The gaucho is no more

 Saddleback College Athletics/Facebook

Saddleback College president announced the discontinuation of the school’s mascot after campus-wide debates over the controversial nature and cultural appropriation of the South American symbol.

President Elliot Stern announced Monday, Jan. 25 the gaucho will no longer be the sports mascot after a campus-wide open debate decided its fate last fall. The online forum via Zoom allowed students and faculty to discuss the historical background of this retired figure that represented the college since it was established in 1968.

Even though the controversy over the mascot lasted at least a decade, one online community called Retire the Gaucho, whose goal centered around dismantling the name, surfaced Aug. 2020, listing why the mascot constitutes cultural appropriation and racism of South American indigenous heritage. A petition started by its team addressing Stern and the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees to demand an end of to gaucho mascot collected over 200 signatures by the commencement of the first of four public forums held by the college in September.

“Gauchos are real people living in modern day Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, and they do not want to be portrayed as stereotypes in their home countries, let alone in ours,” the website stated. “Using the Gaucho as a symbol of Saddleback College is a form of cultural appropriation because we have no right to objectify and represent an entire culture as a stereotype for our own purposes and benefit.”

However, the gaucho also has a sexist background that is degrading to women through its hyper-masculine nature, Retire the Gaucho added as one of the reasons on its website.

Before the mascot was officially removed, two murals containing the gaucho’s original design were created in 1968 but later changed due to its resemblance to Latin American stereotypes were taken down in January 2019. During this time, Stern began a redesign project once again, yet students and faculty pushed for a new mascot altogether.

In his announcement, the college president addressed the long journey it took to get to this point and what is to come for the future of Saddleback’s representation.

“Today, I announce to you, formally, that I am heeding their recommendation—and that I agree with it, because it is the right thing to do,” Stern said in the email. “We are retiring the Gaucho as our mascot and beginning a process to identify a new mascot, a mascot that will end the controversy and pain and carry Saddleback into its next 50 years.”

A team of three student representatives plans to lead focus groups and campus involvement while in the process of choosing a new mascot. A survey can be filled out on the college’s website by students, employees, alumni and community members for submissions through March 2. Final picks will be voted on in May to represent the school next fall.