How many states in Mexico? Is Mexico City a state? What type of government does Mexico have? Here’s everything you need to know about Mexico’s federal system.

Mexico, or as it’s officially named, the ‘United Mexican States’, stretches from the border of the USA in the north, to the jungles of Central America in the south. In between, vast deserts, sprawling metropolises, buzzing beach resorts and ancient archaeological sites await you.

If, like me, you’re fascinated by geopolitics, then you might be wondering how this land in between is divided. How many states are in there Mexico? How did each of those states evolve, and how much power do they hold in the central, federal government?

In this article, I answer the question, ‘How many states in Mexico?’, while exploring the history behind Mexico’s federal system, and showing (briefly) what each of the country’s states has to offer. Keep reading, to find out more!

How many states are there in Mexico?

Mexico, officially known as the United Mexican States, is a federation comprising 32 entities: 31 states and the capital city, Mexico City, which is a separate federal entity.

Each state has its own governor, legislature and constitution, reflecting the nation’s differing regional histories and cultures. Over the years, the number of states has evolved, with territories becoming states or divisions occurring.

From the beaches of Quintana Roo to the deserts of Sonora, this diverse collection of states is unified under the banner of the Mexican flag.

Here’s a list of the 31 states:

  • Aguascalientes
  • Baja California
  • Baja California Sur
  • Campeche
  • Chiapas
  • Chihuahua
  • Coahuila
  • Colima
  • Durango
  • Guanajuato
  • Guerrero
  • Hidalgo
  • Jalisco
  • México (State of México)
  • Michoacán
  • Morelos
  • Nayarit
  • Nuevo León
  • Oaxaca
  • Puebla
  • Querétaro
  • Quintana Roo
  • San Luis Potosí
  • Sinaloa
  • Sonora
  • Tabasco
  • Tamaulipas
  • Tlaxcala
  • Veracruz
  • Yucatán
  • Zacatecas

Plus, the federal entity:

  • Mexico City (Ciudad de México or CDMX)
Map of Mexico. Credit: JRC (EC, ECHO) from Wikipedia.

Read more: Here’s Why I’d Love To Visit Mexico!

Facts about Mexico

To help you understand Mexico, here are the most important facts to know about the country:

Official Name: United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos)

Capital: Mexico City

Population: Around 130 million

Area: Approximately 1,964,375 square kilometres or 758,449 square miles

Official Language: Spanish

Government: Federal presidential constitutional republic

Independence: Declared from Spain on September 16, 1810; recognised on September 27, 1821

Religion: Predominantly Roman Catholic, with a significant minority of Protestants and people with no religious affiliation

Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)

Time Zone: Mexico spans four different time zones, from UTC-6 (Central Standard Time) to UTC-8 (Pacific Standard Time)

Climate: Ranges from tropical to desert

Neighbouring Countries: United States to the north; Guatemala and Belize to the south; Pacific Ocean to the west; Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to the east

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 35, including Chichen Itza, the Historic Center of Mexico City and Xochimilco, and the Historic Town of Guanajuato.

Flag of Mexico.

Read more: The Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico: How To Visit the Zapatista Movement

A brief history of Mexico’s federal system

The history of Mexico spans thousands of years, encompassing civilizations and cultures as wide-ranging as the Aztecs, Maya and Spanish. I’ll try to provide a condensed overview focusing on Mexico’s struggle for independence and its evolution into a federal system.

Pre-Colonial Period

Before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, Mexico was home to numerous advanced civilizations. The Olmecs, considered the ‘mother culture’ of Mesoamerica, thrived between 1200-400 BC. They were succeeded by the Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Toltec and finally, the Aztec Empire, which was at its peak at the time of Spanish arrival. These cultures made considerable advancements in writing, agriculture, city-building and astronomy.

Colonial Period

In 1519, Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived on the Mexican coast. With superior weaponry, foreign diseases, alliances with local enemies of the Aztecs, and a bit of luck, Cortés and his men toppled the Aztec Empire by 1521, marking the beginning of 300 years of Spanish rule.

The colonial period was characterised by economic exploitation and social domination. The Spaniards implemented a caste system with themselves at the top and indigenous populations at the bottom. Christianity was forcefully introduced, and many indigenous people were converted or died from diseases introduced by the Europeans.

Mexican Wars of Independence

Discontent with Spanish rule began to build, particularly amongst the Creoles (those of Spanish descent born in the Americas). The Bourbon Reforms in the 18th century, which sought to increase administrative efficiency and control over Spanish territories, further exacerbated tensions.

The trigger for the independence movement came in 1810 with the Grito de Dolores, a call to arms by Miguel Hidalgo, a Creole priest. Although Hidalgo was captured and executed in 1811, the struggle for independence continued under leaders like José María Morelos, who was also executed in 1815, and later under Guadalupe Victoria and Vicente Guerrero.

