America / Culture / Foreign Policy / Gov. Officials / Politics

The Gulf of America?

Somewhere, Hank Hill, the patriotic star of Fox’s King of the Hill, is smiling. If Mississippi State Rep. Steve Holland (Democrat) has his way (and his legislation passes) part of the Gulf of Mexico that borders Mississippi will be renamed the “Gulf of America.” If the bill (HB 150) passes, the renaming would occur on July 1.

Not surprisingly, there have been many individuals and organizations that have expressed their disapproval of the bill, including many Hispanic advocacy groups. A Latino GOP organization, Café Con Leche, has gone so far as to condemn the legislation, calling it “anti-Mexican. I consider the label of “anti-Mexican” to be a bit of a reach. While this bill smacks of patriotism gone too far, the choice of “Gulf of America,” in my opinion is not overly offensive. It may even be factually more accurate:

The Gulf of Mexico is bordered by the United States to the north (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas), five Mexican states to the west (Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan), and the island of Cuba to the southeast.

All of those states and countries are part of the Americas. The Americas are not constituted by the 50 states that make up the United States of America. The US is just the dominant member of a much larger group of sovereign states and dependent territories that stretches from the Kaffeklubben Islands (north of Greenland) down to Southern Thule (a group of three islands near Antarctica); the mainland of the Americas extends from the Boothia Peninsula in northern Canada down to Cape Froward in Patagonia, Chile. Considering these facts and the Gulf of Mexico’s position, it does not seem illogical to refer to the body of water in question as the “Gulf of America.”

I understand that Mexico, Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and other Hispanics might find the proposed legislation to be offensive. Mississippi HB 150 seems to be rooted in overzealous patriotism, and therefore, its criticism should be expected and accepted. However, it does not mean that Rep. Holland has not (unintentionally) started an interesting conversation.

As Hank Hill would say, I tell you what… regardless of the outcome of this legislation, the geographer in me is appreciative of this misguided bill put forth by Rep. Holland. And if that isn’t enough for him or his supporters, Hank Hill will more than likely endorse Holland in his next political endeavor.

-Max Rava

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