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The United Mexican States is a federation made up of thirty-one "free and sovereign states". These states constitute one federated State or Union. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over the El Distrito Federal, a territory which does not belong to any state but to all, as well as the islands, atolls and reefs that do not belong to any state. The Federal District is coextensive with Mexico City, capital of the federation and seat of government. The 31 states and the Federal District are collectively called federal entities (entidades federativas in Spanish).


Origin of the federation

Animated map of the territorial evolution of Mexico

The United Mexican States were born as an independent Union after the ratification of the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States, on October 4, 1824. During the course of the year, several provinces which had been part of the ephemeral Mexican Empire decided to not join the Union, and to become an independent state made up by the territory that once had formed the Captaincy General of Guatemala. In the Central American region of Chiapas, a movement requested a referendum to let their citizens choose whether to remain as part of Mexico or to join the newly formed Central American federation. The majority of the population voted for union with Mexico, and Chiapas seceded from Central America and joined the Mexican federation in 1824.[citation needed] Thus, the founding states were 19: Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila y Tejas, Durango, Guanajuato, México, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla de los Ángeles, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sonora y Sinaloa (also called Estado de Occidente, "Western State"), Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Jalisco, Yucatán and Zacatecas. Three federal territories were formed: Alta California, Baja California, Colima, and Santa Fé de Nuevo México. Later that year the Federal District was created. Tlaxcala (after a long debate at the Congress) became a federal territory in November 1824.[citation needed].

Map of the Mexican federation in 1847

The Federation was dissolved on two separate occasions during the 19th century and a centralist type of government was established.[citation needed] The first period spanned from 1835 to 1846 starting with the ratification of the Siete Leyes (Seven Laws), the foundational and constitutional framework that created the "First Central Republic" and after a brief dictatorial period, the ratification of the Bases Orgánicas de la República confirmed this form of internal organization and created the "Second Central Republic". During this period Texas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas and Yucatán declared their independence from Mexico if federalism was not fully restored. Texas became an independent republic in 1836 and never joined Mexico again. Yucatán became an independent republic for 2 years and rejoined the Union when Antonio López de Santa Anna allowed the state to retain its political and fiscal autonomy (a constitution and custom laws) which differentiated the state from the rest of the states which had been transformed into "departamentos". It became independent again when these privileges were abolished, but rejoined the Union after the Mexican-American War.[citation needed] After the Mexican-American War, and through the Pact of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Mexico ceded the territories of New Mexico and the Upper California to the United States. These territories would eventually become the US states California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah and included regions that would become part of the states of Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming.[citation needed]

Federalism was restored in 1846, and in 1857 a new federal constitution was ratified. In 1864, the federation was dissolved for a second time and a constitutional and centralist monarchy was established, headed by Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg. Maximilian was deposed in 1867 by the republican forces, and the federation was finally restored.[citation needed]

The union

The national territory, as defined in the Mexican Constitution, is composed of the 31 free and sovereign states and the Federal District. The states and the Federal District are collectively called "federative entities" (entidades federativas in Spanish), as they are the individual constituent parts or entities of the federation. In addition, the national territory includes the islands, reefs and atolls in the adjacent seas, some of which belong to a particular state (like the case of the Guadalupe and Revillagigedo islands which belong to Baja California and Colima, respectively), and some of which belong to the federation.


The states

The states of the Mexican federation are free, sovereign, autonomous and independent from each other. They have the right to create their own constitution. However, they cannot make an alliance with any other state of the Union nor with any independent state except those agreements between the states located at the international borders if there is an unexpected invasion from a foreign nation.

The political organization of each state is based on a separation of powers in a congressional system: the legislative power is represented by a bicameral congress, the executive power is independent from the legislative and is headed by a "governor" and its cabinet, the judicial power is exercised by a Court of Justice.

Every state is represented by three senators in the Senate: two are elected through universal suffrage by plurality; the third one is assigned to the "first minority" party. The federation conforms a single constituency from which 32 senators are elected by proportional representation with open party lists. Deputies, on the contrary, do not represent the states, but the citizens. The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate form the Congress of the Union.

