Mexican Pacific Coast – Maps, History and Culture

Last Updated:

The Mexican Pacific Coast is located in the southwestern quadrant of Mexico and encompasses various Mexican cities, including Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. The region is well-developed, especially in terms of tourism. Before the Yucatan Peninsula became a desirable vacation spot, the Mexican Pacific Coast was the primary vacation destination in Mexico.

The Mexican Pacific Coast region of Mexico contains all Mexican states that make up the majority of the southwestern Pacific coast. These states include Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, and Nayarit. The total area that these five states make up is nearly 149,000 square miles.

List of Cities

Quick Facts

  • Population: ~ 17.2 million
  • Languages: Spanish, Aztec indigenous
  • Ethnicities: Mestizo, Mixtec, and Afro-Mexican
  • Capitals of Each State:
    • Colima, Colima
    • Chilpancingo, Guerrero
    • Guadalajara, Jalisco
    • Morelia, Michoacan
    • Tepic, Nayarit

Brief History

The Mexican Pacific Coast was first colonized by the Toltecs, a Mesoamerican civilization that thrived from around 800 A.D. to 1300 A.D. before falling to the Aztecs around 1325 A.D.

Because of the Toltecs, the region was highly colonized by the time the Aztecs arrived. The Toltecs were considered the essence of how civilization should be by the Aztecs. The word Toltec is commonly associated with artisan, which is an accurate representation of what the Toltecs contributed to society during their time of control.

Unfortunately, the Toltec ended under what is presumed to have occurred within the civilization, leaving the Toltec people vulnerable to outside civilizations, which is exactly what happened.

Once the Toltecs had fallen, the Aztecs entered and colonized the region as their own. Aztec rule lasted until around 1800, when Spanish conquistadors entered the region and began to take control.

The influx of Spanish conquerors is what gives the Mexican Pacific Coast its deeply-rooted Spanish connections. Once Spanish conquerors saw the many opportunities that Mexico had to offer, word spread quickly. Hundreds of thousands of Spanish men relocated to Mexico to escape the turmoil and poverty that had taken over Spain.

Once settling in Mexico, Spanish men quickly married the native indigenous women who lived in the region. This created a new race known as the Mestizo, a mixed-race of Spanish and indigenous Mexican people.

Spain ruled Mexico for decades, leading to their eventual bid for independence from Spanish control. Mexico was able to gain independence in 1810, and the regions of the Mexican Pacific Coast helped play a part in that success by providing a number of Mexican army generals and militaries to fight against the Spanish.

Shortly after that, France entered Mexico and played a role in the Mexican Pacific Coast, especially in the state of Jalisco. Austrian Emperor Maximilian I entered Jalisco in 1865 and was not well-received by the Mexican people. Just one year later, Maximilian was defeated by Mexican forces.

The Mexican Pacific Coastal state of Nayarit was formed shortly after that which, along with the remainder of Mexico, was ruled by Mexican President Porfirio Diaz.

Over time, Mexico’s presidential powers changed, resulting in more control over the Catholic church in the regions. This led to the Cristero War throughout the region, which was fought between the Catholic church and the Mexican army. Jalisco was a focal point of the war, as it was the location of an exchange of gunfire between the Catholic church and the Mexican federal army.

Approximately 400 Catholics barricaded themselves inside the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and exchanged gunfire with the federal opposition. Once the Catholics ran out of ammunition, they surrendered, which led to the Mexican federal army bombarding the church and killing many of the clergymen and parishioners inside.

Even though the Cristero War ultimately ended, the effects did not. Priests and other parishioners were found executed by the Mexican government. This caused approximately 5% of the Mexican Catholic population to flee to the United States to escape the risk of death.

After the Cristero War, Mexico began to grow. The region saw an increase in jobs, trade, and infrastructure, which contributed to the rapid economic success. The Mexican Pacific Coast capitalized on its location and created resorts and tourism that still make it one of today’s most successful and wealthy regions.


