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After retiring its ‘racist’ mascot, Saddleback College asks for public’s help in choosing new school symbol

The original mascot of the Saddleback College Gauchos.
The original mascot of the Saddleback College Gauchos.
(Courtesy of CleanPNG.com)

After getting rid of its former mascot for being “racist,” Saddleback College is asking for the public’s help in deciding its new school symbol.

The college’s original mascot, the Gaucho, was the subject of controversy for years. Many took umbrage with the mascot’s depiction of an angry Mexican man riding a horse. A gaucho is an Argentinian cowboy.

The mascot had long drawn comparisons with the Frito Bandito, considered one of the more racist brand logos and retired by Frito Lay in 1971.

Saddleback President Elliot Stern made the decision earlier this year to retire the Gaucho mascot following a petition signed by hundreds of people, several community forums and recommendations from the school’s three governing bodies.

“It became our college’s Confederate flag,” Stern said of the Gaucho.

Since that decision, the college’s Mascot Workgroup narrowed down more than 330 proposed mascots to three finalists — Bobcats, Mountain Lions and Rattlers — after hosting four public forums where attendees discussed the pros and cons of each option and took a survey from the community.

To cut down the list of potential replacements, the work group used a specific criteria, including that the mascot must be unifying and representative of the Saddleback College experience and history. The mascot must also work equally for both men’s and women’s sports teams, the work group determined.

The public can submit a vote through May 11. The new mascot will be revealed before the end of the semester.

Saddleback College listed three main reasons why officials decided to get rid of the Gaucho — the mascot was a cultural appropriation that dishonored a part of South American culture, the mascot design relied on stereotypes, and the Gaucho was representative of an all-male culture and excluded women at the school.

The college has been under fire for its mascot for at least a decade. But the movement intensified last year amid nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

A faculty-led group, Retire the Gaucho, played a substantial role in spreading the message on campus and getting people involved in the movement.

The group collected more than 200 signatures on a petition in favor of scrapping the mascot.

The group held that the mascot played into a stereotype of Latino men that has been perpetuated in movies and other forms of entertainment in the U.S. The group also contended that the use of the gaucho was a form of cultural appropriation.

About 30% of the Saddleback College community is Latino.

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