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Teaching Spanish: Mexican States and Their Capitals

written by: Curt Smothers • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/5/2012

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.

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    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).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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%).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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