Abstract

About 80% of the southern part of the North American Cordillera within the Republic of Mexico is made up of suspect terranes. These terranes are suspect because their paleogeographic setting with respect to cratonic North America at various times through much of Phanerozoic time is uncertain. Much of northeastern and southeastern Mexico is underlain by basement accreted during late Paleozoic time, an extension of the Appalachian–Ouachita orogeny. This orogen has been considerably modified by Jurassic strike-slip translations related to the opening of the Gulf of Mexico. Western and southwestern Mexico is largely made up of several distinct but coeval latest Jurassic to Late Cretaceous submarine magmatic arc terranes with unknown basement that appear to have accreted against the disrupted North American margin by early Tertiary time. Only northeastern Sonora and the State of Chihuahua appear to be floored by unmoved North American cratonic basement. The combined effect of Mesozoic accretions and translations essentially eliminates the overlap of South America upon Mexico that is drived from late Paleozoic – early Mesozoic reconstructions of the closed Atlantic Ocean. This new vision of accretionary and translational tectonics in Mexico has profound implications for the study of tectogenesis in the southern Cordillera as well as for the interpretation of Mexico's vast natural resources. Preliminary analysis indicates that Mexico's gold–silver and lead–zinc deposits are directly or indirectly related to the terrane distributions discussed.

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