The Rabinal-Salamá area in central Guatemala provides critical data bearing on the relationships between the North American and Caribbean plates because it lies within the Polochic-Motagua fault zone that separates the two plates. The cumulative Cenozoic sinistral displacement across this zone that separates the Maya and Chortís terranes has been variously estimated to be ~125 km or ~1100 km, evidence for which should be recorded in the rocks of the studied area. The Rabinal-Salamá area lies between two of the east-west faults within the Motagua fault zone, the Polochic fault, and the Baja Verapaz shear zone. The shear zone separates the Maya block from eclogitic rocks of the Chuacús Complex that pass southward into ophiolitic rocks and mélanges that define a suture between the Chuacús Complex and the Chortís block.
The following sequence of events is recorded in the Rabinal-Salamá area: (1) low-grade, pre-Silurian siliciclastic metasedi-mentary rocks (San Gabriel unit), that are intruded by (2) ca. 462–453 Ma calc-alkaline, peraluminous, S-type Rabinal granite suite, and unconformably overlain by (3) very low grade clastic and calcareous metasedi-mentary rocks (Santa Rosa Group) containing Mississippian conodonts and pebbles of granite, sandstone, and phyllite derived from the older units. The Rabinal granite suite is inferred to be rift related, inheriting its calc-alkaline signature from its source, along with the ca. 1 Ga xenocrystic zircons (upper intercept U-Pb data). Deformation in all these Paleozoic rocks produced a steeply south-southwest–dipping cleavage (chlorite and sericite) and a stretched quartz lineation. These fabrics become more intense adjacent to the Baja Verapaz shear zone, where C-S fabrics and rotated porphyroclasts indicate a reverse sense of motion with a sinistral component. White mica in the shear zone yields 74–65 Ma K-Ar ages, which are inferred to closely postdate the time of crystallization. Thus, although evidence for major sinistral displacement is absent, the kinematics are consistent with uplift and exhumation of the Chuacús Complex during obduction of the Baja Verapaz ophiolite onto the Paleozoic rocks of the Rabinal-Salamá area in latest Mesozoic-Paleocene. This is inferred to have been produced during collision of the Cuban arc and Chortís block with the southern Maya block. Restoration of the Early Mesozoic ~70° anticlockwise rotation of the Maya block places the Rabinal-Salamá area adjacent to northeastern Mexico, where comparable continental-shallow marine, Paleozoic rocks occur near Ciudad Victoria overlying the ca. 1 Ga Oaxaquia basement.