Nearly 2,400 students at Anaheim High School voted on whether or not the school would maintain its mascot’s name, the “Colonist,” and its likeness on Nov. 9. The current mascot is an illustration of a man dressed in pilgrim attire leaning on the letter “A” with his elbow on a musket.
The Colonist mascot was selected by the 1921 student body and staff, inspired by the city’s early German settlers who sought to establish a wine colony in Anaheim.
The Nov. 10 voting results included 41% in favor of keeping the name and imagery, 34% in favor of keeping the name but changing the imagery and 25% in favor of removing the name and the imagery.
Three students presented the reasoning for each option during a virtual town hall meeting that was streamed on YouTube.
Anaheim High School junior Anahi Rico publicly expressed concern for maintaining the name and imagery of the Colonist mascot.
“When I think of the word ‘colonist,’ I don’t think of kind, respectful students,” Rico said. “I think of mass genocide, murder, the separation of families, the attempt to whitewash and eradicate Native American civilization—and then [the] attempt to hide the truth about what really happened to those that once inhabited this land.”
Junior Daniel Escobar, however, believed that the Colonist name had been misinterpreted.
“We learned that German immigrants wanted to establish a colony in Southern California to grow grapes,” Escobar said. “Modern-day Anaheim ended up being the place they settled and founded. Because Anaheim was founded as a colony, it’s appropriate to call us Colonists.”
Senior Briana Gurrola thought it would be best to agree to a compromise that would keep the name but remove the mascot.
“The current Colonist imagery does not look anything like the colonists that settled Anaheim,” Gurrola said. “Instead, the images used throughout our school’s history look like the pilgrims or American colonists that founded the United States. By removing the weapon from our logo and bringing it more in line with our city’s history, we will show the true meaning of [the Anaheim] colonists.”
Petitions advocating for each side have gained a large following. Community member and Anaheim High School alumna Laura Luevano started a petition in favor of changing the Colonist mascot and slogan, which has garnered over 6,500 signatures. Luevano claims that the school slogan “once a colonist, always a colonist” is “tone-deaf” to its majority Mexican-American student population.
Historical researcher J’aime Rubio started a petition in favor of the district retaining the Colonist mascot. It has acquired more than 3,940 signatures as of Nov. 10.
“I feel that in this day and age, there seems to be certain groups who go around and single out various historical places or even people in order to specifically demonize or find fault in them under this false guise of ‘social justice.’” Rubio said in an email to the Voice of OC.
Ultimate action will be left to the discretion of the Anaheim Union School District’s Board of Trustees. The issue will be revisited during the board’s Dec.14 meeting.
Veronica Garza is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.