The primary language spoken in the Mexican Pacific Coast region is Spanish. This is because of the number of Spanish settlers that arrived in the area and how long they stayed. They quickly called Mexico their home, teaching the indigenous people their language and creating new families with members of these tribes.

Before the Spanish arrived in the area, the indigenous people’s primary language was mostly Aztec. The Aztecs dominated the region for centuries, so their native tongue was prominently spoken. Once the Spanish arrived in the region and colonized the areas as their own, the primary language shifted from native Aztec to Spanish.


The primary religion throughout the Mexican Pacific Coast is Roman Catholic. Like the Spanish language, this is also largely due to the number of Spanish settlers that colonized the area. The Spanish practice Roman Catholicism and continued worshipping and teaching their beliefs after settling in Mexico.


Much of the Mexican Pacific Coast focuses on the coastal cities because of how developed they are for attracting tourism, but there’s more to the Mexican Pacific Coast region than beaches and resorts.

The Sierra Madre del Sur is an extensive mountain range that runs approximately 620 miles from southern Michoacán through Guerrero before ending in eastern Oaxaca, the region just east of the Mexican Pacific Coast.

What makes the Sierra Madre del Sur so important to the region is the diverse ecology of flora and fauna that call the mountains their home. There are thick forests with a wide variety of trees that make up much of the mountain range. The valleys of the mountain range create agricultural opportunities that contribute to the region’s economic success; however, it is the coast of the region that makes the region successful.

Tourism is what gives the Mexican Pacific Coast its success. With so many beaches on the coast, the region capitalized on the geography in the area by creating resorts and travel destinations to attract travelers and promote jobs.


Many large cities in the Mexican Pacific Coast region, like Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Zihuatanejo, have contributed to the region’s culture through architecture, art, dance, and festivals. Puerto Vallarta is arguably the city with the strongest cultural influence in all of the regions. Puerto Vallarta embodies the entire Mexican culture through music, clothing, and dance. It is considered the most vibrant city on all of the Mexican Pacific Coast.

Immigration and Migration Patterns

Between 1500 and 1800, Spanish immigrants relocated to Mexico to escape the harsh living conditions in Spain. Once Mexico’s opportunities began to present themselves, more and more Spanish men relocated to the area and made Mexico their home. In doing so, they began new families with the indigenous Mixtec women. This created a new race known as Mestizos, a combination of Spanish and indigenous races.

At the time of the colonial era of Mexican history, African slaves were also brought into the region. This created a new race of Afro-Mexicans predominantly found in Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Vera Cruz.

But it wasn’t always immigrants that moved to the Mexican Pacific Coast. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Mexicans from the Mexican Pacific Coast and other southern regions of Mexico relocated to the north.

The northern territories of Mexico had better agricultural and farming opportunities that many people in the southern territories wanted to take advantage of. This led to central and southern Mexicans, leaving their native lands and moving to the north for better opportunities.


The genealogy found in the Mexican Pacific Coast can have heritage descending from Spanish, French, and African countries. The dominant genealogy will be Spanish, as Spain was the largest influence that settled in the region and stayed for centuries. This is why many of the Mexican traits include dark hair and dark skin. These are common characteristics of Spanish people, which inevitably became part of the Mexican heritage.

Those from the Mexican Pacific Coast who are tracing their genealogy will likely see connections to Spain, but it is also common to have African genealogy as well. This is because many African slaves were brought into Mexico’s central and southern territories during the colonial era.

Africans who were brought to central and southern Mexico eventually formed families with Mixtecs in the region to create a new race of Afro-Mexican people. Afro-Mexicans can have the same traits as Spanish people, including dark hair and dark skin, and would otherwise not seem connected to African heritage. However, African genealogy can never be officially ruled out when tracing your genealogy in Mexico.

Caleb Pike
About the author

Caleb Pike is an avid hiker and nature lover, with a passion for exploring the great outdoors. He's a writer, photographer, and adventurer, always seeking new trails to blaze and peaks to conquer.