The tide of the war shifted with the political changes in Spain. After a liberal revolution in 1820, the Spanish monarchy decided to negotiate with the Mexican independence leaders. On September 27, 1821, after over a decade of warfare, Mexico was officially recognized as independent under the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Córdoba.

Post-Independence Period & Evolution to a Federal System

After independence, Mexico went through a period of political instability, marked by power struggles between liberals (favouring a federal republic) and conservatives (favouring a centralised, monarchical state).

In 1824, after the fall of the first Mexican emperor Agustín de Iturbide, a new constitution was adopted, establishing Mexico as a federal republic, the United Mexican States. This document was inspired by the U.S. Constitution and established a system with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It was in this period that Mexico was divided into the 19 states and 4 territories that formed the original federation.

However, conflicts between liberals and conservatives continued, leading to several changes in government and constitution over the next decades. The country was marked by constant upheaval, including the loss of Texas in 1836 and the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), which resulted in the loss of what are now California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

The 1850s brought significant liberal reforms under President Benito Juárez. The Constitution of 1857 further defined Mexico as a federal republic and introduced civil rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the right to a fair trial.

Despite setbacks like the French Intervention (1861-1867) and the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1910), the federal system persisted. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) led to the Constitution of 1917, which is still in effect today and establishes Mexico as a federal republic composed of 31 states and Mexico City.

This is a simplified overview of a very complex history, and it’s important to note that these events and periods were marked by immense cultural, societal and human complexity. They involved interactions between diverse indigenous cultures, Creole populations, African slaves, Spanish settlers, and more recently, immigrants from around the world. The history of Mexico reflects both its rich cultural heritage and its ongoing struggle for national identity and social justice.

Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican Wars of Independence began in 1810.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in North America? Everything You Need to Know.

What type of government does Mexico have?

Mexico is a federal presidential constitutional republic. This form of government is characterised by a division of powers between the federal government and individual states, a strong executive branch led by a president, and laws and governing principles established by a constitution.

The Mexican political system is divided into three levels of government: federal, state and municipal. At the federal level, it is further divided into three branches: the executive, legislative and judicial.

The executive branch is headed by the President, who is elected by popular vote for a single six-year term, a period referred to as a ‘sexenio’. The President functions as both the head of state and head of government, responsible for executing and enforcing the laws, and is also the commander-in-chief of the Mexican military forces.

The legislative branch, the Mexican Congress, is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Its role is to enact laws, declare war, impose taxes, analyse foreign policy, ratify treaties and approve the national budget.

The judicial branch is independent of the other two and has the power to interpret laws and judge cases of federal competency. The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest authority in the country.

While the states are given a degree of autonomy, the federal government has significant power, especially over fiscal policy. Each state has its own constitution, modelled after the national constitution, with its own executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Mexico City.

Read more: Is Guatemala a Country? Everything You Need to Know.

Is Mexico City a state?

Mexico City, known as Ciudad de México or CDMX, is not one of the 31 states of Mexico but a federal entity, much like how Washington, D.C. operates in the United States. This means it belongs to the federation as a whole and serves as its capital, rather than being a part of any particular state.

Historically, Mexico City was considered a Federal District (Distrito Federal), similar to Washington, D.C. The idea was that as the seat of federal power, it needed to be separate from the states to avoid undue influence from a specific state government.

However, on January 29, 2016, the Mexican government approved a constitutional reform that transitioned the Federal District into a new entity called ‘Ciudad de México’ (Mexico City). This change provided more autonomy to the city, giving it its own constitution and congress, similar to the other states of the federation. Yet, unlike the other states, certain functions like security and certain types of infrastructure are still managed at the federal level.

Despite these changes, Mexico City is still not considered a state. It remains a separate entity, as the country’s capital, with a status distinct from the 31 states that make up the United Mexican States. However, as the most populous city in the country and a major political, cultural, educational, and economic hub, Mexico City has considerable influence and importance within Mexico.

Mexico City, the nation’s capital.

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What’s the official language of Mexico?

Mexico is a linguistically diverse country with over 60 recognised national languages. Here’s an overview:

  • Spanish: Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Mexico and the official language of government, education, and daily life. Mexican Spanish has distinct pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar, influenced by indigenous languages and other historical factors.
  • Indigenous Languages: Despite Spanish dominance, Mexico recognises 68 national languages, 63 of which are indigenous. These include Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and Yucatec Maya, the language of the Maya civilization, among others. Other significant indigenous languages include Mixtec, Zapotec and Otomi. However, many of these languages are at risk, with declining numbers of speakers, especially among younger generations.
  • Other Languages: Given its history of immigration, you can also find communities in Mexico that speak English, Italian, German (including Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by Mennonites), and various languages of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, among others.
  • Sign Languages: Mexican Sign Language is recognised as a national language and is the first language of many Deaf Mexicans. There are also indigenous sign languages like Maya Sign Language.
Teotihuacán, an ancient pre-colonial centre north of Mexico City.

