Abstract

East-northeast trends of folds, thrust faults, foliation, and beds of late Mesozoic age are common in a 1100-km-long belt along the west coast of Mexico. The structures indicate north-northwest–directed crustal shortening, which is parallel to the present and probable late Mesozoic continental margin. The structures are best known in southern Sinaloa, where timing constraints indicate that the deformation most likely occurred shortly before 100 Ma. Similar occurrences are in Nayarit, northern Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California; timing of deformation is less constrained in these areas but also appears to be mid-Cretaceous.

The deformation patterns suggest compression parallel to the continental margin and plate boundary, which seems incompatible with simple perpendicular convergence. All plausible explanations require oblique convergence between the North American and cither the Farallon plate or the Kula plate along a north-northwest–trending continental margin. The most likely explanation involves transmission of oblique compression across the plate boundary, but the structures seem to require a more tangential component than motion histories indicate. Accretion by strike-slip faulting from elsewhere along the North American continental margin of a single, large block that encompasses the entire area of east-northeast structures is less likely and simply displaces the origin of these structures without explaining them. An east-trending continental margin off southwestern Mexico during the late Mesozoic is also unlikely.

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