 1985, Una localidad de

blsamento Precmbrico de Chihuahua, en el rea
de Carrizalillo: Revis ta, Insti tu to de Geologa,
UNAM., v. 6, p. 98-99
Ramrez, J.c., and F.O. Acevedo, 1957, Notas sobre la
geologa de Chihuahua: Boletn Asociacin
Mexicana Gelogos Petroleros, v. 9, p. 583-766.
Ramrez-Ramrez, c., 1978, Reinterpretacin tectnica
de] Esquisto Granjeno de Ciudad Victoria,
Tamaulipls: Revista, Instituto de Geologa,
UNAM, v. 2, p. 31-36.
Rangin, c., and D.A. Crdoba, 1976, Extensin de la
cuenca Cretcica Chihuahuense en Sonora septen
trional y sus deformaciones: Memria del Tercer
Congreso Latinoamericana de Geologa, Mxico, 14

Rogers, L.c., et aL 1961, Reconocimiento geolgico y
depsitos de fosfatos del norte de Zacatecas y reas
adyacentes en Coahuila, Nuevo Len, y San Luis
Potos: Boletn de Consejo de Recursos Naturales
no Renovables, no. 56.
Salas, G.P., 1975, Mapl Metalogentico de la
Repblicl Mexicana: Consejo de Recursos
Schmidt-Effing, R., 1980, The Huayacocotla aulocogen
in Mexico (Lower Jurlssic) and the origin of the
Gulf of Mexico, in RH. Pilger, ed., Proceedings of a
Symposium, The Origin of the Gulf of Mexico in
the Elrly Opening of the centr\] North Atlantic
Ocean. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, p. 79-86.
Smith, c.I., 1970, Lower Cretaceous stratigraphy,
northern COlhuila, Mexico: Bureau of Economic
Geology, University of Texas, Report of
Investigation no. 65. 1al p.
Tardy, M, 1980. La transversal de Guatemala y la
Sierra Madre de Mxico: J. Aubouin, Tratado de
Geologia, v. III Tectnica y Tectonofsica, y
Morfologa-David Serret, translator, Barcelona,
Espau Editorial Omega, p. 117-182.
T1Tdy, M., J. Siga!, lnd G Gacon, 1974, Bosquejo
sobre la estratigrafa y plleogeograffa de los fiysch
Cretcicos del sector tranversal de Pc1rras, Sierra
Madre Oriental, Mxico: Instituto de Geologa,
UNAM, Serie Divul, no. 2.
Tardy, M., et l1., 1975, Observaciones generales sobre
la estructuras de la Sierra Madre Oriental. La alc
tonia del conjunto Cadena Alta-Altiplano Centrll,
entre Torreon, Coahuila y San Luis Potos, S.L.P.,
Mxico: Revista, Instituto de Geologia, UNAM, v.
75, no. 1, p. 1-11.

3. Geology of the Central Region of Mexico




..:.:: ../




",j,{~~,~,~~~:t (.,.,,?

I<> >


,.--.....,.....-;<~.... _.,/-<,.../.. . !PUEBLA\.,...,.,',.

.-' CENTRAL \.,



,.,> "

one of the domains stratigraphic and tectonic condi

tions are more or less homogeneous wth well
defined limits. These domains coincide in large part
with the geological provinces proposed by Lpez
Ramos (1979) for this region.

In describing the geology of the central mea of
Mexico, the foUowing limits have been used: to the
north, the northern edge of the Neovo1canic axis; to
the west and south, the coastlines of the Pacific; and
to the east, the shore of the Gulf of Mexico and the
Isthmus of TehUimtepec.
The physiographic provinces of the Neovo1canic
axis, the Sierra Madre del Sur, and the northern part
of the Southern Gulf Coastal Plain are included in this
regio n (see Figure 11). In terms of the division of geo
logical provinces used by Lpez-Ramos (1979), the
provinces of the Vera cruz basin (with the subprovince
of Sierra de Jurez), the province of San Andres
Tuxtla, the Tlaxjaco basin, the Sierra Madre del Sur,
the Altiplano of Oaxaca, the Guerrera-Morelos basin,
and the Neovolcanic axis are induded.
The clima te of the region is highly variable owing
to the complex physiography On the slopes of the
Gulf of Mexico the dimate changes fram humid tem
perate in high parts of the Sierra Madre Oriental, to
semi-hot and humid in the lowlands. On the Pacific
slopes the climates vary fram hot and subhumid on
the southeast flank of the Sierra Madre del Sur and
the banks of the Ro Balsas to semi-arid, hot, and very
hot in the Valley of Oaxaca and the major part of the
Balsas blsin. In the regions of basins within the
Neovolcanic axis, the climate is in general subhumid
and varies from temperate to semi-frigid and cold.
In the central Mexico region, sequences outcrop
that lttest to diverse domains of various stratigraphic
leveis, which in some regions are observed to be
superimposed, This makes general descriptions rather
frutless. For this reason, this chapter treats elch of
the six domains of this region separately. This format
facilita tes description and synthesis, since within each

The Transmexican Neovolcanic axis is composed of
an upper Cenozoic belt that transversely crosses the
Republic of Mexico at the 20th paraUel (see Figure
3.1). It is formed by a large variety of volcanic rocks
that were emitted along a significant number of vol
canos, some of which constitute the highest peaks of
the country. The volcanic actvty in this belt has
given rise to a large number of internal basins, with
the consequent occurrence of lakes thi1t give the geo
morphic landscape a very characteristic appearance.
The principal volcanos located in this province are
stratovo1canos of hghly variable dimensons, such as
El Pico de Orizaba, El Popocatpetl, Ellztacchuatl, El
Nevado de Toluca, and El Nevado de Colima (see
Figure 3.2). AlI of them were built by alternating
pyroclastic emissions and lava flows. In addition,
there exist vents of cinder cone type that are generally
small, such as Paricutn, and rhyolitic volcanos such
as are encountered southwest of Guadalljara. In addi
ton to these types of centralized emissions, there is
evidence of numerous fissure emissions and adventi
tious developments on the sides of the great stratovol
canos. There are also some calderas caused by both
collapse and explosion; examples of the largest are La
Primlvera in the State of Jllisco and Los Hmeros in
the Sta te of Puebla.
According to Mooser (1972), the Neovolcanic axis
has a zigzag pattern caused by the presence of a fun


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

Figure 3.1. Distribution of rocks forming the Transmexican Neovolcanic


datnentaJ system of orthogonal fragmentation with a

northwest and northeast direction of the fractures.
The latter orientabon seems to be related to transcur
rent movements principally in the eastern and central
portions of the belt. This impiHts the zigzag aspect to
the axis. The great stratovolcanos as at Tanctaro
Nevado de Toluca, Popocatpetl, and Nevado de
Coliml, would be situated on the southern apices of
this system, while the great mining centers of the
region, such as Guanajuato and Pachuca, would
remain situated on the northern apices.
Oemant (1978) considers that the Neovolcanic axis,
more than just fonning il continuous belt of volcanic
rocks, constitutes a group of five principal focal
points of activity with distil}ct orientabon and charac
teristics. Within these five principill centers it is possi
ble to recognize two types of volcanic structures: (l)
those represented by great stratovolcanos in north
south alignment, and (2) those represented by numer
ous small volcanos aligned in a northeast-southwest
trend, developed over tensional fractures.
The first volcanic manifestations in the area of the
Valley of Mexico in the upper Oligocene, are
observed to be principally associated with fractures of
west-northwest and east-southeast orientation ilnd

with influence of frlctures with northeast-southwest

orientltion. In contrast, the last volcanic episodes of
the Pleistocene and Quaternary in this portion of the
axis seem to be related to a system of fractures with
east-west orientabon as in the Siern1 de Chicl1inautzin
(Mooser et al., 1974). In the central portion of the axis,
seven phases of vulcanism have been recognized
(Table 3]) that ha ve occu rred since the Oligocene.
The most important of these is the fifth, which
occurred at the end of the Miocene and that gave rise
to the mountain ranges of Las Cruces, Ro Fro, and
Nevada. During the sixth phase the cones and domes
of Iztaccihuatl and the active con e of Popocatpetl
were developed. The last phase, egual to the former
was developed in the Quaternary and is responsible
for the volcanic acti vity tha t cut off the drainage of
the basin of Mexico toward the basin of the Ro Balsas
and caused the enclosed interior drainage of the for
mer feature (Mooser et al., 1974).
In its western part, the Neovolcanic axis is bor
dered by the tectonic troughs of Tepic-Chlpala and
Colima. The first has a northwest-southeast orienta
tion and is associated with the volcanos of San JUln,
Sanganguey Ceboruco, and Tequila. The second pos
sesses a north-south orientation and is associated with

3. Geology o the Central Region of Mexico



I~ O~

I 3<S{f)4








l.J 19






0 22


.. 15



. I








25 1

G). ~8








50 km











Figure 3.2. Distribution o the principal vents in the Mexican Neovolcanic axis.







































- I







Table 3.1. Sequences o volcanic groups and tectonic events o the

basin of Mexico.

the Nevado de Colima and the Volcn de Fuego

(Colima Volcano). The tatter vent constitutes, in the
judgment of Demant (1978), the IDost dangerous vol
cano of the Neovolcanic axis, since it is a vent of the

Mt. Pelee type with a plug of dacite lava that might

cause the development oE Nues Ardentes.
Toward the east the axis is bordered by the vol
canic rocks of the San Andrs-Tuxtla region, although


Section 1 The Geology oi the Mexican Republic

Demant and H.obin (1975) consider the rocks of this

regio n to belong to the Eastern Alkaline Province
since they fix the eastern limit of the province at the
latitude of Pico de Orizaba and at Cofre de Perote.
The petrographic composition of the rocks forming
the Transmexican Neovolcanic axis is highly variable.
Flows and pyroclastic products of andesitic composi
tion are abundant, although numerous dacite and
rhyolite units also existo Some units traditionally rec
ognized as basalts, such as the Chichinautzin Group,
have been considered recently to be andesitic in view
of chemical analyses of rock samples (Mooser et aL,
1974). In addition, local isolated occurrences of recent
rhyolitic volcanics exist, such as those localized in the
dmes of the Primavera Caldera in Jalisco, in the area
of Azufres in Michoacn, as well as in Los Hmeros
and Puebla (Demant, 1978). From a chemical point of
view, the Transmexican Neovolcanic axis is consid
ered by numerous authors as a calcalkaline province
characterized by its abundance of andesites and
dacites and by the ratio maintained by content of sili
ca and sodium and potassium oxides.
Most authors agree that the activity of the Neovol
canic axis began in the Oligocene and that it has con
tinued up to the Recent (Mooser et a!., 1974;
Negendank, 1972; Bloomfield, 1975). Within this
activity two principal cycles have been recognized: (1)
Oligocene-Miocene and (2) Pliocene-Quaternary.
Demant (1978) considers that the vulcanism of the
axis is solely Pliocene-Quaternary, since the lower
cycle of the Oligocene-Miocene constitutes the south
ern prolongation of the volcanic system of the Sierra
Madre Occidental. This author indica tes that the
andesites of the Oligocene are folded, as in the Sierra
de Mil Cumbres in the Lake Chapala region and in
the Tzitzio-Huetamo anticlinorium. In contrast, he
notes that in the eastern segment of the axis, outcrops
of these andesites are very rareo Ihis author does not
clearly establish the relationship of these intermediate
rocks with the Oligocene ignimbrites of the Sierra
Madre Occidental, where the real andesitic activity
had ceased by the end of the Eocene, about 40 million
years ago (McDowell and Clabaugh, 1979).
The origin of the Neovolcanic axis has been reIated
chiefly to the subduction of the Cocos plate beneath
the continental crust of Mexico, which at the level of
the asthenosphere induced partial fusion and origi
nated the magmas of the axis (Mooser, 1975; Urrutia
Fucugauchi and Del C<1stillo, 1977; Demant, 1978)
(Figure 3.3).
The calcalkaline character of this province supports
the aboye hypothesis, although the obligue position
of the axis with respect to the Acapulco trench does
not result in a feature typical of this type of phenome
non. Urrutia-Fucugauchi and Del Castillo (1977)
explain this lack of parallehsm by means of a model
which demonstrates that the direction of movement
of the Cocos and American plates is not perpendicu
lar to the Acapulco trench and that the northwest and
southeast extremes of the Cocos plate become more
dense, less warm, and older as well as of greater
thickness and rigidity. Al! this is responsible for a

