New Spain's independence struggle led to adopting the national identity of "México", the name of its major city and the Mexica society there. In referring to a specific indigenous group, Mexico seems to be unique among the independence names of former Spanish viceroyalties. I got interested in what this meant for centralism and exclusion; here's what I've learned about the adoption of the name:

  • In 1730 the principal newspaper Gaceta de México used the phrase "Imperio Mexicano" to refer to the Aztec Empire, but in 1785 and afterwards it innocently used the same name for the viceroyalty ("... algunas provincias del Imperio Mexicano con motivo del extrañamiento de los Jesuitas ...").

  • In 1810-1811, the father of Mexican independence Miguel Hidalgo consistently called his country "América", not using the term "México", at least in the documents available on WikiSource. Similarly, the Lista del juramento de los habitantes de San Blas al cura Mercado contains the demonym "americano" but not "mexicano".

  • From 1810 to 1821 there was an official newspaper called Gaceta del Gobierno de México, referring to the seat of power, if not the territory it governed. This transitioned after independence into the Gaceta del Gobierno del Imperio de México.

  • In 1821, the Plan de Iguala and the Declaration of Independence both called the new state the "Imperio Mexicano".

None of the principal revolutionaries were Mexica, but at some point they apparently reached a consensus to use the meronym "México" for their new country. It would have begun to describe areas never subjugated by the Mexica, like Sinaloa, Guatemala, and New Mexico. Understandably, some Apaches and Mayans proceeded to resist the authority of a country whose name excluded them.

Prior to 1821, who supported or opposed the adoption of the name "Mexico"? How seriously were alternatives like "America" considered?

  • Mexican independence was just a few decades before the USA annexed New Mexico in 1846-48. Was New Mexico a new name then? No, that is a dead end - apparently Spanish explorers called the region Neuvo Mexico in 1563, hoping it would have as many rich cultures to loot as the Valley of Mexico did. I wonder if anyone proposed "India" or "West India" as the name, since it was part of the Kingdom of the East and the West Indias. – MAGolding May 1 '18 at 22:42
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    Tough - but good - question. I did quite a lot of googling a few days ago and didn't come up with much. – Lars Bosteen May 3 '18 at 23:02
  • Historia de las cosas mas notables, rites y costumbres, del gran Reyno de la ... (1585) Makes multiple references to Mexico (Mirror). – ukemi May 3 '18 at 23:44

Your question appears to be based upon a false assumption:

As far back as 1590, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum showed that the northern part of the New World was known as "America Mexicana" (Mexican America), as México City was the seat for the New Spain viceroyalty. New Spain is mistaken as the old name for México, rather than the name of a large of expanse of land which covered much of North America and included the Caribbean and the Philippines. Since New Spain wasn't actually a state or a contiguous part of land, in modern times we would thought of it as a Jurisdiction under the command of the authorities in modern Mexico City. Under the Spaniards, Mexico was both the name of the capital and its sphere of influence, most of which exists as Greater Mexico City and the State of Mexico. Some parts of Puebla, Morelos and Hidalgo were also part of Spanish-era Mexico.

A bit of research shows even earlier references to Mexico, as in Historia de las cosas mas notables, rites y costumbres, del gran Reyno de la ... (1585) (Mirror).

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    Good find. It does seem clear that the name was used as a meronym long before independence, and even that it was an obvious choice. I want to know how the naming decision was taken within the independence movement. – Aaron Brick May 4 '18 at 3:40
  • By the way, I can't take that passage from Wikipedia quite at face value. The Viceroyalty of New Spain is not an exact match for today's Mexico, but did give way to the First Mexican Empire. – Aaron Brick May 4 '18 at 4:03

Mexica is the Nahuatl or "Aztec" name for the original group of "Aztecs." Over the course of several centuries, these "Mexicans" conquered the whole Central Valley of what we now call "Mexico," thereby creating the "Aztec" empire. "Mexica" is the core of this empire.

The Spanish added chunks of modern Mexico (and central America) to the Aztec empire, which is why today's "Mexico" is larger than the original Mexica. Other names for the country like "America" were considered, but the "USA" had beaten "Mexico" to the punch. Even Spanish-speaking "South" American nations might have disputed that name.

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    Good observation that choosing "America" would have been complicated by the previous existence of the USA. – Aaron Brick May 1 '18 at 5:45

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