State Capital Admission
to Union
Population (2005) Area ISO 3166 Region
01.  Aguascalientes Aguascalientes 1835 1,051,000 0056185,618 km2 (2,169.1 sq mi) AGU North Central Mexico
02.  Baja California Mexicali 1952 2,842,000 07144671,446 km2 (27,585.5 sq mi) BCN North West Mexico
03.  Baja California Sur La Paz 1974 517,000 07392273,922 km2 (28,541.4 sq mi) BCS North West Mexico
04.  Campeche Campeche 1858 751,000 05792457,924 km2 (22,364.6 sq mi) CAM South East Mexico
05.  Chiapas Tuxtla Gutiérrez 1824 4,256,000 07328973,289 km2 (28,297.0 sq mi) CHP South West Mexico
06.  Chihuahua Chihuahua 1824 3,238,000 247455247,455 km2 (95,542.9 sq mi) CHH North West Mexico
07.  Coahuila Saltillo 1824 1 2,475,000 151563151,563 km2 (58,518.8 sq mi) COA North East Mexico
08.  Colima Colima 1857 562,000 0056255,625 km2 (2,171.8 sq mi) COL West Mexico
09.  Durango Durango 1824 1,489,000 123451123,451 km2 (47,664.7 sq mi) DUR North West Mexico
10.  Guanajuato Guanajuato 1824 4,893,000 03060830,608 km2 (11,817.8 sq mi) GUA North Central Mexico
11.  Guerrero Chilpancingo 1858 3,116,000 06362163,621 km2 (24,564.2 sq mi) GRO South West Mexico
12.  Hidalgo Pachuca 1869 2,334,000 02084620,846 km2 (8,048.7 sq mi) HID East Mexico
13.  Jalisco Guadalajara 1824 6,652,000 07859978,599 km2 (30,347.2 sq mi) JAL West Mexico
14.  Mexico Toluca 1824 14,161,000 02235722,357 km2 (8,632.1 sq mi) MEX South Central Mexico
15.  Michoacán Morelia 1824 3,988,000 05864358,643 km2 (22,642.2 sq mi) MIC West Mexico
16.  Morelos Cuernavaca 1869 1,605,000 0048934,893 km2 (1,889.2 sq mi) MOR South Central Mexico
17.  Nayarit Tepic 1917 943,000 02781527,815 km2 (10,739.4 sq mi) NAY West Mexico
18.  Nuevo León Monterrey 1824 2 4,164,000 06420364,203 km2 (24,788.9 sq mi) NLE North East Mexico
19.  Oaxaca Oaxaca 1824 3,522,000 09334393,343 km2 (36,039.9 sq mi) OAX South West Mexico
20.  Puebla Puebla 1824 5,391,000 03425134,251 km2 (13,224.4 sq mi) PUE East Mexico
21.  Querétaro Querétaro 1824 1,593,000 01165811,658 km2 (4,501.2 sq mi) QUE North Central Mexico
22.  Quintana Roo Chetumal 1974 1,134,000 04253542,535 km2 (16,422.9 sq mi) ROO South East Mexico
23.  San Luis Potosí San Luis Potosí 1824 2,412,000 06116561,165 km2 (23,615.9 sq mi) SLP North Central Mexico
24.  Sinaloa Culiacán 1831 3 2,610,000 05733157,331 km2 (22,135.6 sq mi) SIN North West Mexico
25.  Sonora Hermosillo 1831 3 2,384,000 179516179,516 km2 (69,311.5 sq mi) SON North West Mexico
26.  Tabasco Villahermosa 1824 2,013,000 02474724,747 km2 (9,554.9 sq mi) TAB South East Mexico
27.  Tamaulipas Ciudad Victoria 1824 2 3,020,000 08014880,148 km2 (30,945.3 sq mi) TAM North East Mexico
28.  Tlaxcala Tlaxcala 1857 1,061,000 0039973,997 km2 (1,543.3 sq mi) TLA East Mexico
29.  Veracruz Xalapa 1824 7,081,000 07185671,856 km2 (27,743.8 sq mi) VER East Mexico
30.  Yucatán Mérida 1824 4 1,803,000 03934039,340 km2 (15,189.3 sq mi) YUC South East Mexico
31.  Zacatecas Zacatecas 1824 1,357,000 07541675,416 km2 (29,118.3 sq mi) ZAC North Central Mexico

^1  Joined the federation under the name of Coahuila and Texas. In 1833 the district of Bexar seceded constitutionally from the state to form the separate state of Texas, but the constitution was never approved by the General Congress in Mexico City. Texas became an independent republic in 1836, and the name of the southern region was shortened to Coahuila. Briefly, in 1856 Nuevo León annexed Coahuila in a referendum and declared its independence from Mexico. After the defeat of the separatist forces, Coahuila separated from Nuevo León.

^2  Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Coahuila declared their independence from Mexico and formed a de facto independent country for 250 days, after which the separatist forces were defeated and they rejoined the federation.