gradual decrease in the angle of subduction toward

the southeast end of the trench and causes a horizon
tal angle of 20 between the Acapulco trench and the
Neovolcanic axis. According to Demant (1978), the
subduction of the Cocos plate along the Acapulco
trench commenced to develop progressively in the
Oligocene, in the for111 of <1 zone of left-Iateral dis
placement between the American plate and the
Caribbean plate, which still is active along the system
of the Polichic-Montagua-Cayman trench. The lateral
movement within this system reflects the rotation of
North Americc1 t0',vard the west with respect to the
Caribbean plate, which includes the continental por
tion of Central America.
Negendank (1972) supposes, based on the chemical
characteristics of the rocks of the Neovolcanic axis,
that this calcalkaline province originated as c1 result of
the partial fusion of materials from the lower crust,
more than from partial fusion of the Cocos plate at the
level of the asthenosphere.
Some c1uthors have indicated that the Neovolcanic
axis coincides with a zone of lateral slippage that was
active during the past. According to a model of Gastil
and Jensky (1973), im portan t right-Ia teral d isplace
ments occurred in the axis in the Late Cretaceous and
in the early Tertiary, in concordance with the move
ments observed in the \"lestern United Sta tes.
Nevertheless, Urrutia-Fucugauchi (personal communi
cation) considers that the movement has been left-Iater
al, and he calls attention to the available paleomagnetic
data. This author believes that the zone of lateral dis
placement indicated aboye couId have operated as a
structural control for the exit of the magmas produced
by the subduction of the Cocos plate under the
American plateo Mooser (1975) considers that the
Neovolcanic axis could have coincided with the scar
(geosuture) that marks the union between two ancient
cratonal masses and whose zigzag arrangement would
reflect the fact thc1t the Cocos plate, after foundering in
the Acapulco trench, would ha ve been divided into
slightly overlapping zigzagging fragments.


The area of the Morelos-Guerrero platform, in
which important marine Mesozoic deposits are devel
oped, is located for the most part within the State of
Marelos and in small portions of the northeastern
State of Guerrero and southeastern State of Mexico.
Ihe marine sedimentary seguence exposed in this
region covers a chronostratigraphic range from the
Upper Jurassic to the Upper Cretaceous. This
sequence rests on Precambrian metamorphic base
ment represented apparently by the Iaxco Schist
(Fries, 1960; De Cserna et al., 1975), which in a similar
area underlies a lightly metamorphosed andesite unit
that Fries (1960) termed the Old Taxco Greenstone
Campa (978) indica tes much similarity between the
Taxco Schist rocks described by Fries and the voIcano
sedimentary rocks of the Lower Cretaceous that crop
out to the west of Teloloapan. This would indicate
that the age of the Iaxco Schist is not Precambrian,

3. Geology oi the Central Region of Mexico







San Andres-Gulf of California Fracture System

Rivera Fracture
Rivera Triple Junctlon
Clarion Fracture
Orozco Fracture
Siqueiros Frac1ure
Clipperton Fracture
Galapagos High
Panama Fracture
Tehuantepee High


Cocos High

Carnegle HIgh

Nazca High

Meso-American Trench

Peru-Chrle Trench

Polochle-Motagua Fault

Cayman o Bartlett Fault

Pequenas Antillas Subductlon Zone

Puerto Rico Treneh

Oea - El Pilar Faull

Figure 3.3. Tectonics o the Caribbean and central Pacifico

and in that case this unit would not form part of the
of the metamorphic basement aboye which evolved
the Mesozoic sedirnentary sequence oE the Morelos
Guerrero platform. Toward the borders of Guerrero
and Oaxaca, the sedimentary marine sequence oE the
MoreJos-Guerrero platform rests over a metamorphic
basement oE Paleozoic strata represented by the
Acatln Complexo
The marine sedimentary units of this region are
covered discordantly by Cenozoic continental

deposits and voIcanic rocks oE the Neovolcanic axis,

as well as by sorne Oligocene remnants of rhyolitic
The base of the Mesozoic marine package is repre
sented by the Acahuitzotla Formabon of Late Jurassic
age (Fries, 1956), which js formed by calcareous and
argillaceoils sedjrnents that crop out in isolated locali
tieso This formabon underlies with erosjonaJ discor
dance calcareous shales of the Neocomian Acuitlapan
Formation. 80th formations show the effect of weak


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

dynarnic metamorphism. The Xochicalco Formation

of Aptian lge, llso in rare outcrops, is formed by a
sequence of thin limes tone beds that rest upon the
Acuitlapan Formltion. After deposition of the
Xochicalco Formation an uplift occurred in the region
that gave rise to the paleopeninsul,) of Taxco (Fries,
1956) and a period of erosion markecl by tbe presence
of ln unconformity that places the Xochicalco
Formltion in contact wilh vHious p<lIts of the
Morelos Forrnation.
ThlS latter formation cont>ists of a calcareolls unit
that accounts for the most extensive outcrops of the
region. lts name hlS been applied to scquences of
limestone that exlend toward Michoacn, Jalisco, and
Colima, aJthough its characteristics are not always the
Slme. H is formed of thick beds of limes tone and
dolomite thll in one sequence reach up to 900 m thick
lnd thlt have in the base an anhvdrite member some
rneters tbick. The litboJogic cb;racteristics clnd lhe
fauna reve,)1 that this unit formed from shallow water
marine deposition during the Albiln-Cenomanian
At the end of the Cenomanian an emersion
occurred in the area with the emplacernenl of various
lncks )1 gr<lnik and with differential erosion of tbe
top 01 the Morelos Formation (Fries, 1956).
During the Turon ia n a n i nvasion of tbe sea was
repelted ancl calcareous sedimentation was reestab
hshed with the development of a calcareous bank
toward the west of a line trending from Cuernavaca
to Huit7uco.
The end. of the Turonilll marked a drastic change
in the sedimentiltion of lhe Morelos-Guerrero pJat
form rcsulting from uplift of a majar pOIt of the "01
cano-sedimentlry areas located in the western regon
of this pilrt of MeAico. The deposits of shlle, siltstone,
"and stone, a nd conglomerate Cilme to form a
sequen ce more th,m 1200 m thick developed in the
Tu roniln-Campilnian interval. At the end of the
Cretc'lceous .md beginning of the Tertic1fY, compres
sionill deformiltion occurred tha t resulted in the for
mation uf lnticlinal lnd synclinal folds.
In tllt' Olig0cene-Eocene interval, in tense norrnal
flultmg occui-red, accompllcd by continental c1astic
sdimentation over the low parts of the newly created
topography. This clastic continental sedimentabon was
initiated in the rniddle of the Cretilceous in the ilreas
located west of this region. Deposition of conglomerltjc
materials \Nas contemporlneous with some basaltic
1,wl flows that gave rise to the lithostratigraphic ilssem
blage termed the Balsas Group (Fries, 1960). These
deposits ''''ere followcd by importanL siliceous voJcanic
emissions that formed the ignimbrite cover of the Taxco
area termed the Tilzapotla Rhyolite and by volcanics
and voleilnoclastic deposits of the Tepoztl,ln Formation.
According to Campa (1978), this region suffered consid
erable warping during the Miocene thilt is evidenced by
the dipping beds of the Balsas Group and by the ilbnor
mal elevl tion of the Oligocene ignirnbrites.
The upper Tertiary and Quaternary are character
Ized in this region bv the influence of volcanic activitv
of the Neovolcanic axis and by the development ~f

tectonic trenches thlt caused the deposition of conti

nental c1astic sediments of the Cuernavaca Formation.


The regio n that includes the higher part of the
Bllsas basin, drained by the Mixtcco and Acateco
rivers, is characterized by extensive ou tcrops of meta
morpbic rocks of various types that form a complcx of
early Paleozoic ilge (Ortega-Gu tirrez, 1978) (see
Figure 3.4).
This metamorphic unit was termed origincllly the
Acatln Schist by Sllls (1949). Llter, Fries and Rincn
(965) defined ii as the Acatln Formation. Recentlv,
Ortega-Gutirrez (1978) elevated this unit to the ra{k
of a complex, pointing to its varied lithology and
structure. This author divided the Acatln Complex
into two subgroups termed Petlancingo ancl Acateco.
In the lithostratigraphic division that Ortega
Gutirrez introduced at tbe form1tional level, he
employed some names that had already been utilized
by Rodrguez (1970) in an informal sllbdivision that
included in the ACClteco Group the forrn1tions
Esperlnza, Acatln, Salado, ilnd Tecomilte.
The formation that constitutes the structurillh
lower part of the Acatln Complex is the Magdalen~
Migmatite, a classic migmatite derived from sedimen
tary rocks. The Chazumba Formation is fonned prin
cipally by biotite schists with intervals of quartzite,
differentiated metlgilbbro, and pelitic schist. Thl'
Cosoltepec Formation, which togcther with tbe two
aboye units makes up the structurally lower
Pellancingo Subgroup, is composed of pSilmmitic and
pelitic schists with the presence of greenstones, tale
schists, ca 1careous schists, metilmorphosed chert, ilnd
manganiferous rocks (Ortega-Gutirrez, 1978).
The AC1teco Subgroup is composed of the
Xayacatlan, Tecomate, and Esperanza grMtitoid forma
tions as wcll as the Totoltepec stock and the San
Miguel dikes. The first formation is composed of
greenschists, amphibollte, metagabbro, eclogite, ser
pentinite, mylonite, pelitic schists, lnd qUlrtzite in an
lsscmblage that, according to Ortegl-Gutirrcz (1978),
possibly makes up an ophiolite complex and is of
great importance, since this is the first time in Mexico
where tbe presence of eclogite rocks has been report
ed. The Tecomilte Formation is composed of metaren
ite, pelites, and semipelites partially of tuffaceous
origin, as weH as metamorphosed Iirnestone and meta
conglomerate. The Esper1nZl grlnitoids ilre formed
by granitic, aplitic, and pegmatitic rocks that are cata
c1lStiC and metamorphosed and in certain lrelS have
been considered by Rodrguez (1970) as part of the
Oaxacan Complex. The Totoltepec stock is ln intrusive
of trondhjemitic composition with slight foliabon lnd
could have resulted from the differentiation of a
tholeiitic gabbro <Ortega-Gutirrez, 1978). Fries el al.
(1970) ind icated ln age of 440 50 Ma for this intru
sive, which would be in the Ordovician. The name
"Siln Miguel dikes" has been applied to a series of tab
ular intrusive bodies of grlnitic and tonalitic composi
tion thlt affect some units of the Acatlrn Complexo

3. Geology of the Central Region of Mexico



20'---'~- -


- --1-



r- - - --

16- -


Mesozoic Teloloapan-Ixtapan complex

Paleozoic-Mesozolc Mazaleco complex
Paleozoic-Mesozolc Xolapa complex


Paleozoic Acallan complex

~ Precambnan Oaxaqueno complex

Figure 3.4. Metamorphic complexes in central Mexico.

