Goodbye to the “United States” in Mexico?

When I was in Brazil, I remember having a discussion with a Brazilian friend who refused to refer to people from the U.S. as “Americans,” arguing that everybody in the hemisphere was “American.” I was sympathetic to her argument, but asked what else a U.S. citizen could be called? When she pointed out that they should settle for “estadounidense” (“United States-ian,”) I pointed out that the U.S. isn’t even the only “United States” on the North American continent – technically, Mexico’s official name is “the United States of Mexico.” I also pointed out that, historically, Brazil was also known as the United States of Brazil from 1889, when it became a republic, until 1967, when the military dictatorship renamed it the Federative Republic of Brazil. When I made this comment, she was at a loss as to what somebody from the U.S. should actually be called in Portuguese.

However, her (highly-politicized) concerns may be moot going forward. Outgoing president Felipe Calderón has sent a bill asking Congress to change the country’s name from the United States of Mexico, which it adopted in 1824, to simply “Mexico” in an attempt to assert Mexican uniqueness and step out from the “other United States” to its north. Who knows if the bill will pass – similar attempts in 2008 got little attention, and while Twitter is far from a final arbiter in public opinion, the early response has treated the proposal unseriously. Given how many people already refer to it simply as “Mexico” (including Mexican citizens), it seems it wouldn’t really make much difference to anybody outside of the map-making community and to Mexican offices that would have to change state letterhead and currency.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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One Response to Goodbye to the “United States” in Mexico?

  1. Many in Latin America are sensitive about those from the U.S. using the term “American,” just as your Brazilian friend was. I write about Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America for International Living, and I try to avoid using the term “American.” About myself, I say “I’m from the U.S.” rather than saying “I’m American,” for instance.
    Of course, then Mexicans themselves often refer to those from the U.S. as “americanos,” so go figure. But I do try to make the effort!

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