Pronunciation: soh-NOH-rah.

Origin of state name: There are conflicting stories about the origin of the state name. The name is probably from the word Señora (Our Lady), which refers to the Virgin Mary of Roman Catholicism brought to Mexico by Spanish explorers.

Capital: Hermosillo (her-moh-SEE-yoh).

Entered country: 1830.

Coat of Arms: The upper section is divided into three triangles. The center triangle depicts a picture of a Yaquí tribesman performing the Dance of the Deer. The left triangle represents the mining industry, and the right triangle represents agriculture. The two squares at the bottom depict livestock and fish, representing other important industries in the state.

Holidays: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day—January 1); Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day—February 5); Benito Juárez's birthday (March 21); Primero de Mayo (Labor Day—May 1); Revolution Day, 1910 (November 20); and Navidad (Christmas—December 25).

Flag: There is no official state flag.

Time: 5 AM = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

1 Location and Size

Sonora, Mexico's second largest state after Chihuahua, is located in the North Pacific region of the country. It covers an area of 184,934 square kilometers (71,403 square miles), which is a little larger than the US state of North Dakota. Sonora borders the Mexican states of Sinaloa to the south, Chihuahua to the east, and Baja California to the northwest. The Sea of Cortés, or the Gulfo de California, is located to the east. The US state of Arizona lies to the north. Sonora has seventy-two municipalities. The capital is Hermosillo.

The mountain region of the Sierra Madre Occidental, which is known by different names as it crosses Sonora, begins near the border with the state of Chihuahua.

The western part of the state is an extensive plain that is wide in the north and narrows in the south. In the southern region, the mountain ranges ( sierras ) are found. A low coastal plain stretches along the Gulfo de California.

Sonora's rivers run into the Gulfo de California. The Yaquí, which is the largest river in the state, and its Bavispe, Sahuaripa, and Moctezuma tributaries, begins near the

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos Blooming cactus.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

Blooming cactus.
US border and flows southwest to the Gulfo de California. The Mayo River, which is located in the southern part of the state, is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) and flows through Chihuahua and Sonora to the Gulfo de California. The Colorado forms the natural border between Sonora and the Mexican state of Baja California.

2 Climate

The coastal regions of the state are generally warm and dry with a year-round average temperature of about 23° c (75° f ). The northern part of the state is temperate and dry with an average year-round temperature of about 16° c (61° f ). In the mountain regions, temperatures can be much cooler. In Hermosillo, the average year-round temperature is about 23° c (75° f ). The average rainfall in the capital is about 24 centimeters (9.5 inches) per year. In the northern city of Nogales, average rainfall is about 42 centimeters (16.9 inches) per year. The average snowfall in Nogales is 11 centimeters ( 4.5 inches) per year.

3 Plants and Animals

Palmilla, jojoba, pitahaya, and desert ironwood are plants common to the coastal regions of the state. In the mountain regions, forests of pine and oak are more common. Larger mammals found in the

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos Adobe brick manufacturer.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

Adobe brick manufacturer.
state include deer, wild boar, coyotes, pumas, wild rams, and bears. Smaller mammals include rabbits, hares, and squirrels. Chameleons, iguanas, and tarantulas are also found. Common birds include hawks and buzzards.

4 Environmental Protection

The state has experienced air pollution problems due to dusty roads, wood burning for fuel, and automobile emissions. Maintaining an adequate, safe supply of drinking water is also a concern in some areas. National parks in Sonora include the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and the Cajon del Diablo.

5 Population, Ethnic Groups, Languages

Sonora had a total population of 2,216,969 in 2000; of the total, 1,110,590 were men and 1,106,379 were women. The population density was 12 people per square kilometer (31 people per square mile). In 2000, the capital, Hermosillo, had a population of 608,697.

Almost all citizens speak Spanish as a first language. A small number, about 2.9% of the population, speaks indigenous (native) languages.

6 Religions

According to the 2000 census, 78% of the population, or 1.7 million people, were Roman Catholic; 4%, or 94,467 people, were Protestant. That year there were also 7,290 Mormons, 22,231 Jehovah's Witnesses, and over 106,000 people who reported no religion.

7 Transportation

Ciudad Obregón Airport, Guaymas-General Jose Maria Yanez International Airport, and Nogales International Airport provide international flights to and from Sonora. The state has about 24,016 kilometers (14,917 miles) of roads and 1,958 kilometers (1,216 miles) of railroads.

8 History

First human presence in the state dates back to 30,000 B . C . when nomadic tribes of hunters and gatherers inhabited the region. The Pinacate Mountain region holds some ruins of settlements that are around fifteen thousand years old. Yet, more permanent human settlements first emerged around 1500 B . C . in the more fertile parts of the state, while the dessert continued to house nomadic tribes. The Hohokam culture (originally from Arizona), the Mogollón culture (from New Mexico), and the Casas Grandes and Paquime cultures (from Chihuahua) influenced the region. Influence from Mesoamerican cultures that reached the region with trade and commercial interests were also strong during the first centuries A . D . A massive migration from the Casa Grande region to the mountainous region gave birth to the Ópata tribes in 1340. At the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (explorers who sough to claim Mexico for Spain), the different indigenous groups belonged to the Yuto-Náhuatl and Hokana linguistic families.

In 1531, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán founded the city of San Miguel de Culiacán in what is now the neighboring state of Sinaloa. Sinaloa is where the Spanish initiated the search for mineral deposits, promoted slave trade, and fostered new colonization efforts in the region. In 1533, Diego Guzmán became the first Spaniard to enter what is now Sonora. He found resistance from indigenous populations near the Yaquí River and soon abandoned the region. In 1536, Spanish explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1490-c. 1560) and three other survivors of the failed Pánfilo de Narváez expedition passed through the region. In Shipwreck, his account of the years they wandered through indigenous territories before finding a Spanish settlement, Cabeza de Vaca , referred to two marvelous indigenous cities, Cíbola and Quivira. Several expeditions were launched to find those cities, but they apparently did not exist.

Because the region was slowly populated, it did not evolve into a major economic center in colonial Mexico. A prison was built in Sonora in 1586. New efforts to conquer indigenous territories drastically decimated the native population during the 17th century. The efforts by Jesuit priests to convert the indigenous population to Roman Catholicism and create sedentary settlements helped integrate the remaining native population to the colonial economy. The Jesuits created settlements where Indians could work the land and provide labor for mining enterprises. However, some Yaquí indigenous uprisings continued throughout the 17th century.

In 1810, Sonoran independence leaders revolted in an effort to join the independence movement launched elsewhere in Mexico. However, most landowners in Sonora were more concerned with keeping the attacks by the Apache Indians at bay.

It was only in 1821 that Sonora became incorporated into independent Mexico. Two years later, Sonora and Sinaloa were separated into two different states. After a period of political instability that characterized much of 19th century Mexico, Sonora was occupied by US troops in 1847. The Treaty of Hidalgo, where Mexico ceded territory to the United States, achieved peace between the two countries. This allowed for the exit of foreign troops. Yet, instability remained the dominant political culture in the region until the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1917.

Having consolidated as a cattle ranching and agricultural economy, Sonora remains a scarcely populated state with vast stretches of unpopulated desert areas. Its proximity to the United States has made the state an attractive port of entry for illicit drugs. Additionally, its location fosters a growing number of maquiladoras (manufacturing assembly plants) since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a trade agreement between Mexico, the United States, and Canada, in 1994.

9 State and Local Government

A state governor is democratically elected every six years. No immediate re-election is allowed. The legislature is comprised of a unicameral (one chamber) state congress with twenty-seven members who serve nonrenewable three-year terms. Eighteen members are elected in single member districts and nine are elected by proportional representation. Because the state has been ruled exclusively by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) since the end of the Mexican Revolution, formal separation of power provisions have not been effectively enforced. To this end, the PRI governor has exercised excessive influence over the PRI-controlled legislature.

The seventy-two municipalities that comprise Sonora hold democratic elections for municipal presidents and council members every three years. Immediate re-election is not allowed. Although some decentralization initiatives are producing positive results, the state still has a long way to go to achieve successful decentralization.

10 Political Parties

The three main political parties in all of Mexico are the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The PRI has been the dominant party in the state since the end of the Mexican Revolution. All governors in Sonora the last seventy-five years have belonged to that party. In 1994, Sonora's favorite rising politician, Luis Donaldo Colosio (1948–1994), was appointed PRI presidential candidate but was assassinated before the election was held. The PAN is the second largest party in the state.

11 Judicial System

The Supreme Tribunal of Justice is the highest court in the state. The state governor, with legislative approval, appoints seven members for renewable six-year terms. Only highly qualified attorneys

© Robert Frerck/Woodfin Camp Cerro Colorado, seen in the distance, is a volcanic cone about one-half mile (1,000 meters) in diameter. It lies in Pinacate National Park, a nearly 800-square-mile (2,000-square-kilometer) park in northwest Sonora.
© Robert Frerck/Woodfin Camp

Cerro Colorado, seen in the distance, is a volcanic cone about one-half mile (1,000 meters) in diameter. It lies in Pinacate National Park, a nearly 800-square-mile (2,000-square-kilometer) park in northwest Sonora.
with proven experience can be appointed to the Supreme Tribunal. Because the state has not experienced alternation in power since the Mexican Revolution, the formal autonomy and independence of the judiciary has not been enforced. In addition, an electoral tribunal and local courts also comprise the state's judicial system.

12 Economy

General service-based companies accounts for about 19% of the economy. Trade activities also account for about 19% of the economy, followed by manufacturing at 18%, finance and insurance at 15%, agriculture and livestock at 15%, transportation and communications at 9%, construction at 3%, and mining at 2%.

13 Industry

The state has many maquiladoras, or assembly plants, that produce items for companies such as Ford and Sara Lee. Most maquiladoras make electrical appliances and electronic equipment such as computer circuits and vacuum cleaners.

14 Labor

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Mexican workers saw their wages

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos Desert sunset.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

Desert sunset.
increase 17%, from $2.09 per hour in 1999 to $2.46 per hour in 2000. (The average US worker earned $19.86 in 2000.) After one year, workers are entitled by law to six days paid vacation.

15 Agriculture

Agricultural plays an important role in the economy of the state. In the north and northeast, where the climate is dry, irrigation systems are used and farmers produce alfalfa, vegetables, fodder, grapes, dates, and olives. The main crops in the central region include wheat, barley, alfalfa, and safflower. The main crops in the east include corn, beans, apples, and peaches. In the south and southeast, the main crops are wheat, corn, and beans. A special regional cheese is produced in the southeast. It is spiced with chiltepín (piquín chile), which grows in the desert.

The primary types of livestock are cattle, pigs, poultry, and goats. Horses, mules, and donkeys are also raised in the east.

16 Natural Resources

Mineral resources in the state include copper, graphite, silver, gold, lead, and tungsten. Sonora has the fourth largest mining industry in the country. Fish species caught in the coastal and river waters of the state include shrimp , lobina, barge, and mojarra.

17 Energy and Power

The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) provides almost all of the energy in Mexico. In February 2002, the CFE introduced new electric rates. For households that use less than 140 kilowatt hours per month, there was no rate increase. (This is about 75% of all households in Mexico, according to CFE). After the rate increases in 2002, Sonora residents were charged higher rates because they use more than the minimum electricity.

18 Health

Sonora has 44 general hospitals, 336 outpatient centers, and 90 surgical centers.

Most of the Mexican population is covered under a government health plan. The IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) covers the general population. The ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) covers state workers.

19 Housing

About three-fourths of the housing available in the state of Sonora is in good repair. Only about 9% is in need of significant upgrading. These homes may not have running water or access to electricity.

20 Education

President Benito Juárez (1806–1872) first started the system of public education in 1867. Public education in Mexico is free for students from ages six to sixteen. According to the 2000 census, there were approximately 469,500 school-age students in the state. Many students elect to go to private schools. The thirty-one states of Mexico all have at least one state university. The main campus of the Universidad de Sonora is located in the capital, Hermosillo.

21 Arts

Sonora has twenty-six local cultural centers including a French Alliance center in Ciudad Obregón. Three types of local music can be heard in towns throughout Sonora: rancheras recount lost loves, corridos are long narrative poems, and huapangos are rhythmic songs often heard at bullfights. Most activities are connected to Sonora's beautiful beaches.

22 Libraries and Museums

The state of Sonora has 121 libraries. There are also twenty-six museums. The capital city, Hermosillo, has a children's bubble museum. The city of Huatabampo has a Mayan museum, and the city of Cajeme has a museum of the Yaquí Indians.

23 Media

The capital city, Hermosillo, has two daily newspapers: El Imparcial and El Independiente. Ciudad Obregón publishes Tribuna. The city of San Luís Río Colorado has Tribuna de San Luís.

24 Tourism, Travel, and Recreation

The city of Hermosillo is on the Sea of Cortés, which has many beautiful beaches. Bahía Kino, in the town of Kino, is a great beach for snorkeling and swimming. Isla Tiburon (Shark Island) is a wildlife preserve. Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) also has beautiful beaches. Ciudad Obregón is surrounded by many settlements of the Yaquí Indians, such as Torim and Vicam. Often authentic dances are performed for tourists.

25 Sports

The capital, Hermosillo, has a professional baseball team, the Naranjeros, which plays in the 13,000-seat Hector Espino stadium. Navojoa also has a baseball team, the Mayos, which plays in the 12,000-seat Manuel "Ciclón" Echeverria stadium.

26 Famous People

Álvaro Obregón (1880–1928) was a revolutionary general who also served as president from 1920 to 1924. Fernando Valenzuela (1960- ), was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1986, he became the first rookie to win the Cy Young Award, an award given to the best pitcher in major league baseball.

27 Bibliography


Brown, John. Journey into the Desert. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

DeAngelis, Gina. Mexico. Mankato, MN: Blue Earth Books, 2003.

Heisey, Adriel. Under the Sun: A Sonoran Desert Odyssey. Tucson, AZ: Rio Nuevo, 2000.

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. Life in a Desert. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 2003.

Supples, Kevin. Mexico. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.

Web Sites

Mexico for Kids. (accessed on June 15, 2004).

Sonora, Mexico. (accessed on June 17, 2004).

Also read article about Sonora from Wikipedia

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