Thc assernblage of the Acatln Complex is found
covered discordantly by numerous igncous and sedi
mentary units that inc1ude an age range which varies
from the late PaJeozoic to Quaternary and constitutes
the basement of an cxtcnsive region that includes
parts of the sta tes of Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and
Morelos. Ihis group correlates with the Chacs
Group of Guatemala and with the metamorphic rocks
of the Sierra de Omoa in Honduras. Tt seems to have
no similar relationship with the Xolapa Complex of
the Sierra Mad re del Sur, nor with the Oaxacan
Complex (see Figure 3.4).
According to Ortega-Gutirrez (1978), the character
of the Acatln Complex leads to the supposition t!tat
it is an ancient marine eugeosynclinal deposit with a
style of tectonie deformation nnd metamorphism
resembling that of the internll 01' deep zoncs of an
alpine orogenic belt.


Ihe Sierra Mldre del Sur, from Colimn to Onxacl
lnd contiguous areas of northwestern Guerrero,

Michoacn, and the State of Mexico, makes up a

region of high strueturnl eomplexity that contains var
ious juxtaposed teetonic domains (Figure 3.5).
Ihe most northern segment of the Sierra Madre del
Sur s formed by outerops of Mesozoic seguences, both
platform sediments and vo1canc rack sediments of
sland are type. Areas found in northwestern
Guerrero, west of the State of Mexico and sonth of
Michoacn, form a region vvith partially meta mor
phosed volcnno-sedimentary rocks of ]urassic lnd
Cretlceous lge. Ihese are covered by Cenozoic conti
nental volcanic and sedimentary rocks. This region
borders on the east the area of the Cretaceous
Marelos-Guerrero plntform at the latitude of the linea
ment of Ixtapan de la Sal-Taxco-lgunJa. The southern
segment of the Sierra Madre del Sur is formed by
extensive Olltcrops of metamorphie rocks that have n
geochronologic range vnrying from Plleozoie to
Mesozoic and that nre seen to be affeeted by batholith
ie emplncements of late Mesozoic and eve'n Cenozoic
age. Tlle Pacific area of the Sierra Mldre del Sur
includes the States of Colima, Miehoncn, and north
em Guerrero and contains outerops of andesitic vol
eanic rocks interstratified with 5iH)' redbeds, vo1canic


Secton 1 The Geology o the Mexican Republic

Sierra Madre del Sur




Continental Crust

Figure 3.5. Schematic tectonic model o the Sierra Madre del Sur.
conglomera te, and subreef (slope) limestone beds that
contain an Albian fauna. These outcrops form part of
what Vidal et al. (1980) have called the Petrotectonic
Assemblage of Zihuatanejo Guerrero Coa1comn
Michoacn. There exist furthennore, in this northern
portian of the Sierra extensive outcrops of sedimenta
0' sequences of platform limestones with Albian fauna
and rhythmjc sequences of terrigenous sandy muds.
In arels situated in the neighborhood of Colima City,
the platform limestones contain great thicknesses of
intercalated evaporites. These underle in apparently
transitonaJ contact continental terrigenous Upper
Cretaceous sediments. In a large part of the Sierra
Madre del Sur from the northern tributarjes to the
area near Zihuatanejo Campa and Ramrez (1979)
have reported the existence of numerous mountains
formed by andesitic materals interstratified with
some beds of limestone and terrigenous clastics dis
semnated in small areas in the Sierra. This Mesozoic
vulcanism continues toward the north bordering the
Pacific coast until it beco mes blurred with similar
areas of the North American Pacific Cordillera
(Campa and Ramrez 1979).
Ferrusqua and co-workers (1978) have reported
the presence in the area of Playa Azul, Michoacn of
l transitional volcanic-sedimentary sequence with
dinosaur footprints that indjcate perhaps a Middle
Jurassc to Early Cretaceous age. In addition they
indjcate that this is the first record of dinosaur tracks
in Mexico and constitutes the southernmost trace of
dinosallrs in North America.
Most authors ha ve reported the volcanic-sedimen
tary sequences of this Pacific region of Mexico as
being of Mesozoic age. Nevertheless, De Cserna at al.
(1978a) obtained a Rb-Sr radiometric age of 311 30
miIlion years for intrusive rocks strictly related to vol
canjc rocks belonging to the metavolcanic complex of
Zapotillo, enst of Zihuatanejo.
Campa and Ramrez (1979) as weH as Vidal and co
workers (1980) consider that the Mesozoic vo1cano
sedimentary sequences of a majar part of the Sierra

Madre del Sur nre the result of mlgmltic activity

from convergent edges of pla tes developed in this
part of Mexjco during the Early Cretaceous.
The southern haH of the Sierra Madre del Sur is
forrned from metamorphic rocks that constitute the
Xolapl Complex (De Cserna, 1965). This is found to
be intruded by batholiths of granite (see Figure 3.4).
De Csernl (1965) reported the Xollpl Complex on the
highway from Chilpancingo to Acapulco as an assem
blage of metasedimentary rocks formed of bjotite
schists and gneiss with sorne quartzite and cipolin
marble horizons and including the presence of peg
matites. Nevertheless, Guerrero and co-workers
(1978) consider that in the majar part of this regio n
the cornplex is forrned trom quartz-feldspa thjc
orthogneiss of granodiorite composition. In the most
southern section of the Sierra Madre del Sur corre
sponding to southern Guerrero and western Oaxaca,
the Xolapa Complex bas an ampholite facies derived
from sedimentary rocks and orthogneiss \vith abun
dant migmatites.
De Cserna considers this metamorphic cornplex to
be of Paleozoic age given that it underlies the volcano
sedimentlry sequence of the Chapolapa Formation
which is probably of Triassic age. As weH, the complex
is never seen in a locality where it underljes Paleozoic
sedimentary rocks. Nonetheless, the stratigraphic
range of tbis complex has not been precisely deter
mined because the geochronologic studies have given
very disparate radiometric ages indicatng that thermal
events occurred in the Paleozoic (Halpern et a1. 1974)
in the Mesozoic (Guerrero et al., '1978), and in the
Tertiary (De Cserna, 1965). Guerrero et al (1978) rely
on the existence of a thermal event in the Tertiary
(about 32 miHion years ago) in the area of the highway
of Chilpancingo and in their radiometric determina
tions which failed to indicate Paleozoic or Precam
brian ages as suggested by other authors. These
authors recognized the oldest thermal event lS Jurassic
by means of uranium-lead (165 3 million years) and
rubidium-strontium (180 84 million years),

3. Geology oE the Central Region oE Mexico

In the Tierra Caliente region and adjacent areas of

the western part of the State of Mexico and southeast
Michoacn, extensive outcrops of partly meta mor
phosed volcano-sedimentary sequences exist that are
juxtaposed against other extensive outcrops of marine
Cretaceous platform sequences from the areas of
MoreJos ami Huetamo-Coyuca, along the borders of
Guerrero and Michoacn.
In the Teloloapan-Arcelia sector a sequence of
lndesitic volcanic rocks as weU as calcareous-argilla
ceous foliated sedimentary rocks and graywackes
constitute deposits of an isJand volcanic arc and mar
ginal seas developed in the La te Jurassic and Early
Cretaceous (Campa and Ramrez, 1979) (Figure 3.5).
These volca no-sedimen tary seq uences crop ou t in
continuous pattern toward the north, up to the area of
Tejupilco. From here the olltcrops beco me isolated
and less extensive. They may also be observed in the
areas oE Ixtapan de la Sal, Zitcuaro, and Tlalpujahua.
In the Huetamo-Covuca section, a Jurassic
Cretaceous volcano-sedj~cntarysequence is exposed
thaJ gradllaUy becomes more sedimentary toward its
topo The base contains detrital sedimentary rocks
interstratified with lavas and andesitic tuffs of the
Jurassic that constitute the Angao Formation (Pantoja,
1959). Above this formation rest interbedded shales
and sandstones with some tuffaceous horizons and
with siltstones and reefal limes tones deposited in the
Lower Cretaceous (Neocomian-Aptian-Iower
Albiln). These deposits make up the San Lucas
Formation (Pantoja, 1959). FinalJy, the top of the
sequence is formed by beds of argillaceolls limes tone
attributed to the Morelos Formabon of Albian age
(Pantoja, 1959).
The Huetamo-CoyuCl sector forms a transitional
zone between the external Mesozoic domain repre
sented by the Guerrero-Morelos platform and the
Mesozoic island arc represented by the volcano-sedi
mentary outcrops of the Sierra Madre del Sur. The
volcano-sedimentlrY seqllences of Teloloapan and
lxtapan, situated to the east of Huetamo, would then
be considered as tectonic allochthons transportcd
ovcr the platform of the external domain (Campa and
Rlmrez, 1979) and to ha ve come from the western
island arc domain De Cserna (l978b) believes that the
absence of platform limestone in the Morelos
Formation to the west of Teloloapan is due to a facies
change into a basin in this area during the Albian and
Cenomanian. This author considers that the volcanic
rocks of the Teloloapan-ArccIia area, which form the
volcano-sedimentary seqllence of the marginal sea
and island arc proposed by Campa and Ramrez,
belong to a stage of Cenomanian-Turonian vulcanism
(Xochipala Formabon) or could weU be a basement of
ancient vo1canic rocks, aU this in a model withollt
major tectonic complications.


In the central region of Oaxaca and adjacent areas
of southern Puebla and eastern Guerrero, m impor
tant sedimentary Mesozoic sequence crops out that


attests to the development of a basin beginning in the

Early Jurassic (Figures 3.6-3.8).
This region of Mesozoic outcrops is limited by vari
ous metamorphic complexes that are exposed in this
part of the counrry. To the northeast, metamorphics of
the Acatln Complex are present, belonging to the
lower Paleozoic and resulting from marine eugeosyncli
nal deposi tion (Ortega-Gu tirrez, 1978). Above this
metamorphic complex rest sedimentary rocks of the
Jurassic ,md Cretaceous md some unmetlmorphosed
units of the Paleozoic. To the west and south, the
nonsedimentary Mesozoic exposures me bordered by
the XoJapa CompJex, composed of gneiss, migmabte,
lnd biotite schists with amphibolite metamorphic facies
(Ortega-Gutirrez, 1976). The age of this complex is
apparently Mesozoic, but thermal events of Paleozoic,
Jurassic, and Tertiary have been reported (Hllpern et
al., 1974; Guerrero et al., 1978; De Cserna et al., 1962).
To the southeast, the Oaxacan Complex forms the
limit of the basin. lt is formed by banded gneiss meta
morphosed from granulite facies to transitionll gmn
ulite-amphibolite, including charnockite, anorthosite,
and pegmatite. Fries and co-workers (1962) carried
out radiometric studies of the Oaxacan Complex that
resulted in age dates of 1100 125,920 3D, and 940
million years (Precambrian). Additionally, these
authors indica te thlt the pegmatites and the I1st stage
of metamorphism that affected the host rocks are
equivalent to the Grenville metamorphic province of
the eastern United States and Canada. The outcrops of
this complex [orm a considerable part of the rooun
tainous zone that is located to the west of the dty of
Oaxaca. Finally, to the northeast, the basin is found to
be bordered by the metamorphic outcrops of the
western flank of the Sierra de Jurez with a markedly
rectilinear contact thlt forms the Oaxacan Ravine; this
probably is a regional tectonic feature. These meta
morphic rocks have been traditionally assigned to
Precambrian (orthogneiss) and Paleozoic (phyl1ites
and incipient meta-arkose) (Lpez-Ramos, 1979).
However, CharIeston (1980) reported the existence of
an ample metamorphic complex derived from eugeo
synclinal deposition of sandstone, clays, and volclnic
flows of Cretaceous age. Radiometric studies of these
rocks gave ages [or the metamorphism corresponding
to Upper Cretaceous and lower Tertiary (Charleston,
1980). According to this author, this complex is
formed by aUochthonous blocks whose provenance is
to the west and that have been thrust over miogeo
synclinal sediments of Jurassic and Cretaceous during
the Laramide Orogeny.
The Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Morelos
regions, underlain by the Acatln and Oaxacan com
plexes, contain extensive outcrops of Mesozoic sedi
mentary units lrranged in north-northeasterly foJds.
Under this Mesozoic sequence there have been report
ed, in isolated exposures, sorne Paleozoic sedimentary
units resting discordantly aboye the metamorphic
basement. Above the Acatln Complex, Corona (1981)
and Flores lnd Buitrn (1982) discovered in the
Olinal area a seq uence of detrital and calcareous
rocks with Pennsylvanian and Permian fossils. AIso


Seehon 1 The Geology of the Mexiean Republie
















Figure 3.6. Sedimentary rocks o the Upper

Cretaceous o the Guerrero-Morelos platorm
Tlaxiaco basin and southem section o the Sierra
Madre Oriental.

