A Wordorigins thread asked about the origin of the phrase “Latin America,” and both a rant by a Peruvian diplomat turned up by the indefatigable aldiboronti and a geography message-board post by Yaïves Ferland (“professional researcher” at the Land Law Lab of the Center for research in Geomatics, Université Laval) that I googled up give similar explanations; I will quote the Peruvian, Dr. Pedro de Mesones:
["Latin America", "Latin American" and "Latin" ("Latino") were] created by the French when Napoleon III made Maximilian Emperor of Mexico (1863-1867). The terms were a product of France’s ambitious, imperialistic desire to establish its power in the American Hemisphere, while taking advantage of the revolutionary cries for independence then echoing throughout the Spanish colonies of Central and South America. The French wished to erase the idea of “Hispanic America” and replace the term with a name which would epitomize France’s ubiquity. After considering the political implications of the times, the French decided against the name “Francoamerica” out of fear that it might boomerang. So they chose the name “Latin America” under the pretext that Spaniards, also, came from the Roman world and, therefore, were included in the Latin Concept, which had given origin to France’s culture as well. And the French dreamed of Paris as the capital of their “Latin America.”
Does anybody know if any of this is true?