Thomas Russell Wingate    

June-July, October 2010

September 2012


By New World we mean the lands and islands from Alaska and Greenland in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south.

All hail our cartographers. Let us all be grateful for aerial and satellite photography. We know where everything is. Those who had to go find it, didn’t.


By why call it “new”? It is just as old as anyplace else.

Respectable and crackpot books about pre-Columbian arrivals are abundant.


The New World had been discovered by private ventures—behold Norse houses in Newfoundland—long before the war-driven Spanish monarchy sent forth an exceptionally able Italian navigator to relieve its debts by establishing trade without Islamic carriers.

The Spanish did not know what they had found. They did not have the resources to do anything like an adequate inventory. From the deck of a ship, how could anyone tell an island (e.g., Hispaniola) from a stretch of continent (e.g., Mexico)?

“The New World” was a splendid catch-all idiom.


Fifteenth-century Europeans conceived of the large landmasses as three—Europe, Asia, and Africa—all adjoining the Mediterranean (“in the middle of land”) Sea. None had any idea that there might be a fourth continent on the far shore of the Atlantic Ocean.

When it came to be agreed that a fourth continent had been found, it was named for another Italian. No distinction was made at first between North America and South America.

To this day, many Europeans refer to the New World as “the Americas.”

Adding a fourth and unmapped continent to the ancient three was a leap of imagination.

Australia and Antarctica, now considered continents, had yet to be probed by Europeans. Arabs, who were closer, forfeited the match.

Dividing the Americas into two, as maps invite, raised the count to seven—a mystical and poetic number.


The term American Indian is ridiculous. No Aztec, no Inca, ever bathed in the Ganges, or had even heard of it. From their point of view, a “new world” is something that crashed in on them, not something they themselves embodied or populated.

We are all stuck with “the Indians.” Euphemisms to satisfy mutating ideas of cultural potential have so far not lasted long.

In the millennia before the Europeans came and stayed, the peoples of the New World might have agreed upon a name for themselves and their landmass. The Europeans would have used such names to make life easier for everybody.

Moral of story: if you don’t give yourself a good name and make sure that others use it, you must be prepared for whatever name they will give you. The Chinese are always called the Chinese (or the Han) because they make sure of it.


American Indians lived as tribes (“nations”). Formal states were almost unknown to them.

In the New World the Europeans annihilated what states they encountered. (Ask Cuauhtémoc. Ask Túpac Amaru.)

By the seventeenth century European empires—Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, French, British, Russian—flew the only flags in the New World.

That changed.


How did it come about that the first permanent overthrow of the British monarchy was effected by people who called themselves “Americans”?

Yes, they called themselves “Virginians” and “Pennsylvanians” and “New Yorkers.” But they were creating together a new republic and a new people, and how should these be called?

The term “United States” is of Dutch origin. The geographical addendum “of America” is meant to refer, not to the country the immortal Declaration announced¹ and justified, but to the entire New World which had no other states

Why else did the revolutionaries call their congress, their army, and their paper money “continental”?

The ex-colonials needed a better word to describe themselves. In the time-honored spirit of the English language, they seized one.


Where English is foreign the original meaning America = New World prevails.

Organization of American States
Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)

By Latin America is meant the domain of the New World where Spanish or Portuguese has been entrenched for five hundred years.

English was imported to the New World a century later. Let us note that the designation Latin America has no counterpart in the English-speaking New World. We speak of “the United States and Canada” and don’t even think to include the Bahamas and Jamaica.

Those who speak English as their mother (and, all too often, only) tongue are less self-conscious about it than they should be.

The usage America = U.S.A. is considered arrogant and piratical by Latin Americans. They demonstrate their attitude by speaking of Norteamericanos.

(This, too, is ungeographical: it implicitly excludes Canada from this continent. Canadians have been known to make the same complaint. Americans shrug.)


Although or because French is the proudest of Latin’s daughters, it goes almost unnoticed that French-speaking places and populations in the New World are never included in “Latin” America.

French Guiana, the French Antilles, and Haiti are (by latitude) in tropical America.

Demographically, it is not too wide of the mark to consider the Bahamas, Bermuda, and many Caribbean islands an extension of tropical Africa.³

Quebec, New Brunswick, and two French islands near Newfoundland are nowhere near Latin America’s northern edge (wherever that has been or might be).

In English, we write of Quebec and of a Quebecker. In French, one writes of le Québec and of un(e) Québecois(e). Writers, beware: the second e in the adjectival noun takes no accent—except in Standard Quebec French (le français standard d’ici), a nationalism with faint prestige abroad.


Louisiana is nonpareille. The pelican, most retentive of waterfowl, is the perfect emblem.




In Spanish:


Caucasians born in Spain                             peninsulares (preferred) gachupines (pejorative)

Caucasians born in the New World               criollos

          New World natives partly Caucasian             mestizos (“mixed ones”)

          New World natives, unmixed                        Indios

          White person                                               güero, güera (m,f)


In French:


          New World natives, unmixed                        Indiens (preferred)

                                                                             peaux rouges (pejorative)

          New World natives partly Caucasian             métis (“mixed ones”)


“Old Mexico,” intended to contrast with New Mexico, is an Anglo vulgarism that should never be used.

The term Mexico has multiple meanings which must be watched carefully.

Iberian Spanish: Méjico
New World Spanish (preferred): México

(the x is pronounced like Spanish j and English h)

The Valley of Mexico—also called the Vale of Mexico or the Basin of Mexico—is larger than the State of Rhode Island.

The Valley of Mexico contains the Federal District (Distrito Federal) and a large part of the State of Mexico. (The country now has thirty-one states.)

The Federal District contains Mexico City (Ciudad de México), which is often written Mexico, D.F.

The Valley of Mexico contained the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán. In 1521 Cortés took the Valley and everything else. Nueva España, a viceroyalty in El Imperio Español, was ruled for three hundred years—longer than the United States has lasted so far—from Mexico City.

The Viceroyalty of New Spain claimed or exercised jurisdiction over many places: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida, Central America north of Panama, the Philippines, and what we now call Mexico (which extended de jure to the southern border of Oregon and Idaho).

New Mexico was named for the Valley of Mexico two centuries before successful revolutionaries applied Mexico to a new country. Elevation accounts for New Mexico’s name. Madrid is the most elevated capital city in Europe. Mexico City, the highest capital city in North America, has 336% of Madrid’s elevation. Santa Fe, now the highest capital city in the United States, is only slightly lower.

Since 1824 the country has been officially Los Estados Unidos Méxicanos. Yes, that nomenclature is directly taken from the U.S.A. and indirectly from the Dutch Republic, which defeated the Spanish Empire.

Montereycapital of Alta California (now in U.S.)
Monterrey                  capital of Nuevo Leon

Everyone calls the country Mexico and its people Mexicans. In 2005, 70% were mestizos, 14% were Indios, and 15% were of unmixed European descent.


In the Southern Cone—Argentina, Chile, Uruguay—whites are a majority. In Brazil, whites are a majority south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica have white majorities.

The flags of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador are derived from the flag of Spain. The flags of Alabama and Florida suggest the Cross of Burgundy used by the Spanish Empire.

The flags of Texas, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Chile—and (arguably) Costa Rica and the Philippines—are derived from the Flag of the United States.


1 The new republic was recognized by the French monarchy in 1777 and by
   the British monarchy in 1783 after the French and American victory in
2 The next to proclaim itself was Haiti in 1804. The United States did not
   extend recognition until 1861. Liberia, founded in 1847, received the same
   cold shoulder. We all know why. We all know who ended it.
3 In a similar vein, we may consider the Philippines an extension of Latin
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