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Municipalities (municipios in Spanish) are the second-level administrative division in Mexicomarker (where the first-level administrative division is the estado, or state). There are 2,438 municipalities in Mexico. The internal political organization and their responsibilities are outlined in the 115th article of the 1917 Constitution and further expanded in the constitutions of the states to which they belong.


All Mexican 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 the public services for their constituents. This concept, which originated after the Mexican Revolution, is known as a municipio libre ("free municipality"). A municipal president heads the ayuntamiento (municipal council). The municipal president is elected by plurality and cannot be reelected for the next immediate term. The municipal council consists of a cabildo (chairman) with a síndico and several regidor (trustees).

If the municipality covers a large area and contains more than one city or town (collectively called localidades), one city or town is selected as a cabecera municipal (head city, seat of the municipal government) while the rest elect representatives to a presidencia auxiliar or junta auxiliar (auxiliary presidency or council). In that sense, a municipality in Mexico is roughly equivalent to the counties of the United Statesmarker, whereas the auxiliary presidency is equivalent to a township. Nonetheless, auxiliary presidencies are not considered a third-level administrative division since they depend fiscally on the municipalities in which they are located.

North-western and south-eastern states are divided into small numbers of large municipalities (e.g. Baja Californiamarker is divided into only five municipalities), and therefore they cover large areas incorporating several separated cities or towns that do not necessarily conform to one single conurbation. Central and southern states, on the other hand, are divided into a large number of small municipalities (e.g. Oaxacamarker is divided into 570 municipalities), and therefore large urban areas usually extend over several municipalities which form one single conurbation. Although an urban area might cover an entire municipality, auxiliary councils might still be used for administrative purposes.

Municipalities are responsible for public services (such as water and sewerage), street lighting, public safety, traffic, supervision of slaughterhouses and the cleaning and maintenance of public parks, gardens and cemeteries. They may also assist the state and federal governments in education, emergency fire and medical services, environmental protection and maintenance of monuments and historical landmarks. Since 1983, they can collect property taxes and user fees, although more funds are obtained from the state and federal governments than from their own collection efforts.


Since the Conquest and colonization of Mexico, the municipality became the basic entity of the administrative organization of New Spain and the Spanish Empire. Settlements located in strategic locations received the status of city (the highest status within the Empire, superior to that of villas and pueblos) and were entitled to form an ayuntamiento or municipality. After Independence, the 1824 Constitution did not specify any regulation for the municipalities, whose structure and responsibilities were to be outlined in the constitution of each state of the federation. As such, every state set its own requirements for a settlement to become a municipality (usually based on population). The Constitution of 1917 abolished the jefatura política ("political authority"), the intermediate administrative authority between the states and converted all existing municipalities into municipios libres ("free municipalities"), that is, gave them full autonomy to manage local affairs, while at the same time restricting the scope of their competencies. However, in 1983 the 115th article was modified to expand the municipalities' authority to raise revenue (through property taxes and other local services) and to formulate budgets.

Ranking of municipalities

By population

Data from the Conteo 2005 by INEGI.

Ranking State Municipality Population
1 Mexico Statemarker Ecatepecmarker 1,688,258
2 Jaliscomarker Guadalajaramarker 1,600,940
3 Pueblamarker Pueblamarker 1,485,941
4 Baja Californiamarker Tijuanamarker 1,470,900
5 Chihuahuamarker Juárezmarker 1,313,338
6 Guanajuatomarker Leónmarker 1,278,087
7 Jaliscomarker Zapopanmarker 1,155,790
8 Mexico Statemarker Nezahualcóyotlmarker 1,140,528
9 Nuevo Leónmarker Monterreymarker 1,133,814
... ... ... ....
2,438 Oaxacamarker Santa Magdalena Jicotlán 102

By area

Data from Los Municipios con Mayor y Menor Extensión Territorial by the Instituto Nacional Para el Federalismo y el Desarrollo Municipal
Ranking State Municipality Area (km²)
1 Baja Californiamarker Ensenadamarker 51,952.26
2 Baja California Surmarker Mulegémarker 33,092.20
3 Coahuilamarker Ocampomarker 26,433.60
4 Baja California Surmarker La Pazmarker 20,275.00
5 Quintana Roomarker Othón P.marker Blancomarker 17,189.75
6 Chihuahuamarker Ahumadamarker 17,131.48
7 Baja California Surmarker Comondúmarker 16,858.30
8 Chihuahuamarker Camargomarker 16,066.01
... ... ... ....
2,438 Tlaxcalamarker San Lorenzo Axocomanitla 4.34

Boroughs of Mexico City

Main article: Boroughs of the Mexican Federal District

Mexico City, district of Santa Fe
Mexico Citymarker is a special case in that it is not organized as a municipality, but as a federal district as the capital of the federation. It is administered through the Government of the Federal District and it has its own unicameral Legislative Assembly. For administrative purposes, the Federal District is subdivided into delegaciones or boroughs. While not fully equivalent to a municipality, since 2000 they enjoy a certain degree of political autonomy, in that residents within a borough directly elect a local borough head of government (called jefe delegacional). However, boroughs do not form local [municipal] councils nor are they constituted by a group of trustees. They do not have regulatory powers, which are mostly centralized in the Federal District government. The majority of the city's public services are organized by the Federal District even if part of the administration responsibilities are carried out by the boroughs. Despite this, at the federal level, the delegaciones of the Federal District are considered a second-level territorial division in statistical data collection and cross-municipal comparisons.

Other municipalities in Mexico have chosen to use a similar administrative internal organization. All municipalities of Baja California are subdivided into boroughs or delegaciones. The municipality of Mexicali for example, is divided into 14 boroughs besides the city of Mexicalimarker which comprises the municipal seat and three additional metropolitan boroughs. The municipality of Santiago de Querétaromarker, is subdivided into seven boroughs. Nonetheless, the heads of government of the boroughs of Mexican municipalities are not elected by the residents but appointed by the municipal president. Unlike the boroughs of Mexico City, which are second-level administrative divisions, the boroughs of the municipalities constitute third-level administrative divisions.


  1. Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos Article 115
  2. Inform sobre Desarrollo Humano México 2004 p. 50
  3. Link to tables of population data from Census of 2005 INEGI: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática
  4. Los Municipios con Mayor y Menor Extensión Territorial Instituto Nacional Para el Federalismo y el Desarrollo Municipal

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