America is not a country …

… it is a CONTINENT.

Phew! For years I have been wanting to write and yell this statement to the world!

The United States is NOT America. It is the United States *of* America. “Of” means “belonging to”. Therefore, the United States belongs to America. It is not itself America.

DSCN7236(picture from a friend’s BBQ on July 4, 2011)

It is an unfortunate part of the English language that a proper word for someone from the United States does not exist. The only word we have is “American.” It makes sense since the last word in “The United States of America” is, in fact, America. However, by appropriating the term “American” and assigning it only to someone from the United States, we exclude everyone else who is also American. People around the world, including those from Central and South America, not to mention Mexico and Canada, started years ago to equate “American” only with “someone from the United States”.

Chilean-born, I am technically American by birth. So is anyone from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Canada. In Spanish, we used to say “estadounidense,” literally meaning “United Statesian.” However, in the past twenty years, this term has given way to “American.” So, I have become only “Chilean” by birth, and “American” by naturalization. Poo poo.

The world has six continents, or seven, depending on where you went to elementary school. Not only does the number differ, but also groupings. For example, some consider Europe and Asia two different continents, but others combine them, for geographic reasons, into Eurasia. From what I remember, I was taught in Santiago de Chile that there are six continents: America (divided into North, Central and South), Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Antarctica.

These are indeed SO MANY labels! I opt in the end for just calling ourselves “humans” and the place where we live “Earth“. Yes, local communities are important since those are the beings and places we see most often and where we seek the bulk of our support. So local names are important for our identity and interconnectedness. For the sake of this need alone, let’s get the names right and not take for ourselves what belongs to many, or use incorrect labels to bring people down, discriminate, bully or ridicule.

When the US president and other government officials make a speech and close with the required “God bless …” I hold my breath in anticipation of what they will say: “… the United States of America”? or ” … America”? If it’s the former, I know that’s what they meant. If it’s the latter, I growl to myself, shrug, and think, “well, they just blessed Canada, Mexico, the entire Caribbean, everyone in Central America and all of South America, including Chile. I know that’s not what they meant, but I guess we all appreciate it!” The fact that they call on God’s blessings during a government speech is the subject of another post on the separation of Church and State.

Another important point we need to acknowledge: All these countries and continents are human constructions and shift over time. The countries in America were built on conquest, abuse and violence. Countries elsewhere are no exception. We are all immigrants, no matter where we were born or what labels we adopt.

As for the current “American” dilemma: I recently heard someone use the word “Staties“. I like it. All Staties are Americans. All Americans are not Staties. Everyone on this Earth is Human.


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