The Guerrero terrane has been interpreted either as a Mesozoic Pacific multi-arc system accreted to North America, or as a detached slice of the North American continental margin, which was rifted during backarc spreading and subsequently accreted back to the continental mainland. In order to test these two scenarios, we present here a petrologic study of metasandstones from the Santo Tomás area, southern Mexico. Our data document that the Guerrero terrane suture belt contains the remnants of the Tithonian–Cenomanian Arperos Basin. This basin displays a marked provenance asymmetry. Its eastern margin is composed of metasedimentary rocks derived from sources in the North American continental mainland, whereas its western margin consists of a metasedimentary succession derived from volcanic sources of the Guerrero terrane. Sedimentation in the Arperos Basin was coeval with the emplacement of Tithonian–Barremian felsic dikes and lava flows with volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits and Aptian–Cenomanian intraplate-like and mid-ocean ridge basalts. This suggests that the Arperos Basin evolved progressively from continentally to oceanic floored during the Early Cretaceous and that a mature oceanic crust was generated only ca. 15 Ma before the accretion of the Guerrero terrane, which took place in the late Cenomanian. On the basis of this evidence, we favor a North American origin for the Guerrero terrane, which is then considered to represent a west-facing North American arc that was rifted from the continental mainland during backarc spreading and subsequently accreted back to nuclear Mexico.

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