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Teaching Spanish: Mexican States and Their Capitals

By Curt Smothers

Most outsiders do not know the country of Mexico's formal name; Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States). The country has 31 estados (states), each with its own gobernador (governor) and single-house legislatura (legislature) with elected deputados (deputies). Here is a brief overview.

Combining Spanish Vocabulary with a Geography Lesson

Our neighbor to the south, Mexico, has 31 separate states and a national capital. This article is a vocabulary and geographical resource for Spanish instructors who wish to give a quick lesson on Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos y sus estados individuales (the United Mexican States and its individual states).

A List of Mexican States by Geographical Region

National Capital: Ciudad de México, D.F. (Distrito Federal )

North West MexicoGreat Seal of Mexico 

State: Baja California

Capital: Mexicali

Factoid: Just south of California, USA. Famous for resort city of Tijuana. Lowest populated state.

State: Baja California Sur (South Baja California)

Capital: La Paz

Factoid: Home of resort Cabo San Lucas

State: Sinaloa

Capital: Culiacán

Factoid: Long Pacific coast state with scenic coastal plains, rivers and inland mountains.

State: Durango

Capital: Durango

Factoid: Land-locked state with second lowest population density.

State: Sonora

Capital: Hermosillo

Factoid: Huge coastline of over 1200 miles touches the Sea of Cortes.

State: Chihuahua

Capital: Chihuahua

Factoid: Largest state in Mexico by area. Home of the scenic Copper Canyon.

Southwest Mexico

State: Chiapas

Capital: Tuxtla Gutiérrez

Factoid: Southermost state of Mexico.

State: Oaxaca

Capital: Oaxaca

Factoid: Historic home of the Zapotec and Mixtec people. Home of Mexican Presidents Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz.

State: Guerrero

Capital: Chilpancingo

Factoid: Home of resort city of Acapulco.

North Central Mexico

State: Aguascalientes

Capital: Aguascalientes

Factoid: Founded in 1575 as a postal rest stop. Known for its aguas calientes (hot springs).

State: Querétaro

Capital: Querétaro

Factoid: State's name is thought to come from the Otomi "place of the great city."

State: Guanajuato

Capital: Guanajuato

Factoid: In the central highlands of Mexico. Home of famous muralist Diego Rivera and former President Vincente Fox.

State: Zacatecas

Capital: Zacatecas

Factoid: Located in the great central plateau of Mexico (average elevation 7,700 feet), this landlocked state has no large rivers. Its chief industry is mining. Over $800 million in silver has been extracted from the hills of this state.

State: San Luis Potosí

Capital: San Luis Potosí

Factoid: Mean elevation is 6,000 feet. Great climate.

West Mexico

State: Colima

Capital: Colima

Factoid: One of the smallest states in Mexico.

State: Nayarit

Capital: Tepic

Factoid: Has hundreds of miles of mountainous rain forest along with varied wildlife, including jaguars and mountain lions.

State: Jalisco

Capital: Guadalajara

Factoid: Fourth most populated state in Mexico and most culturally developed, with a very high standard of living.

State: Michoacán

Capital: Morelia

Factoid: High population of native Amerindians (95%).

North East Mexico

State: Nuevo León

Capital: Monterrey

Factoid: Borders Texas. Has an extreme climate with very little rainfall.

State: Coahuila

Capital: Saltillo

Factoid: Shares 318-mile border with Texas.

State: Tamaulipas

Capital: Ciudad Victoria

Factoid: Bordering southeast Texas, this area is known to have been inhabited for 8,000 years.

East Mexico

State: Hidalgo

Capital: Pachuca

Factoid: In central Mexico. Home of the ancient Toltec ruins at Tula. Named after Mexican independence leader Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.

State: Puebla

Capital: Puebla

Factoid: Formal name is Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza (Heroic Puebla of Zaragoza). Named after Ignacio Zaragoza, who led the Mexican army in its defeat of the French on May 5, 1862 (battle commemorated during the Cinco de Mayo celebration).

State: Tlaxcala

Capital: Tlaxcala

Factoid: In 1521 over 6,000 warriors from Tlaxcala joined Cortés to help defeat the Aztecs.

State: Veracruz

Capital: Xalapa

Factoid: Formal name is Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave (True cross of Ignacious of the Key). Vera Cruz has been the traditional entry point for conquerors of Mexico from Cortés to American General Winfield Scott in the Mexican-American War of 1849.

South Central Mexico

State: Mexico

Capital: Toluca

Factoid: State in the center of Mexico. Home of pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan.

State: Morelos

Capital: Cuernavaca

Factoid: Second smallest state. Named after José María Morelos, a leader of the Mexican War of Independence.

Southeast Mexico

State: Quintana Roo

Capital: Chetumal

Factoid: Home of the famous resort city of Cancún.

State: Tabasco

Capital: Villahermosa

Factoid: This gulf coast state was the first to be subjugated under Spanish rule.

State: Campeche

Capital: Campeche

Factoid: One of the least populous states of Mexico.

State: Yucatán

Capital: Mérida

Factoid: Home of ancient Mayan archaeological site at Chichen Itza.



Keep learning! Try practicing your vocabulary with these helpful articles:

Teaching Spanish: Vocabulary Practice with Country Names

Teaching Spanish: Vocabulary Practice with European Countries