French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the world’s aquarium for its biological diversity, natural beauty and crystal-clear waters. It was Francisco de Ulloa who gave it its name in 1539, in honor of Hernán Cortés, who baptized the adjacent peninsula as California.
Since July 15, 2005, the islands that make up the Sea of Cortez were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Today this body of water that is located between the Baja California Peninsula and the States of Sonora and Sinaloa, is not recognized, incredibly, as part of our national territory. Since 1965, the PAN deputy, Salvador Rosas Magallón, proposed that this Gulf be recognized at a constitutional level as an integral part of Mexican territory. Surprisingly, however, Congress has not acted to make this proposal a reality.
In something that would seem very strange, today the waters that make up the Gulf are considered international. This can obviously have serious consequences. According to the old Mesilla treaty signed in 1853 and, still in force today, between our country and the United States, the northern neighbor would have the right of passage through this Gulf without the need to consult the Mexican authorities. Our sovereignty, therefore, would be at risk of being violated at any moment. This situation is, of course, unacceptable.
On a visit to Mexicali, President López Obrador recently demagogically said that he was going to propose changing the name from the Sea of Cortez to the Gulf of California. He did it, of course, as part of his own resentment towards that brother people that is Spain, but also with the intention of exploiting that same feeling that is unfortunately harbored in many of our compatriots. In that sense, it is a comment that seeks to exploit the lowest and most unwelcoming emotions in our society.
Calling this body of water the Sea of Cortez, the Gulf of California or the Bermejo Sea is the least important thing and should not be an issue that can polarize citizens, as the President tries to do.
What should be a priority for the government and for Mexican society is that this situation of national vulnerability and international legal ambiguity be transcended. For now, the President must promote a constitutional reform so that it is reflected, unequivocally in articles 27, 42 and 48 of the Constitution, that this Gulf is considered part of Mexican territory. That would be a true contribution to maintaining our territorial integrity in the face of possible claims from other nations.
What sparked the astonishment of Jacques Cousteau years ago should be a cause of national unity today. Let’s hope they act accordingly.