Photo acquired from Filip Pejcinovic. Cameron Osburn/Lariat
The employees of Saddleback College gathered in the last Zoom meeting to discuss whether the Gaucho should be retired or redesigned on Thursday, Oct. 22. It was hosted by speech instructors Shawn O’Rourke and Lucas Ochoa. The final forum hosted over 170 employees of the college which most had the opportunity to share their opinions.
President Elliot Stern has asked that I do not record, quote anyone verbatim or report the identities of anyone who attended or voiced a particular view, thereby ensuring that people have a safe space in which to speak their minds.
This forum was held to have the members of the college speak as most did not have the opportunity to speak at the first meeting. Many employees shared their thoughts about the possibility of retiring the Gaucho due to its racist Argentinian ties.
Other college faculty members discussed the potential to keep the Gaucho as Saddleback’s mascot as it represents the Gaucho people in Argentina well. Each person that wanted to speak had approximately one minute so other members had enough time to voice their opinions as well.
Marla Aranda is a Saddleback student, but she has not attended any Gaucho Zoom meetings. She was born here in the United States while both her parents grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She shared her thoughts with me about the topic of retiring the Gaucho at Saddleback.
“I believe Saddleback should keep the Gaucho because, like everything else, there’s always going to be someone who disagrees or finds something wrong,” Aranda said. “Although some may think the Gaucho is only a negative context, it is actually a very positive thing in my culture.”
Although she was not in the Gaucho meetings, she shared similar thoughts as others inside the meetings who thought Saddleback should keep the Gaucho. In Argentinian culture, the Gaucho is portrayed as the national symbol.
Gauchos are big in Argentina and have meanings around their names. They are even viewed as role models who worked in harsh conditions.
“They are expert horsemen who are extremely brave outdoorsmen who hunt,” Aranda said in a text. “They found work mustering cattle, chasing down runways and performing odd jobs for the owners of wealthy estancias, (rural estates).”
She also has a very close family friend who owned a very popular restaurant located in Woodland Hills, California, called “Gaucho Grill.” The owner was forced to close it due to personal reasons.
The “Gaucho Grill” was a popular hangout spot for many Argentines who wanted to meet with other people of their culture to enjoy food and drinks. It was also a well-known spot for people of other ethnicities to enjoy food and learn about Argentinian culture.
“My parents are extremely proud of our heritage and who the Gauchos were,” Aranda said. “We honestly find it sad and hurtful that people want to paint the Gauchos with this negative brush. Not all Gauchos are evil or did the things we are taught other Gauchos did.”
Although Aranda does not share all Argentinian people’s views, some believe that the Gaucho representing Saddleback and other colleges is being represented and respected well within other communities.
“At this time, following four town halls for employees, students and community members, we are asking representative constituency groups to pass resolutions for retiring or retaining the Gaucho,” President Elliot Stern said in an email to me in regards to a final decision on the Gaucho.