College’s Monty Montezuma Is No More
After a seven-month controversy, the president of San Diego State announced Tuesday that campus mascot Monty Montezuma will be renamed and given a new regalia and demeanor “more fitting [for] his position as emperor.”
Under the ruling by President Stephen Weber, the person playing Montezuma will no longer run along the sidelines at football games carrying a flaming spear and exhorting fans to cheer. Gone too is the name Monty the mascot.
Instead, Montezuma the San Diego State ambassador will sit regally and observe the team, which will retain the name Aztecs.
Weber’s decision comes amid demands by some Native American students to stop using a depiction of the 16th century Aztec ruler, and counter-demands by other students and graduates to preserve the status quo.
Weber said he supports the use of Montezuma to represent the university’s celebration of Aztec culture.
“It is perfectly fitting that he be present at athletic contests as an expression of that pride,” Weber said. “He will not, however, fulfill the cheerleading role of a university mascot.”
The decision was supported by representatives of the alumni association as an acceptable compromise, but was denounced by some Latino leaders as a continuation of a culturally insensitive tradition.
Montezuma has been a fixture at athletic contests at San Diego State since 1941, though the current bare-chested, frenetic portrayal is more recent.
With one exception, Weber accepted the recommendations of a task force of faculty members, alumni and students. He decided to allow the alumni association to continue to call its alumni-of-the-year-award the Monty.
San Diego State is the second institution of higher learning in San Diego County to grapple recently with the issue of Indian names.
The governing board of Southwestern College in Chula Vista last week voted to change the name of its sports teams from Apaches to Jaguars.
Weber, a philosophy professor turned administrator, said he supports a recent recommendation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that non-Indian schools should stop using Native American names for teams and mascots.
But he noted that the issue of Montezuma is different because--unlike Apaches or Cherokees or other Native American tribes--the Aztecs disappeared hundreds of years ago and there are no known direct descendants.
Under Weber’s ruling, Montezuma’s likeness on souvenirs and the floor of Cox Arena will be changed to a more historically accurate one, not the scowling red-faced warrior in full headdress that adorns items from T-shirts to beer mugs.
The on-campus hangout Monty’s Den will be renamed. And the university will look for ways to allow Montezuma to educate the campus and public about Aztec culture.
“We want to show our pride in this culture,” Weber said. “But we want to do it respectfully.”
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