‘It Became Our College’s Confederate Flag’: Racist Gaucho Mascot Gets Bucked

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After more than half a century, Saddleback College, a community college in Mission Viejo, California, is getting rid of its racist school mascot.

The college began using a gaucho, a cowboy from mid-18th to mid-19th century Argentina and Uruguay, as its mascot when it was founded in 1968. Saddleback’s version of the cowboy is a villainous-looking character reminiscent of the controversial Frito-Lay mascot Frito Bandito from the late 1960s.

Saddleback President Elliot Stern and other leaders of the college decided to scrap the Gaucho mascot after a petition circulated around the school and was signed by hundreds of people. The schools’ three governing bodies also recommended the mascot be retired. A faculty-led campaign to “Retire the Gaucho,” also played a part in the decision to remove it.

“Your fellow students and my Latinx colleagues who shed tears and told of their pain at our open forums over the last few months were not the first to do so,” Stern wrote in a letter. “But this time we listened. And more came forward.”

The college said they were retiring the mascot because they considered it cultural appropriation, a hurtful stereotype, and because it excluded Saddleback women.

“It became our college’s Confederate flag,” Stern says.

The three choices for the college’s new mascot are the Bobcats, Mountain Lions and Rattlers. The finalists were chosen after the college held four public forums. One of the criteria decided during the community meetings was that the new logo had to work for both men and women’s sports teams. The new mascot will be announced before the end of the semester.