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Present address: Department of Geology, San Jose State University, San Jose, California 95192–0102.


We present a tectonic evolution of Mexico over the past 600 m.y., with focus on the position of southern margin of Proterozoic North America in Mexico, the Phanerozoic events that shaped this margin, and the accretion of terranes that built Mexico out from that margin to its present configuration.

The evolution of Mexico is a peculiar and difficult problem in tectonics. Whereas the kinematic history of the region of Mexico, for example, the end of Proterozoic continental breakup, the collision of North and South America in the late Paleozoic, the drifting apart of those two continents in the Mesozoic, and the motions of plates in the Pacific basin relative to North America in Cretaceous and Cenozoic time, is reasonably well known, the kinematics of terranes now in the region is poorly understood. In large part, this disparity is due to the extraordinary extent and volume of Cenozoic volcanism. Although such volcanism informs us about Cenozoic convergence, it cautions that the crust of Mexico has probably undergone major modification in Cenozoic time. Moreover, the volcanic cover limits greatly the direct access to older rocks and structures necessary to develop the story of an evolution that is well resolved in space and time. A tectonic synthesis of Mexico thus requires more assumptions than for most mountainous regions.

Our model of tectonic evolution of Mexico attempts to satisfy both far-field and sparse near-field kinematic histories and existing geologic and geophysical data. This chapter is a companion to an in-depth synthesis of data, identification

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