Mexico Wants to Drop Part of Its Name
Jan. 28, 2003
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ ``Get the U.S. out of Mexico'' isn't just a leftist slogan anymore.
It's a serious proposal by President Vicente Fox's conservative party _ to delete ``United States'' from the name of a country where national pride permeates every aspect of society, including titles.
As it is, few people use Mexico's official name: United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos Mexicanos).
And to some Mexicans it's an unwelcome reminder of the powerful northern neighbor that took half of Mexico's land in the 1847-48 war. Indeed, some joke about the official name, calling it ``United States, Mexico Branch'' _ a rueful commentary on what they consider overbearing U.S. influence.
The name United States of Mexico was adopted in 1824, not in emulation of the United States, but in hopes of developing a federalist system of government. It didn't work; power remained centralized in Mexico City.
Now the National Action Party, or PAN, has put forward a proposal in Congress to change the country's name to simply Mexico.
``This would be a way to identify with our own Mexican nationality, not some other country's,'' said PAN's congressional leader, Felipe Calderon.
Another PAN congressman, Alejandro Zapata, said the idea comes from ``a spirit of nationalism, not from any desire for confrontation.''
It wouldn't be the first time Mexico's name has been a political issue.
The spelling was changed from the colonial era ``Mejico'' after independence from Spain in 1821 _ because the hated Spaniards preferred the ``j'' spelling.
Paradoxically, some Mexican nationalists advocate putting the ``j'' back in Texas. The name was often spelled that way before 1836, when the territory was part of Mexico. Activists say using ``Tejas'' would symbolize the ``re-Mexicanization'' of the Lone Star State as the result of increasing Mexican migration.
The proposal to change Mexico's name appears petty to some.
``It is a perfect and complete waste of time,'' snapped writer Carlos Monsivais. ``We are inhabitants of Mexico, and nobody says 'United States of Mexico.'''
Yet Monsivais has his own name peeve. He's irritated by the term ``Latin American,'' which he calls ``an invention of the United States to describe us after they took 'American' for themselves.''
Mexicans and Americans don't agree on several names.
In the United States, the waters between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico are called the Gulf of California. In Mexico, it's the Sea of Cortes. The river that separates the two countries is the Rio Grande for Americans, the Rio Bravo for Mexicans.
Many Mexicans probably would be satisified if Americans just tried not to rename parts of Mexico.
U.S. visitors often insist on referring to Tijuana as ``TJ'' and to Puerto Penasco, Sonora _ a weekend beach getaway for Arizona residents _ as ``Rocky Point.''
Even for a Mexican town that proudly bills itself as ``Arizona's beach,'' Puerto Penasco would like to be called by its proper name, thank you, said Mayor Rodrigo Vela Acosta. ``Imagine if people were going around calling Acapulco some American name,'' he said.
For some, getting worked up over names is silly.
``Most people really don't care,'' said Victor Espinoza, a political science professor at Tijuana's Colegio de la Frontera Norte. ``After all, look what we call the United States. In Tijuana, we don't call it America. For us, it's just 'el otro lado' (the other side).''