Volcanic rocks of the Latir volcanic field evolved in an open system by crystal fractionation, magma mixing, and crustal assimilation. Early high-SiO2 rhyolites (28.5 Ma) fractionated from intermediate compositionmagmas that did not reach the surface. Most precaldera lavas have intermediate-compositions, from olivine basaltic-andesite (53% SiO2) to quartz latite (67% SiO2). The precaldera intermediate-composition lavas have anomalously high Ni and MgO contents and reversely zoned hornblende and augite phenocrysts, indicating mixing between primitive basalts and fractionated magmas. Isotopic data indicate that all of the intermediate-composition rocks studied contain large crustal components, although xenocrysts are found only in one unit. Inception of alkaline magmatism (alkalic dacite to high-SiO2 peralkaline rhyolite) correlates with, initiation of regional extension approximately 26 Ma ago. The Questa caldera formed 26.5 Ma ago upon eruption of the >500 km3 high-SiO2 peralkaline Amalia Tuff. Phenocryst compositions preserved in the cogenetic peralkaline granite suggest that the Amalia Tuff magma initially formed from a trace element-enriched, high-alkali metaluminous magma; isotopic data suggest that the parental magmas contain a large crustal component. Degassing of water- and halogen-rich alkali basalts may have provided sufficient volatile transport of alkalis and other elements into the overlying silicic magma chamber to drive the Amalia Tuff magma to peralkaline compositions. Trace element variations within the Amalia Tuff itself may be explained solely by 75% crystal fractionation of the observed phenocrysts. Crystal settling, however, is inconsistent with mineralogical variations in the tuff, and crystallization is thought to have occurred at a level below that tapped by the eruption. Spatially associated Miocene (15-11 Ma) lavas did not assimilate large amounts of crust or mix with primitive basaltic magmas. Both mixing and crustal assimilation processes appear to require development of relatively large magma chambers in the crust that are sustained by large basalt fluxes from the mantle. The lack of extensive crustal contamination and mixing in the Miocene lavas may be related to a decreased basalt flux or initiation of blockfaulting that prevented pooling of basaltic magma in the crust. ?? 1988 Springer-Verlag.