Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana
Volumen Conmemorativo del Centenario
Temas Selectos de la Geología Mexicana
Tomo LVII, núm. 3, 2005, p. 285-318


La Mesa Central de México: estratigrafía, estructura y evolución tectónica cenozoica

Ángel Francisco Nieto-Samaniego*1, Susana Alicia Alaniz-Álvarez1, Antoni Camprubí í Cano1

1 Centro de Geociencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado postal 1-742, Querétaro, Qro. 76230, México

* This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The Mesa Central is a physipographic province in central Mexico that it is characterized by being an elevated plateau and that can be divided in two regions. In the southern region, the topography is higher than 2 000 masl, except for the Aguascalientes valley. This region is mountainous, and mostly covered by Cenozoic volcanic rocks. The northern region is larger than the southern, it shows an advanced degree of erosion, contains several continental basins filled with lacustrine and fluvial sediments, and its topography is lower than 2 000 masl. The crust in the Mesa Central is about 32 km thick, and it is bordered by the Sierra Madre Oriental, with average crustal thickness of ~37 km, and the Sierra Madre Occidental, with average crustal thickness of ~40 km. The presence of magmas from mantle wedges below the crust is inferred, trapped at the bottom of the crust. This suggests that an underplating process produced heating and uplifting of the base and middle portions of the crust. The oldest rocks that outcrop at the Mesa Central are Triassic marine facies that formed approximately along the continental margin at that time. These rocks are overlain by Jurassic continental rocks that are widely distributed within the Mesa Central. Marine deposition in the area prevailed between the Oxfordian and the Cretaceous. During that period of time three distinctive lithological sequences formed. A marine platform formed at the eastern continental margin, and it is named Valles-San Luis Potosí Platform. It is mostly part of the Sierra Madre Oriental, but it is distinctively constituted by reef and talus facies towards the Mesa Central. In the middle part of the Mesa Central marine rocks outcrop and are made up of a very thick sequence of calcareous lutites and sandstones that are topped by sandstones with clasts of volcanic rocks, a suite that is known as the Mesozoic Basin of Central Mexico. In the western and southern borders of the Mesa Central, marine volcanosedimentary Mesozoic rocks crop out, that are made up of a thick sequence of pillow lava with intercalated lutite, sandstone and limestone. All of the above rocks have plicative deformation and inverse faulting, both produced during the Laramide orogeny. An angular unconformity separates these lithological sequences from the continental Cenozoic rocks. The bottom of the Cenozoic sequence consists of conglomerate, and andesitic and rhyolitic volcanic rocks. These were followed by Oligocene topaz-bearing rhyolites that formed by crustal melting. The uppermost part of the Cenozoic sequence contains scarce Miocene-Quaternary alkaline basalts.

The northern boundary of the Mesa Central is the so-called Sector Transversal de Parras, that is part of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The east, west and south boundaries of the Mesa Central are constituted by major fault systems that were active during the Cenozoic. The eastern boundary is constituted by the Taxco-San Miguel de Allende fault system, whose activity peaked from north to south, during the Oligocene in San Luis Potosí and during the Miocene in the southern boundary of the Mesa Central (San Miguel de Allende). The southern boundary is constituted by the El Bajío fault that was active between the Oligocene and the middle Miocene, simultaneously to the Aguascalientes graben, south of the western boundary of the Mesa Central. The major structure that separates the northern and southern regions of the Mesa Central is named San Luis-Tepehuanes fault system in this paper. It was active mostly between the Eocene and the Oligocene, but also during the Pliocene-Quaternary in its northwestern segment. The majority of the mineral deposits found in the Mesa Central or in its vicinities, especially epithermal deposits, are located on the traces of the major fault systems described above. The available information suggests that the structures associated with the major fault systems controlled the emplacement of both volcanic-hypabyssal rocks and mineral deposits, although the actual mechanisms that drove the association between faulting, volcanism, and metallogenesis remain unknown.

Key words: Mexico, Mesa Central, Cenozoic stratigraphy, Tectonics of Mexico.