‘Gulf of America’ legislation proposed as a pointed joke

Mike Krumboltz

In a bill introduced in the Mississippi House of Representatives, Rep. Steve Holland (D-Plantersville) has proposed that the Gulf of Mexico be renamed the Gulf of America.

But this isn't some extreme act of patriotism: Holland isn't serious.

In fact, House Bill 150 is a kind of protest. Holland wants to use the proposal to mock lawmakers who support anti-immigrant legislation.

The bill reads as follows: "For all official purposes within the State of Mississippi, the body of water that is located directly south of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties shall be known as the 'Gulf of America.'" The proposed date for the act to take effect is July 1, 2012.

Holland's joke has clearly gone over some heads. An outraged Bob Quasius, president of the Cafe Con Leche Republicans, a group dedicated to bringing in more immigrants to the GOP, penned an open letter to Holland:

Apparently you don't take your responsibilities seriously. Surely the State of Mississippi has more pressing matters to attend to than this. Did you stop to think of the expense of rewriting textbooks or changing maps? ... 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.

Holland spoke with Daniel Cherry of Mississippi Public Broadcasting about his proposal to clear up any misunderstandings about his intentions. Holland said that his Republican colleagues are trying to get rid of all things Mexican; he is just trying to "embrace" the movement, he joked.

NPR points out that Holland isn't the first person to come up with the idea to satirically change the name of the Gulf. After the BP oil spill in 2010, Stephen Colbert remarked, "I don't think we can call it the Gulf of Mexico anymore. We broke it, we bought it."