Was it 15 years ago? Or 12 years ago? I really can’t remember, but I’ll never forget where it was, and what was said.
Long Beach State. I had just finished a lecture about God knows what — probably about a former columna that I used to write. Then, in the back of the classroom, a professor raised his hand. He was a politician in Anaheim, which explained his question that was as simple as it was surprising:
What did I think about the fact that Anaheim High School’s nickname was the Colonists, and didn’t I think it was offensive because colonists represent the genocide of Native Americans?
As someone who does public speaking for a living, the Q & A part is always pretty simple. 75% of the questions I get have been asked before, and 20% of the new ones are topical – so I kinda have an answer within me already.
But for this one, I didn’t — because no one had asked it before, because who would’ve cared? As a graduate of Anaheim High (Class of ’97 rules, dontcha know), our school nickname is the least of our worries.
So I formed my answer as the words came out of my mouth. I said I had no problem with the nickname, because it referred to the founders of Anaheim — a colony of German immigrants who created a winemaking cooperative, whose descendants remembered it as the Mother Colony, and what was offensive about that?
We were in Long Beach, so no one really cared about the question or answer, so I moved on. But the question stayed with me, because I knew there was an ulterior motive behind it.
That was the first time I realized, long before cancel culture became a supposed thing, that there was a campaign brewing against the Colonists name. And that some movements don’t bubble up organically, but are more rehearsed than a quinceañera waltz.
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Flash forward to this week. The students of Anaheim High voted to keep the Colonists name by a super-majority. 41% of them chose to keep both the nickname and the mascot, a caricature of a Pilgrim from Plymouth Rock; 34% of them wanted to keep the Colonists name but change the mascot. Only 25% of Anaheim students voted against the Colonists name.
I don’t exactly have the best relationship with my alma mater, for reasons known only to others, even though I keep writing about my time there in mostly good terms. I’ve only spoken at Anaheim three times in the 24 years since I’ve graduated.
As a point of reference, I’ve spoken to students in Nevada more times than students at Anaheim High.
If students had voted to change the name, I wouldn’t care about the results themselves. But I DO care about the historical record, and manipulations against it. And as I saw a slow campaign build against the Colonists name over the years, I marveled at the inconsequential things that bother people, and the lengths they’ll go to have their will be done.
I saw the people who opposed the name gain power in Anaheim. Random leftists with no ties to the city but whom knew where I graduated from would ask whether I thought Colonists was problematic, only to be surprised at my stance that it wasn’t. This continued over the years, to the point where I knew a reckoning was a’coming.
I just didn’t realize the extent that Colonists haters would go to.
That Anaheim High administrators put the Colonists “question” before students, with no previous public announcement to the thousands of people who have graduated from Anaheim High over the decades and have an investment in the Colonists name, for better for worse, was the culmination of this campaign.
What a crock.
Students spent five days in English and social science classes devoted to the subject, and then held an assembly to announce the results. Really? All this effort, time, and money over a nickname than any Anaheimer with one functioning synapse knows?
I was able to obtain the history lesson Anaheim High teachers provided to students to inform their decision, along with questions to prompt students into thinking about the subject and formulating a stance. It was pretty straightforward and surprisingly objective, if robbed of context.
It never considered that perhaps colonies are, well, colonies — a collection of people with a distinct identity, in a new land.
It didn’t mention that historic Mexican colonies exist across Orange County—Colonia Independencia in unincorporated Anaheim, for one, or Colonia Juarez in Fountain Valley. Or that colonia is the term still used in Mexico to refer to neighborhoods.
It didn’t mention that even if the term “colonist” or “colony” now conjures up genocide among the wokoso class, that that is not this when it comes to Anaheim High, Pilgrim mascot notwithstanding (I’ll get to that in a bit).
Besides, any student who goes through Anaheim High eventually learns about the original Colonists, and isn’t it important for its super majority Latino student body to know that the immigrant history of the United States also included Europeans who at one point weren’t considered white?
But that perspective isn’t valid for the people who want to have the Colonists name removed. For them, there is nothing to redeem about the past, especially if it involves gabachos. Only the present matters, and their interpretation of the past.
I want to know how much money was spent for these performative politics, and I’m sure the people who pushed this were both surprised and disappointed at the results of the vote. I’m not. Young people are smart. If you teach them something that’s bullshit, they’ll see right through it and move on.
That’s why conservative alarm over critical race theory is laughable — students will get the good out of that, and ignore the bad. But so is the liberal assumption that Latinos will always go for the woke side of things. Anaheim High has been majority Latino for a good 40 years — you don’t think we’d have a problem with something truly problematic, like how Savanna High students and alumni righteously fought for decades to have the school drop its Confederate iconography and eventually succeed?
