De Anza College students, faculty and local community members are pushing for a name change at the California community college, The Mercury News reported.
The college is named after Juan Bautista de Anza, an 18th-century Spanish military officer who led two expeditions to California. Those in favor of a name change circulated a petition, arguing that Spanish colonization wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities in the region.
“The missions soon became bases from which the Spanish priests and military officers could exercise control over the surrounding land, disrupting the environment and indigenous ways of life, thus forcing indigenous peoples to seek food and shelter in the missions,” the petition read. “Once there, Native people were forbidden to leave the missions and their traditional cultures were severely limited.”
Sherwin Mendoza, a part-time faculty member at De Anza, told The Mercury News that he and others advocating for a name change were inspired by Cabrillo College, which also bears the name of a Spanish explorer and is in the midst of a name change process. (Cabrillo’s Board of Trustees, however, voted to delay the name change in August.)
“I feel like I have an obligation to try to do my part in correcting these past wrongs that were committed against indigenous people by settlers,” Mendoza said.
Marisa Spatafore, a college spokesperson, wrote in an email to The Mercury News that “the group is more than welcome to engage in conversation on this issue and any other topic.” She noted that the college changed its mascot last year from the Dons, a Spanish nobility title, to a mountain lion.