On Thanksgiving, Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced a formal proposal to change his country’s name from the lesser known, but official, “Estados Unidos de Mexico,” or the United States of Mexico, to Mexico. This change could have a significant impact on the country and should be implemented so that Mexico can reaffirm its sovereignty and identity.
When did Mexico become the other United States? After gaining independence from Spain, the name became official in the country’s 1824 constitution, which was based on the United States’ federal system of government. Despite considering other names, such as “The Mexican Empire” and “The Republic of Mexico,” the country chose to adopt one that emulated its northern neighbors. But after Mexico lost more than half its land to the United States in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, this emulation turned into resentment. Though Mexico and America still share close economic and geographic ties today, Mexico’s name has no place for vestiges of colonialism.
Calderón first proposed the name change as a congressman in 2003, but the bill was never put to a vote. The Mexico of today, however, is very different from the Mexico of 2003. Since assuming office in 2006, Calderón has focused his attention on cracking down on organized crime, promoting Mexico’s tourism industry and implementing long-term public works projects. His efforts have helped revive Mexico’s image as an attractive tourist destination, which in turn has attracted more businesses and manufacturing ventures. Mexico is carving out a place for itself in the global economy and deserves a name that reflects its growing status.
But critics are quick to point out the triviality of changing the country’s name: Mexico’s formal name is mainly for official use, such as on money and legal documents; the majority of the population, in Mexico and across the world, refers to the country as Mexico without a second thought. Thus, detractors say changing the country’s name is simply a symbolic, lame-duck move by a president with less than a week left in his term and should take the backseat to much more pressing issues, such as fighting intense drug violence and alarming poverty rates.
Changing the country’s name, however, will have far-reaching, significant consequences. Though it is not a cure for the country’s more serious issues, the change will reaffirm Mexico’s independence, which is crucial to strengthening the country’s credibility in diplomacy. Not to mention the fact that Mexico is a growing global economic force breaking out of the shadow of the United States, and it must be recognized as such. According to The Wall Street Journal, the country’s rapidly growing Gross Domestic Product will surpass Germany’s in the next 25 years. The country merits a name that accurately reflects its modern economic and political identity.
The incoming president, Enrique Pena Nieto, should continue to advocate for the name change to further the country’s global reputation.
A name is more than a mere formality. It carries weight and should be an accurate reflection of what it represents. As Calderón said Thursday during a news conference, “Pardon the expression, but the name of Mexico is Mexico.”
Veronica An is an undeclared freshman.