Read more: Is Mexico a Country? Everything You Need to Know.

What religions do they practice in Mexico?

Religion in Mexico is characterised by a mix of belief systems, reflecting the country’s complex history. The vast majority of Mexicans identify as Christian, with Roman Catholicism being the most prevalent denomination.

  • Roman Catholicism: Mexico is one of the countries with the largest Catholic populations in the world. The Roman Catholic Church in Mexico traces back to the Spanish conquest in the 16th century and has played a significant role in the country’s social and cultural life. As of the latest data, around 80% of Mexicans identify as Catholic, although practice and levels of participation can vary widely.
  • Protestantism: The number of Protestants in Mexico has been growing, with estimates suggesting that they make up anywhere from 5% to 15% of the population. Protestant denominations in Mexico include Pentecostals, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists and others.
  • Other Christian Denominations: There are also smaller communities of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Other Religions: Judaism, Islam and Buddhism each represent less than 1% of the population, but they do have a presence in Mexico. There’s also a small but significant number of people who practice indigenous religions, often syncretised with Catholicism.
  • No Religion: The percentage of people who identify as non-religious or atheist is growing, especially among younger generations, although it still represents a relatively small portion of the population.

Read more: Things to Do in Merida, Mexico

The best Mexican states to visit

Here’s a quick rundown of what every Mexican state has to offer:


Known for its colonial architecture and colourful cultural scene, Aguascalientes has a rich history that dates back to the 16th century when it was founded by Spanish colonists. This state has a flourishing art scene, which is showcased during the annual San Marcos Fair, one of the most important traditional festivities in Mexico. Visitors can also explore the stunning Barrio del Encino and the Government Palace.

Baja California

Baja California is renowned for its wine region, the Guadalupe Valley, and the cross-border nightlife of Tijuana. This state is also known for its diverse ecosystems, from the dry desert to the lush forests. It’s also a premier spot for whale watching.

Baja California Sur

Home to popular vacation spots like Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, this state has a strong indigenous history. Visitors can experience the unique blend of marine and desert ecosystems. Also notable are the ancient cave paintings in the Sierra de San Francisco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Campeche City is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and fortified walls. The state itself is a part of the Mayan world, home to several archaeological sites like Calakmul and Edzná.


The home state of the ancient Maya civilization, Chiapas hosts significant archaeological sites such as Palenque and Bonampak. It also has diverse wildlife in its biosphere reserves, such as El Triunfo and La Encrucijada. The indigenous culture is a major draw, as are the Zapatistas.


The largest state in Mexico, Chihuahua features diverse landscapes, from mountain ranges to deserts. It is known for the Copper Canyon, a natural marvel larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. Visitors can learn about the indigenous Rarámuri culture and their history in the region.


Renowned for its wine production, Coahuila is the birthplace of the Mexican constitution. The city of Saltillo is known for its colonial architecture and sarape production. For nature lovers, the Maderas del Carmen reserve is a must-see.


One of the smallest states in Mexico, Colima is home to an active volcano and lush coffee plantations. The state has a strong Pre-Columbian history and visitors can explore the ancient ruins of El Chanal and La Campana.


Founded by Spanish explorers, Durango is known for its colonial architecture, silver mining, and Scenic Highway.


Famous for its rich silver deposits, Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a preserved colonial city centre. It is also known for the Festival Internacional Cervantino, an annual arts and culture event.


Known for the iconic beach resort town of Acapulco, Guerrero is a vibrant state with a rich history of the indigenous Olmec, Nahua, and Yope civilizations. Taxco, the silver city, is another must-visit spot.


Home to the ancient Toltec civilization, Hidalgo has several archaeological sites like Tula and the beautiful Basalt Prisms. The state also has a rich tradition of pulque production, a traditional alcoholic beverage made from agave.


Known as the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila, Jalisco has a vibrant culture. It is home to Guadalajara, the second-largest city in Mexico, and Puerto Vallarta, a popular beach resort town.

México State

Surrounding the capital city, México State has a blend of urban and rural environments. The state features historical sites like the Teotihuacan pyramids and natural attractions like the Nevado de Toluca volcano.


Known for its Day of the Dead celebrations in Pátzcuaro and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Michoacán showcases the cultural and natural richness of Mexico.


