Skip to main content

After nearly 200 years, Mexico may make the name official

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
updated 3:01 PM EST, Mon November 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In 1821, the country was officially dubbed the "United Mexican States"
  • Its leaders were inspired by the American independence movement
  • Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon has proposed making it just "Mexico"

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- It's the one fact about Mexico that you probably didn't know. The country's name is not really Mexico, at least not officially. After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico officially became the "United Mexican States."

The American independence movement had inspired Mexican leaders of that era and since Mexico, in fact, also was a territory composed of states, the name stuck and became official in 1824.

But the reality is the official name is used only by Mexican officials who deal with diplomatic protocol and official documents pertaining to international relations. For the rest of Mexicans -- and the world -- the country is simply known as Mexico.

Mexicans feeling persecuted flee U.S.

That's why outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thursday sent to the Mexican Congress a piece of legislation to change the country's name officially to simply Mexico.

Calderon, a conservative president better known for his war on drug cartels and organized crime, is literally in his last days in office. Enrique Pena Nieto, who was elected in July, takes office on December 1.

It's still too early to know if the new Mexican Congress will quickly act on Calderon's bill or tackle other more pressing matters like security and the economy.

In announcing his decision to propose officially changing his country's name, Calderon said Thursday the name United Mexican States was originally taken because back in 1824 the United States of America was an example of democracy and liberty for the new independent nations in the Americas.

Opinion: To-do list for Obama and Mexico's new president

"It's time that we Mexicans retake the beauty and simplicity of our motherland's name: Mexico. (It's) a name that we use when chanting or singing, a name that identifies us throughout the world and that makes us proud," Calderon said.

"Mexico" is a word first used by the Aztecs in their original nahuatl language. The indigenous tribe founded a city called Tenochtitlan in the valley now occupied by the modern Mexico City. That original city was conquered by the Spanish in 1521.

Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. In Spanish, Mexicans pronounce the "x" in Mexico as a hard "h."

Opinion: Racism in plain view in Mexico

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT