MEXICO CITY - With just more than a week left in office, the president of Mexico has offered perhaps the boldest proposal of his six-year tenure. He wants Mexico to just be "Mexico."
The formal name of the country is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, often translated as "United Mexican States" or "United States of Mexico." It's the "Estados Unidos" that nags at President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa (called just "Lipe" by some), and he wants it out once and for all. It happens to be the Spanish name of the big neighbor up north, and that is no accident.
Mexico was christened with the longer formal name in the early 19th century after independence from Spain, inspired by the democratic exemplar next door. Other names considered at the time, noted Calderon, a fan of history, were Mexican Empire and Republic of Mexico ("Mexico" is derived from the Nahuatl word for the region).
Now it is time, he said, for Mexico to step out of the U.S. shadow, at least in name.
"Mexico does not need a name that emulates another country and that none of us Mexicans use every day," he said Thursday. "Mexico is the name that corresponds to the essence of our nation. Pardon the expression, but the name of Mexico is Mexico."
Making it so, however, will take a constitutional change. With Calderon leaving office Dec. 1, the prospects seemed uncertain; his office did not respond to questions on why he proposed the shift only now.
Associates have said he is looking for work in the United States after he leaves office, but Calderon is not known to particularly love the country and never shies from using it as a political whipping boy. He chose to make his announcement as the United States of America celebrated Thanksgiving Day.
Still, it is not an entirely new idea. Such a name change has been proposed occasionally in the past but without getting very far. "With so many real problems in this country, I don't think that it matters," said Enrique Krauze, a leading historian and political analyst. "No one ever calls Mexico anything other than Mexico."
Opposition lawmakers, too, shrugged at the idea, with some viewing it as the early onset of Calderon's post-presidency blues.
"He is not prepared to leave power," said Iris Vianey Mendoza, a senator with the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution. "The problem is not that our name emulates that of the American government but that we don't fight our subordinate relationship to it."
Calderon's proposal likewise got a mixed reaction of derision, acceptance and some practical questions on social media. One user on Twitter, Angel Quintanilla, did the math in heavily bureaucratic Mexico and wrote, "I don't think @FelipeCalderon even considered the cost and hassle that changing every law and official document entails."