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The United Mexican Statesmarker 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 Federal Districtmarker, 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 Citymarker, 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

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 Chiapasmarker a movement requested a referendum to let their citizens choose whether to remain as part of Mexico or to join the Central American newly formed federation. The majority of the population voted for Union with Mexico, and Chiapas seceded from Central America and joined the Mexican federation in 1824. Thus, the founding states were 19: Chiapasmarker, Chihuahuamarker, Coahuila y Tejas, Durangomarker, Guanajuatomarker, Méxicomarker, Nuevo Leónmarker, Oaxacamarker, Puebla de los Ángelesmarker, Querétaromarker, San Luis Potosímarker, Sonora y Sinaloa (also called Estado de Occidente, "Western State"), Tabascomarker, Tamaulipasmarker, Veracruzmarker, Jaliscomarker, Yucatánmarker and Zacatecasmarker. Three federal territories were formed: Alta Californiamarker, Baja California, Colimamarker, and Santa Fé de Nuevo México. Later that year the Federal District was created. Tlaxcalamarker (after a long debate at the Congress) became a federal territory in November 1824. . The 31 mexican states are actually cities as proven of size

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. 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 Texasmarker, 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. 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 Californiamarker, New Mexicomarker, Arizonamarker, Nevadamarker and Utahmarker and included regions that would become part of the states of Coloradomarker, Oklahomamarker, Kansasmarker and Wyomingmarker.

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.

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 Guadalupemarker and Revillagigedomarker islands which belong to Baja Californiamarker and Colimamarker, 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. Aguascalientesmarker 1835 1,051,000 005618 AGUmarker North Central Mexico
02. Mexicalimarker 1952 2,842,000 071446 BCNmarker North West Mexico
03. La Pazmarker 1974 517,000 073922 BCSmarker North West Mexico
04. Campechemarker 1858 751,000 057924 CAMmarker South East Mexico
05. Tuxtla Gutiérrezmarker 1824 4,256,000 073289 CHPmarker South West Mexico
06. Chihuahuamarker 1824 3,238,000 247455 CHHmarker North West Mexico
07. Saltillomarker 1824 2,475,000 151563 COAmarker North East Mexico
08. Colimamarker 1857 562,000 005625 COLmarker West Mexico
09. Durangomarker 1824 1,489,000 123451 DURmarker North West Mexico
10. Guanajuatomarker 1824 4,893,000 030608 GUAmarker North Central Mexico
11. Chilpancingomarker 1858 3,116,000 063621 GROmarker South West Mexico
12. Pachucamarker 1869 2,334,000 020846 HIDmarker East Mexico
13. Guadalajaramarker 1824 6,652,000 078599 JALmarker West Mexico
14. Tolucamarker 1824 14,161,000 022357 MEXmarker South Central Mexico
15. Moreliamarker 1824 3,988,000 058643 MICmarker West Mexico
16. Cuernavacamarker 1869 1,605,000 004893 MORmarker South Central Mexico
17. Tepic 1917 943,000 027815 NAYmarker West Mexico
18. Monterreymarker 1824 4,164,000 064203 NLEmarker North East Mexico
19. Oaxacamarker 1824 3,522,000 093343 OAXmarker South West Mexico
20. Pueblamarker 1824 5,391,000 034251 PUEmarker East Mexico
21. Querétaromarker 1824 1,593,000 011658 QUEmarker North Central Mexico
22. Chetumalmarker 1974 1,134,000 042535 ROOmarker South East Mexico
23. San Luis Potosímarker 1824 2,412,000 061165 SLPmarker North Central Mexico
24. Culiacánmarker 1831 2,610,000 057331 SINmarker North West Mexico
25. Hermosillomarker 1831 2,384,000 179516 SONmarker North West Mexico
26. Villahermosa 1824 2,013,000 024747 TABmarker South East Mexico
27. Ciudad Victoriamarker 1824 3,020,000 080148 TAMmarker North East Mexico
28. Tlaxcala 1857 1,061,000 003997 TLAmarker East Mexico
29. Xalapamarker 1824 7,081,000 071856 VERmarker East Mexico
30. Méridamarker 1824 1,803,000 039340 YUCmarker South East Mexico
31. Zacatecasmarker 1824 1,357,000 075416 ZACmarker North Central Mexico

 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 Texasmarker, 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.

 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.

 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.

 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 Oaxacamarker (with 570 municipalities) and the states with the least number are Baja Californiamarker and Baja California Surmarker (with only 5 each).

The Federal District

Mexico Citymarker 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 Mexicomarker, 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 Querétaromarker, 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.


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