Let’s All Go to The United States… of Mexico?

By 100m
September 27, 2010
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Filed under Naming, Renaming
These colors don’t run.

by Jeffery Racheff

Mexico is not who you think it is.

For the last 185 years, our neighbor to the south has been posing under a pseudonym. Despite what Americans (and many Mexicans) have long taken for granted, the country’s formal name is not Mexico — it’s The United States of Mexico.

Strange, right? Well, all that could change with a new proposal. A bill in the Senate, proposed by President Felipe Calderón’s conservative National Action Party, wants to officially change the country’s name to what we already call it… because, well, no one has ever heard of “Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.” According to the proposal, “when nobody, not even us, uses the name, conserving it appears to be little more than an imitation of our neighbor.”

Yet while this “imitation” is wholly out of popular use, it once carried great significance. The formal title goes all the way back to 1824, at the signing of the country’s first constitution. At the time Mexico was a land of disparate cultural groups united only by Spanish oppression, and the “United States” in its first formal name represented an aspiration towards a federal system, much like the U.S.A.’s. It was an attempt to unite the new country’s people, from the Pacific’s Baja California to Quintana Roo on the Caribbean, into one federation. Una familia.

But a national bond is hard to impose. Especially by name alone. After all, a country’s formal name tends to be less important to the people than it is to the lawmakers who draw up the state’s artificial boundaries. In fact, the more benevolent words you throw in (The People’s Republic of China, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia), the more insanity and injustice the government seems to be trying to cover up. Kim Jong-il can call his country the Shiny Happy Full-Bellied Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for all he wants. Not many are going to buy it.

As for the Mexican people, from what I can tell no one really uses U.S.M. anyway. The people I’ve talked to say when referring to the country in a formal setting, they use “The Republic.” Otherwise, Mexico does just fine. More importantly perhaps, the people of Mexico don’t seem to identify with the country itself as much as their local communities. Burned by corrupt politics, stagnant growth, and apathy towards the country’s involvement in world affairs, most Mexicans don’t call Mexico home. They talk about Jalisco, or Chiapas, or Oaxaca, or Veracruz.

Maybe that’s why the name change isn’t such a big deal. No one really cares.

So while Mexico pursues its individuality by formally changing to a nickname, our neighbor to the north is fighting its own battle — Canada wants everyone to know it’s tired of being called “Upper Minnesota.”

Looking for a name that people will want to talk about? Check out our names.