A popular weekend getaway spot for residents of Mexico City, Morelos is known for its warm climate, beautiful haciendas, and the archaeological site of Xochicalco.


A beautiful coastal state, Nayarit is known for its popular beach town of Sayulita. The state also hosts the ancient archaeological site of Los Toriles.

Nuevo León

An industrial powerhouse, Nuevo León has Monterrey as its capital, known for its modern architecture and vibrant arts scene. The state is also home to stunning natural attractions like the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park.


Oaxaca is famous for its indigenous cultures, artisan crafts, and gastronomy. The state is home to the UNESCO-listed archaeological site of Monte Albán and the colourful annual Guelaguetza festival.


Known for its culinary scene and beautiful colonial architecture, Puebla is also home to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, the world’s largest pyramid by volume. The state’s capital city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.


A centre of the Mexican independence movement, Querétaro boasts a beautiful colonial city centre and is also known for its wine and cheese production.

Quintana Roo

Home to the world-renowned beach resorts of Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, Quintana Roo also hosts the ancient Maya ruins of Coba and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

San Luis Potosí

San Luis Potosí played a significant role in Mexico’s history, particularly during the Mexican Revolution. The city offers a beautiful colonial centre and the state features the surreal landscapes of Las Pozas near Xilitla.


Known as the breadbasket of Mexico, Sinaloa is the country’s largest agricultural producer. The state’s capital, Culiacán, has a rich history and several beautiful parks and plazas.


Bordering the United States, Sonora is known for its Yaqui and Mayo cultures and its beautiful beach town of Puerto Peñasco. It’s also the gateway to the Sea of Cortez, a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Rich in oil reserves and natural resources, Tabasco is also known for its Olmec and Maya archaeological sites, including La Venta and Comalcalco. The state also features the lush Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve.


Bordering Texas, Tamaulipas is known for its diverse climate and rich ecosystems, including El Cielo Biosphere Reserve. It’s also rich in history, from the Spanish colonial period to the Mexican Revolution.


The smallest state in Mexico, Tlaxcala is rich in history and culture. Known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and the Cacaxtla archaeological site, the state played a significant role during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.


As the first Spanish settlement in Mexico, Veracruz has a rich history and culture. Known for its music, cuisine, and natural beauty, including the Cofre de Perote and Pico de Orizaba volcanoes.


Famous for the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Yucatán is rich in Mayan history and culture. It’s also known for the city of Mérida and its unique Yucatecan cuisine.


Known for its rich silver mining history, Zacatecas boasts a beautifully preserved colonial centre. Visitors can explore the Mina El Edén, a historic silver mine, and the Zacatecan desert’s natural beauty.

Mexico City

As the country’s capital, Mexico City is a federal entity, not a state. Nevertheless, it is a city rich in history, from the Aztec Templo Mayor to the colonial Zócalo Square. It has a vibrant arts scene, food culture, and numerous museums, including the renowned National Museum of Anthropology.

The Copper Canyon, Mexico.

Read more: 18 Things to Do in Chiapas, Mexico

FAQ: How many states are in Mexico?

Here’s a quick FAQ on the topic, ‘How many states are in Mexico?’:

Q1: How many states are there in Mexico?

A1: Mexico is made up of 32 federal entities: 31 states and the Federal District, which is Mexico City.

Q2: Is Mexico City considered a state?

A2: While Mexico City is not a state, it is one of Mexico’s 32 federal entities. It was formerly known as the Federal District until 2016 when it was reformed and given a degree of autonomy similar to that of the states, even getting its own constitution in 2017.

Q3: Which is the largest state in Mexico?

A3: The largest state in Mexico by land area is Chihuahua, which spans over 247,455 square kilometres.

Q4: Which is the smallest state in Mexico?

A4: The smallest state in Mexico is Tlaxcala, which has an area of just over 4,000 square kilometres.

Q5: How are the states of Mexico governed?

A5: Each state in Mexico has its own constitution, mirroring the structure of the federal government. The states are governed by a governor and a unicameral congress.

Q6: Are there territories in Mexico that are not states or Mexico City?

A6: No, all the land in Mexico is divided among the 31 states and Mexico City.

Q7: Which is the newest state in Mexico?

A7: Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur are the newest states, both admitted to the federation in 1974.

Q8: What is the capital of Mexico?

A8: The capital of Mexico is Mexico City, which is also the largest city in the country.

Q9: What is the population of Mexico?

A9: As of my last training data in September 2021, Mexico had a population of approximately 126 million people. For current data, please refer to the latest statistics.

Q10: How many states in Mexico have coastlines?

A10: Seventeen of Mexico’s 31 states have coastlines. These include both states on the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, as well as states on the Caribbean Sea like Quintana Roo.