After at least a decade of clamor, Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California is changing its mascot and selecting a new name for its sports teams as many see the current symbol as denigrating to Latin Americans in general and Mexican-Americans in particular.
A letter to the student body by Saddleback College President Dr. Elliot Stern detailed the realizations that the administration had after the series of discussions.
“Our mascot inflicted a sense of otherness on those we care about. We cannot look our brothers and sisters in the eyes, having heard their stories, and turn away, or cling to history or tradition,” he explained.
Stern also acknowledged that the mascot was a gross misrepresentation of the South American horseman, as its design more closely resembled that of a Mexican cowboy.
“We heard of their embarrassment and humiliation, and how our mascot reminded them, each time it appeared, that they were seen at this college not as different but as other, not as part of a culture we appreciated, but a culture that was lesser, so much so that our predecessors depicted the proud horseman of the Pampas plains in South America as a mad Mexican cowboy,” Stern’s letter stated.
Retiring the Gaucho
Saddleback started discussions on the Gaucho mascot last September 20 and posted about it on its Twitter account.
Saddleback College is inviting community members to attend an online discussion on the college’s mascot, the Gaucho, on Tuesday, September 22 from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
— Saddleback College (@SaddlebackColl) September 16, 2020
These discussions were held after a petition circulated around the campus last year, calling for the retirement of the Gaucho. Petitioners also set up a website and a Facebook page to reach a wider audience.
Not all students have welcomed the proposal for a name and mascot change. A video clip on Twitter showed a member of the meeting proposing a satirical mascot in place of Gaucho, which resulted in mixed reactions. It is unclear whether Cole Hersch, the person behind the pitch, is a student, alumni, faculty, or simply a gatecrasher to the discussion.
His antics were cheered on by many Twitter users who replied to the thread.
Saddleback College held a discussion on potential new mascots, so a student sent me the zoom link. pic.twitter.com/5fsvdEKGyi
— cole hersch ⑦ (@ColesTwitt3r) September 17, 2020
Trends in Name Changes
Since 2019, other colleges and universities such as Tufts University, University of Cincinnati, Wisconsin Technical College, and Dixie State University have also altered names of departments, buildings, and even the entire university in efforts to distance themselves from the history surrounding their name.