A Democratic member of Mississippi’s state House has introduced legislation that would “for all official purposes within the State of Mississippi,” change the name of the Gulf of Mexico to Gulf of America.
Rep. Stephen Holland’s bill has already drawn criticism from Cafe Con Leche Republicans (its motto: “Republicans who want America and the GOP to be more welcoming to immigrants”). The group has sent Holland a letter suggesting that:
“If this bill passes the legislature and is signed into law, perhaps it is time to rename the Mississippi River. After all, sharing a name with a state that wants to rewrite maps out of disdain for Mexicans would be a disgrace to the rest of the nation.”
We’ve tried to get in touch with Holland. There’s no answer at his office in the state capitol. We got an email address for him from the staff at the funeral home he operates in Plantersville, Miss. If we get a response to our inquiry about his reasoning, we’ll update with that answer.
In the meantime, some history — old and not-so-old:
— According to the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, “Sebastián de Ocampo, a Spaniard who circumnavigated Cuba in 1508-1509, was credited with the first European discovery of the Gulf. The Gulf was unnamed until the early 1540s and was considered part of the Atlantic Ocean. The Spanish name most often applied to it was Seno Mexicano (seno=’gulf” or ‘bay’), although it was occasionally referred to as Golfo de Nueva España, or Golfo de México.”
— The idea of renaming that body of water the Gulf of America also came up in 2010, when Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert created a Gulf of America fund to help in the cleanup after the BP oil spill. As Colbert said: “I don’t think we can call it the Gulf of Mexico anymore. We broke it, we bought it.”