I ---I




~ {7


(] l>





L - -




+- - - -


- - - - ..

16'- -





















Figure 3.7. Sedirnentary rocks o the Lower

Cretaceous of the Guerrero-Morelos platorm
Tlaxiaco basin and southem sector of the Sierra
Madre Oriental.

Figure 3.8. Sedimentary rocks of the Jurassic o the

Guerrero-Morelos platorm Tlaxiaco basin and
southern sector of the Sierra Madre Oriental.

there have been reported aboye this complex discov

eries o upper Paleozoic sedimentary rocks in
Mixtepec, Oaxaca (Flores and Buitron, 1984), and in
Tuxtepeque, Puebla (De la Vega, 1983). The Matzitzi
Formation with Pennsylvanian plant fossils (De
Cserna, 1970), is found covering apparently both the
Acatln and Oaxacan complexes; its main outcrops
oecur to the southwest of Tehuaen.
In the Noehixtln region aboye the Oaxacan
Complex, Pantoja-Alor and Robison reportcd in 1967
the discovery o a marine sequenee with Cambri<m
Ordovieian trilobites that was tenned the Ti
Fonnation. Above this unit a sequenee made up of the
Santiago, lxtaltepec, and Yododee formations rests
diseordantly. These units orm more than 1000 m of
clastics belonging to the Mississippian, Pennsylvanian,
and Permian systems (Pantoja-Alor, 1970).
The base of the Mesozoie sequence that is
exposed in the Tlaxiaeo basin is represented by
detrital sediments of the lower part o the Rosario
Formation, whieh is of continental origin and con
tains coal horizons (Erben, 1956). Aecording to this
author the sediments o the Rosario Formation
were deposited in i1 coal basin that developed dur
ing the Early Jurassie in northwestern Oaxaea,
northeastern Guerrero, and southwestern Puebla.
On the western and eastern borders of the basin, the
lower strata of the formaton were not deposited.
Above the Rosario Forma tion rests the Cualac
Conglomera te which, together with the middle and
upper strata of the former formation, belongs to the
Middle Jurassic. Both formations constitute the
Consuelo Group, which underlies the Tecocoyunca
Group whose formations erop out in varioLls loeali

3. Geology o the Central Region oE Mexico

bes 11l the Tllxiacn basin and also beJong to the

Middlc Jurassic.
This group is composed of bolh derrita] alld car
bonate s~diments, both continentll and marine, and
contains plant fossils and ammonites th'lt indiclte
several marine invasions and regressions. Dllring tbe
Late Jllrassic, clec1rly mmine sediments werc deposit
cd in 50111(' ilre<lS of the basin, such as the Cidilris
Limestone i 11 the Mixtepec-Tia xiaco area (Erben, 1956)
and the Chimeco ami Mapache del Sur de Puebla, for
mation::; formed of Iimestone, clrgillaceous limestone,
alld c,~lcareous shales (Prez et Cl1., 1965). The
Teposculul'l f.imestone, considered originally }urClssic
by SalCls (949) 'lnd later by Erben (956), h<ls been
recently <l'-signed to the Albian-Cenom'lnian
([errusqua, 1970) on account of its faunal contento On
the other hand, the Cidaris Limestone has been con
firmed as belonging to the L'lte Jurassic beGluse of its
echinoid fcluna of Oxfordian, C<lJlovian, and
KimmeridgiCln ~lge (Buitron, 1970) lt should be noted
that these Juras ie units that outcrop in the region of
the ACCltln Complex are not reported to be represent
ed by simillf slTClta above the Oaxacan Complexo
Tbe Upper Cretaceous also is represented by
marine sediments; in some localities the Neocomi'ln
and Aptm i1re prescnt. In the Tehuacn area i1 ciastic
calcareous sequence with beds of limestone crops out
and constitlltes the Zapotitln Formatiol1. Above this
unit lie BOO m of both fine and coarse clastic-c'llcare
ous beds of the Aptian San Juan Raya Formation. The
ocomi'ln 'lnd Aptian formations of the central area
of Oaxaca and central lnd south of Puebla have been
included within the group termed Puebla. However,
in various 10caJities this group is absent and Albian
limestones re<;t discordantly above the Jllrassic
secuence. Lp~z-Ramos (1979) mentions that the
wells Yacud no. 1 and Teposcolula no. 1 cut l
sequence o more than 2500 m of Upper Jurassic and
Lnwer Cn' dceous evaporites.
During the Aibian-Cenomanian interval 'I
seqllence of thick-bedded limestones developed in l
transgressive se<l. These lime~tones h'lve received dif
L'r 'nt names in different Me<lS. C<lldern (1956) desig
n'lted i1 widespread sequence of massive micritic and
biomicritic limestone with chert nodules that crops
out in the ehuacn region aS the Cipiapa Formation.
Ferrusqu<l (197(}) designated a m'lssive biomicrite as
th' Teposcolulil Limestone. This crops out in a similar
area and W'lS cOl1sidered Jurassic by Salas (1949).
Finllly, Prez 'lnd co-workers (965) applied the
nlme Morclos Formation to these limestones in the
region of Acatl<l and reJated them to the
.'-\Ibi<ln-Ccnomanian str<lta that crop out on the
Cuerrero-Morelos platform.
Above the Albian-Cenom'lnilt1 limestones les <l
sequence of marly limestone designated by
- .rrllsqu 'I (197) as the YucUnal11l Formation. lt con
tains fossils of the Coniaci'ln-M'lastrichtian stages
ilnd crops out northwest of Nochixtln. It can be cor
related with the Tilantongo Marls (Salas, 1949) that
are expoO'cd southeast o Nochixtln and with the
Mexcala Formation of the Guerrero-Morelos platform.


The tolded Mesozoic seqllencc of the.: Tlaxi'lco

basin is covered with angular djscord,Il1Ci.:' by exten
sive OlltCropS of continental deposils. ThesC' re sand
stone-conglomerate ami argill'lceous sandy be'!s of
the Tertiary lnd include siliceolls, intennediale, ilnd
mafic volcanic rocks.
The Tertiary continental deposits h'lve been
assigned to the Yanhllitln and HUili~hlFiH1 forma
tions (Salas, 1949) tha according to Erben 11956) lre
distinct facies of the same unit. The first is formed by
c!ays with S0111e intercalations of sc1ndstone and vol
canic ash, <lfgillaceous sandstones, lnd beds of con
glorner'lte and breccia. Ferrusqlla (197) mt:ntions <l
radiometric age of 49.0 million years for a tuff inter
stratified within the Yanhuitlin Forl11,1tion of
Sayultepec, dating tbis formation as late
Paleocene-middle Eocene. This author indicates that
tlw formabon has a stratigraphic position simi;u to
that of the Tehuacn Formation (C<lldern, 1956) <lnd
the Eal as Croup (Fries, 1960)
The Oligocene, in various localities in the state of
Oaxaci1, was deveJoped in a period of 'lctive vulcan
ism th'lt origin'lted initially with the emission of
siJiceous and intermedia te tuffs and l<lter and ';,itic
lava flows. The volcanic 'lctivity culmin<lted with
some b'lsaltic flows in the Neogene




On the eastern flank of the sector south of the Sierra

Madre Oriental (Sierra de Ju<rel) ,1 thick sequence of
Mesozoic sedimentary rocks is exposed that rests cm a
metamorpbic basement composed of schists, gn ~isses,
and phyllites. These have been derived prjncipally
froro sediment'lry rocks <lnd have been tr'lditionally
attributed to the Paleozoic and Precambrian.
However, in a section loc'lted 'lt the 18th parallel,
Charl ~ton (1980) recognized a thick sequence of
schists and metavolcanic rocks that he attributed to
the Lower Cretlceous.
The sedimentary sequence of the c1stern flank of
the sector, which forms folds asymmetric toward the
east, has, in the ZongoJica-Tehuacn sector, a bas<ll
unit of dark-colored slates with some interc,llatj()J1s of
fine-grained sand ilnd calcareous shales. This is widc
ly exposed and has been tentatively attributed to the
Middle Jurassic (Lpez-Ramos, 1971,1). In the sectr
located soutb of the 18th parallel and down to the
region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the base 01 the
Mesozoic is formed by the Todos Santos Formabon,
which is a sequence of continental redbeds with cross
stratified sandstones, conglomerate, ilnd Shc1k. Thi_
forma tion h<ls, furthermore, been recognized in
Chiapas and northern Central AmCflCl where its
lower part is consjdered Lower and Middle Jura. sic
(MulJeried, 1957), However, Lpez-Ramos (l~79)
believ s that ir could extend to the Triassic.
The Upper Jurassic is exposed in the Zongolica
area (Vinicgra, 1965) in the fmm of marine sequences


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

of bituminous limestones with intercalations of

sandy-argillaceous limestones and with ammonites.
However, in the southern sector of the eastern flank
of the Sierra de Jurez, outcrops of this age have not
been reported.
The marine Cretaceous sequence, which crops out
in the northern portian of the Sierra de Jurez, is com
posed principally of calcareous rocks that have been
recognized by Petrleos Mexicanos in both surface
and subsurface studies. These rocks include the fol
lowing formations: Tuxpanguillo (Neocomian),
Capolucan (Aptian), Orizaba Limestone (Albian
Cenomanian), Maltrata Limestone (Turonian
Coniacian), Guzmantln Unit (Turonian-Senonian) as
well as the Necoxtla and Atoyac formations of
Senonian-Campanian and Campanian-Maastrichtian
age (Viniegra, 1965) Additional1y, the marine
Cretnceous is represented in the area of the lsthmus of
Tehuantepec by neritic fossiLiferous limes tones that
Lpez-Ramos (1979) inc1uded within the series of
middle Cretaceous limes tones of Nizanda-Lagunas.
In the portion of the Gulf Coastal Plain that borders
the Sierra de Ju.rez, Petrleos Mexicanos has driHed
exploratory wells that have afforded recognition of
Mesozoic units in the subsurface. From these it has
been possible to reconstruct a paleoplatform termed
the Crdoba Platform, which formed the marine sea
floor during the second haH of the Mesozoic (Figures
39-3.10). The western half of the platform is exposed
in the Sierra Madre Oriental and the eastern half is
buried under the Coastal Plain of the Gulf. In addi
bon, it is limited on the west by the Zongolica pale
obasin and on the east by the Veracruz paleobasin
(Gonzlez-Alvarado, J976). More than 5000 m of sed
iments accumulated in this latter basin. Petroleum
production has been obtained from these strata,

chiefly in fields located in its eastern portion

(Gonzlez-Alvarado, 1976).
During the Tertiary, in a setting of eastward
marine regression, terrigenous sediments were
deposited in the Gulf Coastal Plain. These are:
Chicontepee- Velasco (Paleoeene); Aragon Guayabal,
and Chapopote (Eocene); Horcones and La Laja
(Oligocene); Depsito, Encanto, Concepcin, FilisoLa,
and Paraje (Miocene). These deposits began to fonn at
the inception of the orogenic deformation of the Sierra
Madre Oriental during the beginning of the Cenozoico
The igneous activity of the southern sector of the
Sierra Madre Oriental, which is manifested in the form
of granitic intrusions at the end of the Mesozoic and
beginning of the Cenozoic, is restrieted to alkaline
basaltie emissions in the area of Tuxtlas in the upper
Tertiary and Quaternary. Demant (1978) related this
volcanie zone with the alkaline province of the Gulf of
Mexico, more than wi th the eas tern extreme of the
Neovolcanic axis as some other authors have indicated.

The eomplicated structural and stratigraphie set
ting of the central-southern portion of Mexico makes
difficult a paleogeograpbic and tectonic reconstruc
tion that permits a clear explanation of the origin of
fea tures in this part o the nation.
Recently the structure of the region has been inter
preted in terms of a mosaie of tectonostratigraphic
terranes (see Figure 3.11) that were acereted in differ
ent episodes during the tectonic evolution of this part
of Mexico (Campa et al., 1981; Campa and Coney,
1983). Each terrane contains a distinctly different
basement and their limits have been generally inter
preted as tectonic boundaries.




Figure 3.9. Situation of the Crdoba Platform.

3. Geology of the Central Regon of Mexico


(Step 1)








... . ...



(Slep 11)




Figure 3.10. Tectonic evolution of the Crdoba Platform.


Guerrero Terrane
Mixteco Terrane
Oaxaca Terrane
Juarez Terrane
Maya-Yucatan Terrane
Complex 01 minar terranes including Xolapa Terrane

Figure 3.11. Tectonostratigraphic terranes from southern Mexico accord

ing to the divisions of Campa and Coney (1983).

The terrane with the otdest basement is the

Oaxacan, which occupies part of the state of that
name and contains unmetamorphosed sequences of
Cambrian-Ordovician and Mississippian-Pennsyl
vanian. The metamorphic basement, formed in the
Oaxacan Complex of Precambrian age (900-1100 mit
!ion years), has been interpreted as the result of the

evolution of a rift with sedimentation on ancient con

tinental crust and later metamorphism to the gran
ulite facies. This resu1ted from an ensialic evolution or
from continental collision (Ortega-Gutirrez, 1981).
This complex is considered to be a southern continua
tion of the Grenvillian belt (Fries et al., 1962).
However, the trilobite fauna of the Cambrian



The Geology of the Mexican Republic

Ordovician caver shaw more affinity with the fauna

al' Europe and South America thln vvith the flunl uf
urth AmeriGl (Whittington and Hughes, 1974).
Bazn (1984) does not disclrd the idea of the existence
of arc-type rocks in this complex, based on the in ter
pretllion of greenstone belts in Precambriln shield
To the west of the OaXaCc'll1 Terrane lies the
Mixtecan Terrc""lI1e, \vhich has the lower Paleozoic
Acatln Complex as basement (Campl and Coney,
1983) and which, in contrast to contemporaneous
rocks in the Olxacan Terrane, contains diverse grldes
of metamorphic rocks. The boundary between these
two terranes hc'ls be en interprcted to be tectonic
(Ortega-Cutirrez, 1981). The time of its accretion has
not yet been confirmed, but it has been suggested to
be Devonian (Ortega-Gutirrez, 1981). As well, the
time of accretion has been placed in the Late
Jurassic-Earl y Cretaceous in terVul (Ramrez, 1984).
The first paleomagnetic dates for Permian units in
both terranes indicc'lte similar directions of primary
magnetismo This does not discount totally a later
accretion (of the blocks) along the same magnetic
paleolatitude (Urrutia-Fucugauchi and Morn
Zenteno, 1984).
The AcatlAn CompIex has been interpreted as an
lggregation of petrotectonic assemblages resulting
from the opening and closure of an ocean basin
(Ortega-Cutirrez, 1981). The PetJancingo Subgroup
would constitlJte a seguence of an lutochthonous pas
sive nlc1rgin and the Acateco Subgroup would form
the allochthonous assemblage, including the
Xayacatln Formltion lS the vestige of an lncient
oceanic lithosphere consumed in the subduction
To the soutlnvest, the Mixteco and Oaxacan ter
ranes are bordcred in tectonic contact by the Xolapa
Complex, whose lge ami time of accretion to the tec
tonic moslic of southern Mexico are not well known,
but whose characteristics identify thcm as roots of a
mountlin rlnge from ln ancient magmatic arc
(Halpern et c'll., 1974).
In the extreme ec""lst of the cen tra l-southern portion
of Mexico, deformed Mesozoic marine sequcnccs arc
recognized that revei'll a paleogeogrlphie setting of
interspersed deep Elnd shallow marine SLlbstrates
developed over the Paleozoic blsement, which has
traditionally been considercd relatcd to Appalachian
dcformabon. These assemblages form plrt of the
Moya Terrane, which extends into south and south
east Mexico (Campa and Coney, 1983). Separating the
Maya and Oi1xi'lcan terranes, l belt of apparently
Mcsozoic stra.t o has been recognized. These are
m1.rine beds that inc1ude cl,lcareous, detritll, and voI
canie rocks. They are highly deformed and have a
general ei1stwi1rd vergence. The western boundi1rY of
this belt fonns a mylonitic band that separa tes it from
the Olxacan Terrane.
In the central-southern portion of Mexieo, two
principal VIesozoic domains with clearly distinct
characteristics are recognized. In the west an andesitic
island arc Wc""lS developed, associated with the subduc

ton of ocea nic lithosphere (Campl lnd Ramrez,

1979). This is a feature that is common to a m<1jor plrt

of western North America and thlt originlted during

the initial breakup of Pangea. Additionally, in the east
an external zone with marine sedimentation evolvcd
over the Guerrero-Morelos platform, the Tlaxiaco
basin, and the area of the cast flank of the Sierra de
Jurez, the coastal pllin and the platform of the Gulf
of Mexico-all developed on continental crust.
Mlrine sedimentabon of this externll zone was initi
c'lted with the opening of the Culf of Mexico and the
marine transgression over this part of Mexico. The
partly metamorphoscd volcanic and sedimentlry
assemblages of the Sierra de Jurez alter the homo
geneity of this doma in, and their presence is not clear
Iy understood. Carfantan (983) has suggested that
this petrotectonic assemblage is the resuIt of the open
ing ami closing of a n ocean blsin occu rring between
Portlandian and Turonian and causcd by deveIop
ment of a rift that "vas connected to a triple junetion
over l ridge located between Yucc'ltin and South
Two alternative models have been postlllated in
order to explain the development uf c'I volcanic island
arc in the western domain of the central-sollthern por
tion of Mexieo. One of them proposes the accrction by
obduction of an island arc system developed in the
Pc""lcific lnd displaced in the direction of its col1jsion
with the Mexican continental crust (Urrutil
Fucugluchi, 1980; Coney, 1983). In the other mode!,
the development of an arc domain in the vicinity of
the continental crust of Mexico is proposed, limited to
the southwest by ln eastward subduction (Campa
and Ramrez, 1979). Preliminary paleomagnetic dlta
of the volcano-sedimentary sequence of Ixtapan
TeloJapan (Urrutia-Fucugauchi and Vc""llencio, 1986)
seem to point to the first hypothesis, although no
report exists of assemblages of oceanic affinity thilt
would indicate a suture.
According to Campa ami Ramrez (1979), in the
northwest region of Guerrero ami adjoining regions
of other states, five phases of deformatan can be rec
ognized that were c""lctive in Mesozoic and Cenozoic
time. Thc first of thcsc occurred at the end of the
Jurassie, lffected the Jurassie volC<1no-sedimentary
deposits, and manifests itseU by the presence of folds
refolded in two generltions with a relatively increas
ing metamorphism in some zones. Thc second phase
OCCLlrred in the Cenomanian and is manifested in the
Teloapln-Ixtapln lrea by metamorphism that folded
and foliated the volcano-sedimentary sequence. This
phase, in the Sierra Madre del Sur, caused the cmcr
gence of the island arc terranes and ma.rginal seas.
During this time marine sedimentatjon continued in
the Guerrero-Morelos platform, and to its east, con
temporaneously with a mljor introducbon of terrige
nous sediment comng from the western emergcnt
region. The next phase occurred in the Paleocene and
deformed the ,'\'hole Mesozoie blanket of the two
domains and is responsible fol' the folds in the exter
nll zone as well as the overthrusting of the internal
domain over the externa] zone.

3. Geology of the Central Regon of Mexco

Campa (1978) has proposed two alternative models
to explain the presence of the volcano-sedimentary
assemblage of Ixtapan- Teloloa pan between the
Guerrero-Morelos and Huetamo platforms. In one of
these t is suggested that the Ixtapan-Teloloapan
assemblage is the result of the evoh-ion of an arc
between the two platforms but this does not explain
the metamorphism of this 1ssemblage between the
unmetamorphosed seqllences of the two platforms
and the absence of facies changes from these plat
forms to the volcanic HC. In the otber model, the
author sllggests that the Guerrero-Morelos and
Huetlmo sequences, belonging to the Albian
Cenomanian, could be part of a single platform and
that the lxtapan-Teloloapan assemblage would be a
tectonic allochthon of the compressional phase of
Paleocene age.
At the end of the Miocene there occurred a phase
of deformation that rcsulted in a warping that is
observed in the Arcelia-Altamirano region and evi
denced by the abnormaUy elevated metamorphic
sequences and the pre-Miocene lithostratigraphic
units. The origin of the great strLlctllral lnticline of
Tzitzio-Tiqllicheo of southeastern Michoacn is attrib
uted to phase because uf the consideratioll that
the continental sequence on the flanks of the structure
is correlative with the 1m,ver Tertiary Balsas Group,
Campos (1984) has a ttributed the folding to the
Paleocene compressional phase since he cnsiders
that the continental sequence on the f1anks of the
struch.lfe belongs to the Upper Cretaceous and not to
the Tertiarv.
Campa 'and co-workers (1980) believe that in the
weStern part of the central-southern portion of
Mexico on e can recognize tectonostra tigraph ic ter
ranes that are characterized by homogeneity and
continuity of interna] stratigraphy, but that have (In
obscure and poorly understood relationship



... Pb Zn-Ag


between themselves. The borders of each terrane

separate sequences that have djfferent physical and
temporal characteristics. The discontinllities of thcse
borders can not be explained clea rl y by con ven tiOllll
facies changes or unconformities. These authors
have recognized in this region the following funda
mentaL terranes: the Assembllge ot Guerrero
Morelos platform, Assemblage of Teloloapan,
Assemblage of Huetamo-Cutzamala, Assemblage of
Zihuatenjo, and Assemblage of Taxco and Taxco
Viejo, aH of them integrated into the Guerrero com
posite lerrane.
In the Pliocene-Quaternary intervaJ, the central
southern region of Mexico has been affected by nor
mal falllting and lateral displacement within a setting
of general uplift and very great geodynamic ilctivity.