And you really think we’re somehow going to drop something with meaning to us that a wrong-minded minority has a problem with just, because they say so?
You go to Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights and tell them that they’re named after an imperialist so it’s time to drop it. You’ll have Chicano alumni boo you out of town faster than you can eat your order at Guisados.
Now, the Colonists matter comes before the Anaheim Union High School District board of trustees, who obviously don’t have anything better to do.
We’ll see how they vote on this non-issue (the board seems to be composed of two wokosos, two alt-losers, and one moderate), but I’m now all for the Colonists name where I once didn’t really care.
When I was at Anaheim High, I did think it funny that a Mexican teenage boy was dressed up like William Bradford for football games. I can do without that mascot today – and interestingly enough, my sister, a former Anaheim High cheerleader who’s more conservative than me, said she never cared for that mascot.
But now, to say I’m an Anaheim High Colonist is a form of resistance to social engineering, and a reminder:
Know your history.
Once a Colonist, always a Colonist.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
Have you ever asked about what happens to someone who raised in Los Angeles and moves north to San Francisco or the Bay Area. Or the reverse?
They pine for the home they maintain is superior but are pleasantly surprised their new home isn’t as bad as the people back home made it out to be. And both learn SF and LA’s one shared trait: hatred of Orange County.
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Mosaic of the Virgin Mary at Assumption Church in Boyle Heights.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Who told us to start it? Nobody. Who was our billionaire? We didn’t have one. Well, why then? Because it felt like we were allergic to the world and we thought we should find out why.”
–Inaugural edition of The Baffler
LISTENING:“Tú Con Él,” Frankie Ruiz. I can’t dance salsa worth a damn, but hearing the legend’s voice — a high-pitched tenor, vulnerable yet cocky — backed by percussion and horns makes me want to sway and twirl like if I was listening to Beny Moré. A damn shame Frankie died so young.
READING: “Japanese Temples Are Holding Funerals For Unwanted Dolls”: A modern trend tied back to the past, with vivid writing and great quotes — Religion Unplugged is a severely underrated publication.
SHOUTOUT TO: James, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! “Since this is the only Latin American columna from which I get bluegrass tips, I have to send this and plug, if possible, the Bill Monroe for Breakfast program on WCBN-FM, Ann Arbor, MI, from 10 a. m. –noon Saturdays (wcbn. org, iPhone WCBN, Android TuneIn).”
Nov. 14, 12:40 P.M.: I’ll be doing a short presentation titled “#SoCalCityNicknames: Vulgarities and Hilarities as Geographic Socio-historical Markers” at 12:40 PT as part of the annual conference of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association. It’s streaming, but you’ll have to register for the conference to see it!
Nov. 16-Nov. 21: The Latino Theater Co. will be streaming a video version of Interview with a Mexican, the theater version of my former columna that Su Teatro in Denver produced to HILARIOUS effect back in 2019. Register here!
Nov. 17, 5 P.M.: I’ll be doing a lecture about why I like to cover Southern California history for the — who else— Southern California Historical Society. Register here.
Gustavo in the News
“Nuestra Voz Today – November 2021”: A Latino-themed TV show put out by the San Diego Union-Tribune airs a bit of the Fernandomania @ 40 project I was a part of.
“Coronavirus Today: Shifting the focus from herd immunity”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Latinx Files: The ‘skin color’ question that set off fireworks; also, it’s our cumple”: Another LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs the podcast.
“Latino Theater Company’s ‘RE:Encuentro 2021’ highlights Latinx companies, artists”: A digital version of a play based on my work is streaming NOW — details above!
“What is California?”: A newsletter shouts out my Sheriff Villavendido columna from last week.
Latest roster of episodes for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. Listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!
“How Filipino Americans are the Latinos of Asia”: I turn over the mic to my “Asian Enough” colleagues to interview a badass professor who wrote a badass book.
“Why this USC fraternity scandal is different”: And you thought Lori Loughlin was bad…
“California’s marijuana revolution at 25 years”: From Prop. 215 to the gummy billboards you see.
“Why we forget U.S. violence toward Chinatowns”: My fellow columnista Frank Shyong and I talk about the 1871 L.A. Chinatown massacre and beyond.
“Can the FBI spy on Muslims and not say why?”: Stay classy, OC!
“Grítale a Guti in Exile, 2.2”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all…NOT on IG Live because they’re not allowing me to read comments, so hence I’m on YouTube for an inferior experience.
“Did FBI step over the line with surveillance? OC Muslim men bring forth class action lawsuit”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the very issue I addressed above.
“Pronunciation Demystified”: I appear on Dave Chang’s podcast to do what I do best — babble.
You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc