There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the quake, which measured 7.2 in magnitude, according to Mexico’s National Seismological Service and the US Geological Survey.
Panicked residents flooded into the street, fearing a repeat of two earthquakes last September that caused buildings to collapse and killed 465 people combined.
"To be honest, we’re all pretty upset. We start crying whenever the (earthquake) alarm goes off. We’re stressed out, we have flashbacks. So we run out into the street. It’s all we can do," 38-year-old publicist Kevin Valladolid said through tears after evacuating from his building in La Roma, in central Mexico City.
On the north side of the city, Julia Hernandez said she felt like she was "in a boat" as the ground swayed beneath her feet.
"Is it ever going to stop?" she said.
"We live in constant fear, with the memory of what happened" in previous quakes, her daughter added.
Officials in affected states said they were already inspecting buildings damaged by last year’s quakes, which are especially vulnerable to collapse.
"Obviously people are afraid," said the emergency response chief for the city of Puebla, Gustavo Ariza.
The latest tremor comes less than six months after last year’s devastating earthquakes in central and southern Mexico.
On September 7 last year, an 8.2 earthquake shook the nation and killed 96 people, mostly in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Then on September 19 -- the 32nd anniversary of a huge 1985 quake that killed 10,000 people -- another 7.1 quake rocked the country, leaving 369 people dead.
The US Geological Survey put the latest quake’s epicenter 37 kilometers northeast of Pinotepa de Don Luis, in the southwestern state of Oaxaca.
The US National Weather service said it was not issuing a tsunami alert. VNS