^3  In 1824 this state joined the Union as the state of Sonora and Sinaloa, though its own constitution chose the name "Estado de Occidente". In 1830, the state was divided in two to form the separate states of Sonora and Sinaloa, which, after ratifying their own constitutions joined the federation in 1831.

^4  The Intendencia of Yucatán joined the Mexican Empire and then the federation in 1824. It became an independent republic in two occasions (1841–1843 and 1846–1848). This state comprised the territories of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.

Internal divisions of the states

The states are divided into municipalities. Each municipality is administratively autonomous; citizens elect a "municipal president" who heads an ayuntamiento or municipal council, responsible for providing all public services for their constituents. This concept, which originated after the Mexican Revolution is known as a municipio libre ("free municipality"). The municipal president cannot be reelected for the next immediate term. The municipal council consists of a cabildo (chairman) and several síndicos (trustees). If the municipality covers a large area and contains more than one city, one city is selected as a cabecera municipal (head city, seat of the municipality's government) while the rest elect representatives of a presidencia auxiliar (auxiliary presidency). There are 2,438 municipalities in Mexico; the state with the greatest number of municipalities is Oaxaca (with 570 municipalities) and the states with the least number are Baja California and Baja California Sur (with only 5 each).

Distrito Federal

Mexico City has a special status within the federation. According to a recent change in the constitution, article 44 states that Mexico City is the Federal District, seat of the government (powers of the Union) and capital of the United Mexican States. The city is coextensive with the Federal District territorially and administratively. If the federal government moves to another city, the Federal District would be transformed into another state of the Union, called "State of the Valley of Mexico" with the new limits and area that the Congress of the Union gives it.

Mexico City was separated from the State of Mexico, of which it was the capital, in 1824 to become the capital of the federation. As such, it does not belong to any state in particular but to all (i.e., to the federation). Therefore, it was the president of Mexico, in representation of the federation, who designated its head of government (previously called regente, "regent" or jefe del departamento del Distrito Federal, "head of the department of the Federal District"). However, the Federal District received full autonomy in 1997 and its citizens now elect directly their chief of government, the head of the boroughs (or delegaciones) and the representatives of the unicameral legislature called the Asamblea Legislativa, "Legislative Assembly". It does not have a constitution but a statute of autonomy. Nonetheless it enjoys many privileges as the capital of the federation.

The Federal District is represented at the Congress of the Union like any state by two senators elected by plurality and one assigned to the first minority.

With 8.5 million inhabitants Mexico City is the most populous city in Mexico and, being coextensive with the Federal District, is the second most populous political division (or entidad federativa, "federal entity") in the country. The metropolitan area of the city, however, extends over 40 municipalities of the state of Mexico and 1 of the state of Hidalgo, and with a population of 19.2 million, it is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

Internal divisions of the Federal District

For administrative purposes, the Federal District is divided into 16 delegaciones or boroughs. While not fully equivalent to a municipality (nor the concept of a municipio libre), the 16 boroughs have gained significant autonomy and since 2000 the heads of government of the boroughs are elected directly by plurality (they were previously appointed by the head of government of the Federal District). Given that Mexico City is organized entirely as a Federal District most of the city services are provided by the Government of the Federal District and not by the boroughs themselves, while in the constituent states these services would be provided by the municipalities. It should be noted that while other cities within the constituent states of the federation exercise their autonomy through the municipal council, some, like Querétaro, have further subdivided the municipality into delegaciones or boroughs for administrative purposes as well.

Self-determination of the indigenous peoples

The second article of the constitution recognizes the multicultural composition of the nation founded upon the indigenous peoples to whom the government grants the right of self-(free)determination and autonomy. According to this article the indigenous peoples are granted

  • the right to decide the internal forms of social, economic, political and cultural organization;
  • the right to apply their own normative systems of regulation as long as human rights and rights of women (gender equality) are granted;
  • the right to preserve and enrich their languages and culture;
  • the right to elect representatives before the municipal council in which their territories are located;

amongst other rights.

The nation commits to and demands the constituent states and municipalities to promote the economic and social development of the indigenous communities as well as an intercultural and bilingual education. According to the Law of Linguistic Rights, the nation recognizes 62 indigenous languages as "national languages" with the same validity as Spanish in the territories in which they are spoken and the indigenous peoples are entitled to request public services in their languages.

See also


  • Political Constitution of the United Mexican States; articles 2, and 42 through 48
  • Law of Linguistic Rights or "Ley de los Derechos Lingüísticos" approved in 2001.juihu b



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