The principal minerill resources known in the
central-southern region of Mexjco are the sulfides of
lead, zinc, l nd sil ver in a cen tra I belt, ilS well as iron
oxides localized chiefly in the Sierra Madre del Sur
(Figure 3.12). To the first category belong the miner
al deposits of the Pachuca D1ining district, which is
located at the northern edge of the Neovolcanic axis
and has been one of tile principal silver producers in
the world. To the south of the Neovolcanjc axis,
mineral districts of hyd rothermal sulfides appear
along a belt with north-northwest and south-south
east orientation in the sta tes of Mxico, Cuerrero,
and Michoacn. The band includes the field areas of
Taxco, Xitingil, Zacualpan, Temascilltepec,
Angangueo, lnd Tlapujahua. Within this belt, the
mercury deposits of Huitzuco and Huahuaxtla also
are developed. These hydrothermal deposits are
attributed by Campa and Ramrez (1979) to the end
of the Miocene period, contemporaneous with the




Figure 3.12. Dstribution of the principal mineral deposits known in the

central part of Mexico.


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

more important iron deposits that are known in this

region are those of Pea Colorada, in Colima;
Pihuamo, in Jalisco; Las Truchas in Michoacn; and El
Violn and Tiber in Guerrero. Also, deposits of copper
such as those oi Inguarn and La Verde in Michoacn
exist in this belt
Fllrthermore, the zone of major petrolellm interest
is in the coasta! plain of the Gulf where petrolellm
has been extracted in fields !ocated along the eastern
edge of the Crdoba Platform in sedimentary rocks
of the Cretaceous and where there exist good pros
pects in sediments deeper than the Upper Jllrassic
(Gonzlez, 1976).
In considering possibilities of obtaining geotherma!
energy, the Mexican Neovolcanic axis constitutes the
geologic province with the major manifestations and
potentials in the country, owing to its contemporane
ous igneous activity. The principal thermal manifesta
tions are related to acid igneous activity. Sorne of
these are located in the areas of La Primavera, Jalisco;
Ixtln de los Hervores; Negritos, and Lago de
Cuitzeo, Michoacn; Los Hmeros, Puebla; and San
Brtolo de los Baos, Queretaro (see Figure 3.13 and
Table 3.2).

warping that affected pre-Miocene strata. Another

group of sulfide mineral deposits exists in this
region. Their origin has been attributed to vol
canogenic processes that do not have a preferred
orientation but are encountered associated with vol
cano-sedimentary Upper Jurassic and Lower
Cretaceous rocks. To this group belong the fie!ds of
Pinzn Morado, T!apehuilla-Las Fraguas, Campo
Morado-La Suriana, Rey de la Plata, Teloloapan,
and Cuetzaln del Progreso, as weU as the volcano
field in the north of Michoacn. The deposits men
tioned are considered to be contemporaneous with
the volcanic activity that occurred in the island arc
zone formed during the Mesozoic in this part of
Mexico (Gaytn et aL, 1979; Campa and Ramrez,
In a belt situated along the Sierra Madre del Sur,
numero liS deposits of iron are located; these make up
the major reserves of the cOllntry. The origin of these
deposits is attribllted to processes of contact metaso
matism unleashed by the effect of silicic and interme
diate intrllsions of the lower Cenozoic on the
Cretaceous limestones (Gmez, 1961; Mapes, 1959;
Pineda et aL, 1969; Zamora et al., 1975). Among the



,/ ,


" ,



" ....... :y








'" .. ,
















, /"






,- ..... '

, 1.


1, ,



~-- b
















Figure 3.13. Location of the most important geothennal fields in the Republic of Mexico.



[) F










Fm Oapan

Fm. Tepoxtlan

A Buenavlsta

Fm lIar.a,-de Lobo!';

Fm Tilzapotla

Fm Tilzapolla


Fm AIQUllranlFm Papagayo


Frn Agua de Obispo


Balsas Gp.















Fm. MOlelos
Fin. Morelos
Fm So Locas

Fm AcahurzoUa














Fm. Cuautla(?)

Frn Cuautla

Fm Morelos

Fm, Morelos

Fm Xochlcalco
Frn ACUltlapan

Comple x

Fm AcahUlzotla ._


Fm Angao?



Er><:ao1l0 La Lala

Fm H,Hll:'lNl:>

Fm P,sle
Fm Icaclle
Fm Chlcnen liza

fm (llJay!l~l

Fm Aragon

Yucunama Tllantongo

Fm Aloyac

Frn HUlizuOO

I ,cm


Fm Teposcolula !fm CIPI<l.OO

Fm Sn Juan Raya

Fn'I lapollllan

Tecocoyunca Gp


Fm Guzmaolla

Fm Orizaba

Fm Yucalan

Fm. Teposcolula

Fm Xonamanca

Puebla Gp
Arco and Cuenca

Fm Mapache


Fm San Pedro


fm T~'t,ni.zJchll




Fm Etlaltongo

Gp!~ 0::: -;ulllG


R V Taxco VieJo

fm. Todos San los

Fm Todos Santos

Fm Chapolapa


Fm Mexcala




Fm Ch. ~IEill(l

Fm. Tecomallan




Fm Yannulllan

Frn Telelcinqo

Fm Mol



Frn Yanhulllan

Gpo Balsas

Fm Mexcala

Central Yucalan


Flyseh Sequence
Frn. Mexcala

Cordoba Platlorrn

Fm Sosola






Fm Velasco
Fm Telelel(' o

;:'(19 _


Balsas Gp





F". Tam:nu1()Pal,1 Fm 1"~I.'-':;.:J1

Balsas Gp

W a:


Fm Sur;



e o

Fm Chllapa
A San Marcos
A Yucadoac

A Zampoala



m Cuernavaca


O r






'~:~ Cm C_'=""" Cm ~"~'C:":"'"






Frn Yododene


Com pie.

Frn Ixlaltepec





Fm Santiago

Frn Tlnu



Recopdado pOr S Alarco y G Mora (1984)












Table 3.2. Stratigraphic correlations for southern Mexico.



Section 1 The Geology of Ihe Mexican Republic


Abbreviation UNAM is Universidad Nacional
Autnoma de Mxico
Bazn, 8.S., 1981, Distribucin y metalognesis de la
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Baz n B.s., 1984, Litoes tra tigra fa y rasgos estruc
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Bloomfield, K., 1975 A late QUlternary monogenetic
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E. ond A. Gonzlez-U., translators, 2nd edition
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A-11 p. 9-33.
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Campa, M.F., and PJ. Caney, 1983, Tectono-strlti
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p.l 040-1 051.
Campa, M.F., and J. Rlmrez, 1979, La evolucin
geolgicl y la mctalognesis del norocciden te de
Guerrero. Srie tcnico-cientfica de la Universidld
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Campal M.F, et al., 1977 La evolucin tectniC<l y la
mineralizacin en la regin de Valle de Bravo,
Mxico, e Iguala Gro: Asoc. Ing. Min. Met.Geol.
Mx. Memoria de la XII Convencin Nacionll, p.
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1980, Conjuntos estratotectnicos del occidente de
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V Convencin Geolgica Nacionat Mxico O.F.
Campa, MF, et al., 1981, Terrenos tectono-estratigrfi
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26th Congrs Gologique International (ParisL

Abstracts, v. 1 sections 1-5,324 p.
Caney, P., 1983, Un modelo tectnico de Mxico y sus
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Estldo de Guerrero. Revista del 1nstituto de
Geologa, UNAM, v. 5, n.1, p. 17-24
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mentacin y milgmatismo en algunils regiones de
Mxico durante el Mesozico: Programas y
Resmenes del V Simposio sobre lo Evolucin
Tectnica de Mxico: Instituito de Geologa,
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De Cserna, Z., et al., 1962 Edades isotpicas de rocas
metamrficas del centro y sur de Guerrero y de unl
manzanita cU'\fcfera del norte de Sinaloa: Boletn
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De Cserna, Z., et al, 1975, Edad Precmbrica Tardia
del Esquisto Taxco, Estado de Guerrero: Boletin
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De Csernil, Z., et a!., 1978a, Rocas metavo!cnicas e
intrusivos relacionados Paleozicos de la regin
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Geologa, UNAM, v. 2, n. 1, p. 1-7.
De Cserna, Z., et al., 1978b. Relaciones de facies de las
roClS Cretcicas en el noroeste de Guerrero y en las
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De ll Vega, E., 1983, U na nueva localidad Prmicl en
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Demant, A., 1978. Caractersticas del Eje
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UNAM, v. 2, n. 2, p. 172-187.
Demant A., and e. Robin, 1975, Las flses del vo1con
ismo en Mxico; una sntesis en relacin con La.
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Oietz, R.s., and Je. Holden, 1970, La disgregacin
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Erben, H.K., 1956, El Jursico Medjo y el CCll10viana
de Mxico: XX Congreso Geolgico Internacional,
Mxico: Contribution to the Congress by the
Instituto de Geologa de UNAM 140 p.

3, GeoJogy of lhe Central Region of Mexico

Ferrusqua, J., 1970, Geologa del rea Tamazulapan

Teposcolula-Yanhuitln. Mixteca AHl, Estado de
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Ferrusqua, J., 1976, Estudios geolgico-paleontolgi
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Tarnazu la pa n- Teposcolula- Ya n huitln, Mixteca
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Ferrusqul, J., S.P Appelgate, and L. Espinosa, 1978,
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de dinosaurios en la regin suroccidentll Pacfica
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Flores, L.A" and B.E, Bui trn, 1982, Revisin y
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Fries, c., et al. 1970, Una edud rad iomtrica
Ordovcica de Totoltepec, Estado de Puebla: Libro
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Gastil, G.R, and W. )ensky, 1973, Evidence for
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Gaytn, ],E., E. Garza-V de ll Arvalo, and A. Rosls,
1979, Descubrimiento, geologa, y gnesis del
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Guerrero, J.C, L.T. Silver, and T.H. Anderson, 1978,

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reconocimiento de la regin de Huetamo, Estado


Section T The Geology of the Mexican Republic

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Geomimet n. 78.

4. Geology of the Southeastern

Region of Mexico



' "-yJ(.~//::::.::~""-"""--""'-:.r

............ .- --! ./

This sequence rests discordantly on a crystalline base

ment of Precambrian and Paleozoic rocks that crops
out to the southwest of the regon, where the crys
talline rocks of these Eras form an outlying meta mor
phic and plutonic complex constitutng the nueleus of
the Sierra de Soconusco.
Mulleried (1957) considers that a large part of the
Sierra de Soconusco is formed by Precambrian
igneous and metamorphic rocks. However, the major
ity of radiometrc ages obtained from intrusive ~ock
samples reveal Paleozoic dates for the pnnClpal
events of igneous intruson. Castro and co-workers
(1975) report an age of 242 9 miIlion years for a dio
rite (analysis of biotite by K/ Ar method) that forms
part of the batholithic complex of the Sierra de
Soconusco and that was discovered in the base of a
section located at the borders of the sta tes of Oaxaca
and Chiapas.
Damon and co-workers (1981) report dates from 17
samples from eight areas of the batholithic complex
that were studied by the K/ Ar and Rb/Sr methods.
After analyzing ten samples of the complex, these
authors recognized an isochron o apparent age at 256
10 million years, which indicates that these intrusions
originated from the same Perman magma that was
isotopically homogeneous and perhaps derived from
the mantle. These authors mention unpublished dates
for the eastern part of the Sierra Mad re del Sur in
Chiapas that indicate Carboniferous plutonic activty

For the description of the region of southeastern
Mexico, the following limits have been selected: on
the west, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; to the north,
the shores o the Gulf of Mexico; and to the south, the
Pacific coast. The region ineludes the physiographic
provinces of the Chiapas Mountains, the Central
American Cordillera, the Yucatn Peninsula and the
eastern extreme of the coastal pLain of the southern
Gulf (see Figure 1.1).
The clima te of this region vares fram tempera te
and semi-arid in the high parts of the Sierra de
Soconusco and Sierra de Chiapas to hot in the coastal
plain of the Gulf and Pacific as we1l as in the central
depression of Chiapas. In this last area the clima.tes
are subhumid and different fram the coastal plams
where they are generally humid. In the Yucatn
Peninsula the elimate 1S typically hot and subhumid.
In a11 places in southeastern Mexico the rainy season
is n the summer except in sorne areas of the Gulf
Coastal Plain where rans occur a1l year.


In the regon that ineludes the sta tes of Chiapas
and Tabasco, a great sequence of Mesozoic and
Cenozoic rocks crops out. lt consists principalIy of
marine sedimentary rocks that are folded and faulted.


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic

In this lrel. Furthermore, they consider thlt the

bathnlithic emplacernent in Chiapa" would ha ve been
associated with the c10sing of the Proto-Atlantic ocean
at the end of the Paleozoic, at the tirne of the
Applllchian Orogeny.
Carfantan (1977) believes that the empLacement of
the batholith should have occurred in the
Appalachian pbase of deformation and considers that
the metamorphic rocks affected by this intrllsion
ought to have originated in the GrenvilJe phase of the
Prccambrian. This is in Jccord with radiometric dltes
from gneiss samples in ChIapas as well lS from vari
ous samples from the base of the complex in Oaxaca
th(lt have been correllted with these rocks (De
Cserna, 1967, 1971).
In the extreme southeast of the Sierra de Soconusco,
a sedimentary sequence of llte Paleozoic age crops out
that has been recognized in the arel of Chicomuselo
(Hernndez-Garca, 1973) and that extends toward
Guatem<1la. Strata in the base of this sequen ce com
prise the Santa Rosa Formation lnd form a lower
member consisting of a sequence of slates with some
metaquartzite intercalations. The llpper member is
formed of slates, sandstone, and some beds of fossilif
erous linestone. The fOH1.1a.ti0I1 appears to be partially
metamorphosed and has been assigned an age of
Mississippian-Pennsylvanian based on the reported
fossils (Hernndcz-Garca, 1973).
A sequence of shales and Jimestones of the
Grupera Formation that contains Lower Permiln
fusulinids rests unconformably on the Santa Rosa
Formation (Gutirrez, 1956). The Vainilla Limestone
overlies this forma tion. 1t con tains crinoids, bra
chiopods, and various fllsulinid species and is cov
ered discordantly by the Paso Hondo Formation. This
liltter unit is compost'd of massive limestones with
fusulinids of the Middle Permian and basal Upper
Permian (Glltirrez, 1956). In a large pHt of the north
eastern edge of the Sierra de Soconusco, an important
continental sequence is exposed that consists of red
conglomercltes, sandstones, silts, and clay. These out
craps reach to the Isthmus of Tehulntepec and even
to the eastern edge of the southern sector of the Sierra
MAdre Oriental. This sequence has been named the
Todos Santos Formation and constitutes the base of
the Mesozoic, which crops out chief]y in Chiapas.
Most authors have assigned this formiltion to l strati
graphic interval that varies from Triassic to Jurassic
(Mulleried, '1957; Gutirrez, 1956; Castro et aL, 1975;
Lpez-Ramos, 1979).
In central Chiapas, above the Todos Santos
Formc1tion, an Upper Jurassic sedimentary marine
sequence occurs. This is formed by limestones of shal
low water flcies with some intercalated continental
beds. The Tithonian sediments indicate an open plat
form environment with a pelc1gic fauna over the
whole area where the states of Chiapas, Oaxacl, and
Veracrlt converge, but to the southeast of Chiapas
the facies become more sandy (Castro et ill., 1975).
Viniegra-Osorio (1981) has interpreted the existence
of a saline Oxfordian basin that occupied a major part
of the present Sierril de Chiapas, the coastal plain of

the southern Gulf, ilnd the continental platform of

Tabasco (see Figure 4.1). These saline dcposits played
a very important role in the deformation of the la ter
Mesozoic sequence and in the development of petrole
um traps. At present these bodies of sllt form two
great uplifts, which Viniegra (1981) termed the
Campeche dome and the Jalpa dome (see Figure 41).
In the petroleum areas of Tabasco and Campeche,
Pemex has drilled Upper Jurassic sequences, principal
Iy of platfonn facies, \l1d has obtained petrolellm pro
duction from them (Figure 4.2)
Above the Upper Jurassic sediments there rests a
Neocomian sequence that gives evidence of the exis
tence of marginal marine ilnd continental deposits in
northwestern Chiapas and eastern Veracrz.
In the Yucatn PeninSllla and a large part of the
State of Chiapas, a major ca1careous bank was created
by the marine transgression initiated i.n the
Cretaceous. This resuIted in the deposition of carbon
ate and anhydrite in these regions as well as sedimen
tation of slope deposits in a belt that bordered the
Great Calcareous Bank (Viniegra-Osorio, 1981). This
bel t is loca ted in the subsurface of the eastern hAlf of
the State of Tabasco and in parts of northeilstern
Chiapas and the marine platform of Campeche where
these sed iment types are important producers of
hyd rocarbons (scc Figure 4.3).
In the area of Cintalapa, the Neocomian sequence
has been termed the San Ricardo Formation (Richard,
1963) and is composed of sandy shaJes, red sand
stones, intercalations of Iimestone and dolomite, and
sorne horizons of gypsum. The Bclrrernian-A ptian
interval seems to be absent in the immediate vicinity
of Sierra de Soconusco because rocks of this age have
not been identified; tbere is a resulting discordance
between the lower Neocomian units and the
Albian-Cenom1l1ian sequence. According to Castro et
al. (1975), this discordance is lccentuated toward the
west ,vith the disappearance of units corresponding
to the Lower Cretaceous and Upper Jurassic, owing to
probable erosion occurring at the end of the Aptian.
Limestones crap out extensivcly in il central belt in
the State of Chiapas and reveal shallow ' . . ' ater bank
environments belonging to the Albiiln lnd
Cenomanian Stages (Figure 4.4). During this time,
seas transgressed numerous areas that had been erod
ed during the Barremian-Aptian. They extended to
cover up the crystalline rocks of the Sierra de
Soconusco. These Lm,ver Cretaceous sequences that
crap out acrass Chiapas dislppelr under the Tertiary
deposits in the areaS of Tabasco and Campeche but
have been recognized in petrolellm-praducing wells.
In the subsurface of this last-mentioned region,
sequences reported by Petrleos Mexicano show
slope facies that follow a persistent sedimentary pat
tem during Neocomian and Aptian and the continued
existence of the Great CaJcareous Bank of Yucatn
during Albian and Cenomanian time.
In central Chiapas abundant cakareolls sediments
of the Upper Cretaceous are exposed. These show
bank facies with peri-reefal lirnestones and rudist
fragments (Castro et al., 1975) (Figure 45). In the

4. Geology of Ihe Soulheastern Region oE Mexico







1 Santa Ana Massll

2 T u"lla Masslf
3 Chiapas Mas,,1
A Slgsbee "Knolis'
8 Campeche Oome
Jalpa Dome



, km

Terreslnal areas
Metamorptlosed PaJeozolc rocks

D Nancrlllal Dome
E Chiapas Sal,ne 8asln

Unmeramorphosed Paleozolc rocks

Llmlt of Isopach conlours

or sall

~ Edgellne of sa!1
Redbeds oITodos Sanlos Formatlon

Figure 4.1. The large Saline Basin of Campeche during the

Ca llovian-Oxfordian.

Reforma ()rea the edges of the Creat Calc()reous Bank

were exposed and eroded during the Upper
Cretilceous beca use sorne Pemex wells in this areil
enCOllnter Paleocene overlying Albian-Cenomanil11
sediments (Viniegr(l-Osorio, 1981). In offshore wells,
recognition of the Upper Cret(lceous has not been
possible owing to dolomitiz(ltion that has affected the
Mesozoic scqllencc in lhis portion of the marine plilt
form (Viniegra-Osorio, 1981).
During the Tertiary, in most of Chiapas and
Iab(lsco, marine terrigenous sedimentation was initj
ated (Figure 4.6). These dastics are products of lIplift
of western Mexico and the folding of the Sierra Madre
Oriental. At this same time, deposition of c(lrbon(ltes
was continuing in the Yucatn Peninsula with the
gradutl emersion of its central parto Tv>'O basins of
Iertiary age were developed in the Gulf of Mexico
coastal plain (Comacalco and Macuspana). These are
separated by a high formed by the "Villahermosa
Horst," a result of normal faLllting at the fiose of the
Chiapas anticlinoriunl. This antic1inoriurn is divided
in sections by normal faults at the foot of the Sierra.
Ihe faulting has induced its subsidence into the Culf
Coastal Plain.

A Iertiary calcareous sequence crops out in a large
part of Yucatn. The strata have no significant defor
mation and are horizontal. 130th the Cretaceous
sequence recognized in the subsurface a nd the
Cenozoic sequence shO\v no major structllral pertur
bation and overlie a crysta lline m(lSS tha t has
remained stable from the Paleozoic on.
Ihe CretaceOllS recognized in the Pemex wells is
composed principally of anhydrites, limestones,
dolomites, and intercalations of bentonites and sorne
pyroclastic materials. Especially toward the base, the
section consists of the YlIcatn Evaporites (Lpez
Ramos, 1979). AH the CretaceoLlS sediments that have
been encountered in the Pemex wells belong to the
middle and upper parts of this system.
During the second half of the Cretaceous and a
large part of the Cenozoic, the Yucatn Peninsula and
its marine platform formed a calcareOllS bank. Ihis
was a marine high that extended to Chiapas cJl1d to
the south of Veracrz. A shelf margin developed that
has beeo the principal petroleum objective in Tabasco
and on the Campeche marine platform.


Seclion 1 The Geology of lhe Mexican Republic



o - - - - - '200

M31nly marme

Edgehne 01 sal!

Emergent area

Figure 4.2. Map showing facies distribution in southeastem Mexico

of Upper Jurassic facies.

Under this Cretaceous sequence, the wells Yucatn

No. 1 and 4 cu t through silts tones and sandstones
with sorne intercalations of quartzose sand and gravel
as well as green bentonite and dolomitic limes tone.
Lpez- Ramos (1979) original! y considered these as
belonging to the Jurassic-Cretaceous interval.
These redbeds rest aboye a crvstalline basement
that was reached by the well Yucatn No. 1, at 3200 m
depth (Lpez-Ramos, 1979). From a sample of rhyo
lite porphyry from this welt a Rb/Sr date of 410 mil
!ion years (Silurian) was obtained. This porphyry
seems to have intruded a quartz and chlorite schist
(Lpez-Ramos, 1979). The Yucatn No. 4 well cut 8 m
of slightly metamorphosed quartzite that underlies
the Triassic-Jurassic redbeds (Lpez-Ramos, 1979).
The Cenozoic deposits of the Yucatn Peninsula
are represented principally by cakareous and
dolomitic sequences with evaporite intercalations.
Butterlin and Bonet (1963) formulated a column that
extends from Paleocene to Quaternary. This column
includes in ascending order: the Chichn Itz and
lcaiche formations (Paleocene-Eocene); the Bacalar,
Estera, Franco, and CarjlJo Puerto formations (upper
Miocene and Pliocene); and molluscan limes tones of
Pleistocene-Holocene. The Oligocene has not been
recognized on the surface but was cut in the explo
ration wells of Chicxulub No. 1 and Cacapuc No. 1

(Butterlin and Bonet, 1963). The surface distribution

of the Cenozoic units clearly shows a gradual retreat
of the seas toward the present coast line, and onl1' in
the Eocene did the seas transgress and cover almost
completely the Yucatn Peninsula (Butterlin and
Bonet, 1963).

The metamorphic rocks that crop out in the Sierra
de Soconusco have been related to a metamorphic
event contemporaneous with the Grenvillian defor
mation, which is well known in the eastern United
States (Carfantan, 1977), and they have also been cor
related with the metamorphic events that formed the
Oaxaca Complex (Fries et al., 1962)
An important phase of defonnation occurred at the
end of the Paleozoico This affected the Mississippian
and Pennsylvanian sedimentary sequences of south
east Chiapas, and the chief plutonic l.ctivity began in
the present-day Sierra de Soconusco. This phenome
non was followed by l prolonged interval of cont.i
nental environments during which the lower beds of
the Todos Santos Formation were deposted. Damon
and co-workers (1981) relate the emplacement of the
Sierra de Soconusco ba tholith to the closing of the
Proto-Atlantic ocean and the unification of South

4. Geology of the Southeastern Region of Mexico


Deep water sed,ments



Edge of Ihe platform or bank




~ External edge 01 zone of dolomitlzed slope sedlmenls

Nearshore line

~ Nearshore volcanlcs


Emergenl areas

Figure 4.3. Map showing facies distribution of Neocomian-Aptian facies in southeastem Mexico.

America and Africa with Narth America, an acton

that culminated in the Appalachian Orogeny at the
end of the PaleozoiCo During the Late Jurassic a trans
gression occurred that gave rise to marine sedimenta
tion, especiaUy in the localities near the Culf in
Tabasco and Veracrz_ In the Sierra Madre Oriental
and other regions in the east of Mexico, a Jurassic
transgression has been related to the opening of the
western extreme of the Tethys (Tardy et aL, 1975;
Tardy, 1980; Campa and Ramrez, 1979) during the
disintegration of Pangea.
In the Cretaceous there was general marine sedi
mentation that, in a majar part of the state of Chiapas,
is represented by the platform Sierra Madre

Limestone. The area of the Yucatitn Peninsula

remained stable but submerged and had shallow
water deposition, forming the Creat Calcareous Bank
that extended toward Chiapas and south of Vera cruz.
Viniegr a-Osorio (1981) believes tha t the Crea t
Calcareous Bank of Yucatn tilted southwestward
during its evolutlon. This interpretation is sustained
by the fact that in the Pemex wells the basement was
encountered at increasing depths from east to west
across the marine platform of Campeche and finally
reaches depths greater than 6500 m, with stj]] greater
thickness of the whole Mesozoic and Tertiary
sequences. Dengo (1968) recognizes a partial deforma
tion of the Mesozoic sequence at the end of the Albian


Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republie


Deep ,a1lf' Sedl ".en.,



Edgeline of rul!fs 01 banks


Probable Iomll 01 bank claslrcs

EO gaaf



IHlp wai r


earshoi <ItIlcanlGs

i::mergel'il a eas

G kten Lal1 carbonale bank

YLJcatan carbonate bank

Figure 4.4. Map showing facies dstribution of Albian-Cenomanian in southeastern Mexico.

that was accompi1J1ied by granitic intrusions that

<o'xtend lo the Sierra Madrc del Sur in Chiapas and
central GU<ltemala.
_arfa ntan (1977) men tioned a ph1se of
Cel1oD1"nian deformation that placed l volc1nic-plu
tonic complex of probable Mesozoic age in
allochthonolls positi n over the L'rodcd Chiapas
rlatform. This i~ located. in the arca of Motozint!<.'l.
his complex corresponds to a volcal1ic arc similar to
tho . rt'<': >gnized in the northwest and western plrts
of Mexico.
After this deformation, and dllring the Late
Cretoceolls, Paleocene, and Eocene, the Mesoznic
st'quence was aHected by Laramide orogenic defor
mation. At this time an elongat",d marine basin WlS

developed as a Foredeep with flysch deposition of the

Ocozocuautla Formltion (Dengo, 1968).
Seemingly, the slUne sediments ot the base of the
Mesozoic played a very important role in these defor
mations, sincc they ser ved as plastic material during
the developml.:nt of the deCllement in which time thE'
Mesozoic and Cenozoic sequences were fold 'el
(Viniegra-Osorio, 1981). In the Reforma-Campc-he
beH, the origin of the domnl dnd pillow-like stnlctural
system is related to verticll movement impelied by
the subjacent salto
During the Cenozoic, the Chiopas regio n was
opparently caught in tectonism involving nOTmll and
strike-slip flulting, w"hich complica tes lhe structural
rclations of the Mesozoic <lnd Cenozoic sequences.

4. Geology of the Southeastern Region of Mexico




Carbonates wllh rudlsts

Globigerl.nld deep water facies


Melange In deep water


and evaponles

Nearshore volcanlcs


Volcanlc Intruslves


Emergenl areas

Figure 4.5. Map showing distribution of Upper Cretaceous facies in

southeastern Mexico.


Carbonate evaporl1e
Open sea ciay, sands, rnarls

~I Open sea rnarls

Bank edge clasllcs


Emergent areas

200 km

~ Flysch facies

Figure 4.6. Map showing distribution of Paleocene facies in

southeastern Mexico.

200 km



Section 1 The Geology of the Mexican Republic













' .... .,I'-J








Sierra Madre Oriental

Sierra Madre del Sur

Sierra de Chiapas


200 km



Veracruz basln

Productlve areas 01 Ihe Upper Crelaceous

- . Productlve areas 01 (he Upper Jurass,c and Upper Crelaceous

fj7 Areas 01 polentlal accumulallon

Figure 4.7. Map showing producing areas and oi! wells in southeastern Mexico.

The directions of the faults of this period seem to be

associated \vith the northwestern movement of North
Americ'l in respect to the Caribbean plate along the
Polochic-Mont'lgua fault system of Guatemala and
the southern border.

The principal petroleum reserves of the nation are
located in the subsurface of the Reforma are'l at the
Chiapas and Tab'lsco border, as well as on the marine
Campeche platform (Figure 4.7). Most of the produc
tion comes from rocks of Late Jurassic and Cretaceous
age as well as from Ihe base of the Paleocene. In these
areas the sequences have slope facies composed of
fractured and dolomitized detrital material. The belt
containing the slope where these sequences were

deposited developed during the Cretaceous along the

edge of the Great Calcareous Yucatn bank, which
extends to Chiapas and Veracrz.
It has long been considered that the so urce rocks of
these hydrocarbons are ]urassic and that the reservoirs
were developed in many varied traps resulting from a
complex stratigraphic and structural evolution.
In the southeast region of Mexico, there exist some
mineral deposits of known hydrothermal origin that
show the association of silver-Iead-zinc-gold-copper.
In gp.neral they are small and localized generally in
the south of Chiapas, in the localities of Pijjjapan,
Nueva Morelia, Lajeria, Payacal, and Almagres. In
additio11., metasomatc deposits of iron exist in the
localities of Ventosa, Niltepec, and FololapilJa. Iron
and copper are found in Aniaga and copper, lead,
and zinc in Ixtapa.

4. Geology of the Southeastem Region of Mexico


Abbrevlation UNAM is Universidad Nacional
Autnoma de Mxico
Butterlin, J., and F. Bonet, 1963, Mapas geolgicos de
la Peninsula de Yucatn: Ingeniera Hidrulica en
Campa, M.F., and J. Ramrez, 1979, La evolucin
geolgica y la metalognesis del noroccidente de
Guerrero: Serie tcnico-cientfica de la Universidad
Autnoma de Guerrero, n. 1, 102 p.
Carfantan, eL 1977, La cobijadura de Motozintla
un pa leoarco volcnico en Chiapas: Revista,
Instituto de Geologa, UNAM, v. 1, n. 1, p. 133-137.
Castro, J., ej. Schlaepfer, and E. Martnez, 1975,
Estratigrafa y microfacies del Mesozoico de la
Sierra Madre del Sur, Chiapas: Boletn Asociacin
Mexicana de Gelogos Petroleros, v. 27, n. 1-3, p.
Damon, P.R., M. Shafiquillah, and K. F. Clark, 1981,
Age trends of igneous activity in relation to metal
logenesis in southern Cordillera, in W.R Dickinson
and D. Payne, eds.: Arizona Geological Society
Digest, v. 14, p. 137-154.
De Cserna, Z., 1967 (1969), Tectonic framework of
southern Mexico and its bearing on the problem of
continental drift Boletn de la Sociedad Geolgica
Mexicana, v. 30, p. 159-168.
De Cserna, Z., 1971, Precambrian sedimenta ton, tec
tonics and magmatism in Mexico: Geologische
Rundschau, v. 60, p. 1488-1513.
Dengo, G., 1968, Estructura geolgica, histria tectni
ca y morfologa de Amrica Central: Guatemala
Instituto Centroamericano de Investigacin y


Tecnologa Industrial: Centro Regional dE' Ayuda

Tcnica, Agencia para el Desarrollo Internacional,
45 p.
Fries, e, et al., 1962, Rocas Precmbricas de edad
Grenvilliana de la parte central de Oaxaca en el sur
de Mxico: Boletn, Instituto de Geologa, UNAM,
n. 64, parte 3, p. 45-53
Gutirrez, R, 1956, Bosquejo geolgico del Estado de
Chiapas: XX Congreso Geolgico Internacional,
Mxico: Excursion C-15, Geologia del Mesozico y
Estratgrafa Prmica del Estado de Chiapas.
Hernndez-Garcia, R., 1973, Paleogeografa del
Paleozico de Chiapas: Boletin, Asociacin
Mexicana Gelogos Petroleros, v. 25, p. 79-113.
Lpez-Ramos, E., 1979, Geologia de Mxico, 2nd edi
tion: Scholastic Edition, v. IIl, 446 p.
Mulleried, F.K.G., 1957, La Geologa de Chiapas:
Publicacin del gobierno del Estado de Chiapas.
Richard, H.G., 1963, Stratgraphy of Early Mesozoic
sediments in southwest Mexico and western
Guatemala: AAPG Bulletin, v. 47, p. 1861-1970.
Tardy, M., 1980, La transversal de Guatemala y las
Sierra Madre de Mxico, in J. Auboin, R. Brousse,
J.P. Lehman, Tratado de Geologia, v. Ill, Tectnica,
Tectonofsica, y Morfolga. D. Serrat Translaton,
Barcelona, Espaa: Editorial Omega, p. 117-182.
Tardy, M., et al., 1975, Observaciones generales sobre
la estructura de la Sierra Madre Orientll. La alocto
na del conjunto cadena alta-alta plano central,
entre Torreon, Coah. y San Luis Potosi, S.L.P.,
Mexico Revista del Instituto de Geologa, UNAM,
v. 75, p. 1-11.
Viniegra-Osorio, F., 1981, El gran banco calcreo
yucateco: Revista Ingenieria n. 1, p. 20-44.