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Should San Diego State keep the Aztec as its mascot?

San Diego State's mascot has come under fire once more. Read both sides of the debate right here.

Jamie Sabau

Amid San Diego State football's rocky 3-3 start and on the brink of the most highly anticipated SDSU basketball season in recent years, an issue larger than sports is thrusting SDSU into the relative spotlight.

It's the mascot seen roaming around Qualcomm Stadium and Viejas Arena. That colorful character attracting queues of people who want to snap a photo for their Instagram feeds.

The SDSU Queer People of Color Collective submitted an official resolution to Associated Students on October 3, writing that the use of the Aztec Warrior and Aztecs as a mascot "perpetuate harmful stereotypes of Native Americans."

Essentially, QPOCC wants the school to disband any relation with "Aztecs."

San Diego media has been buzzing about this for the past week and a half, with SDSU's student newspaper The Daily Aztec running very solid editorial and news coverage on the issue. Even the U-T San Diego gave the issue some attention.

As a potentially divisive issue, I personally can't take a stand. But I can make a case for both sides.

So for what my humble opinion is worth, I'll have a crack at an individual side-by-side, starting with why SDSU should get rid of the Aztec mascot.


At least somebody's stepping up and saying something.

QPOCC's resolution mentions many groups that have opposed the use of native symbols and mascots. The resolution also makes reference to a host of universities that have disbanded such symbols and mascots.

The argument gains a lot of merit at the very end of the resolution, when the group addresses if/when SDSU should ever change its mascot. QPOCC asks that five certain guidelines be followed, but not just any five guidelines.

They're the same five that were applied in the "2003 Resolution Supporting a New University Mascot (CB F03-02)," which was passed after SDSU parted ways with their previous mascot "Monty."

Three of the guidelines are "Viability," "Promotes Campus Unity" and "Weapons Ban." Viability means the costume can be made without a huge cost or hardship. Good question, can it?

The Daily Aztec reported the current Aztec Warrior's costume costs $11,000. That cost hits on two of the guidelines: viability and promotes campus unity. Is that a huge cost to an organization (Associated Students) with a $23 million budget? Not particularly, but to me and every other person not pulling in an eight-figure paycheck it is.

An $11,000 costume also represents the same dichotomy and special treatment that separates rulers from peasants. The Aztec Warrior mascot represents Emperor Moctezuma II, a ruler who was known for being extravagant and for widening the social gap between peasants and nobles. Sounds like he'd dig an $11,000 outfit.

Does that sound like something that promotes campus unity? QPOCC elaborates, writing that it wishes "The mascot will not in any way partake in activities or dress in a manner that would be deemed culturally insensitive or in any way divisive."

The weapons ban guideline is also part of QPOCC's argument, which says that the Aztec mascot portrays Native Americans as "savages" with his aggressive behavior. True, right before football games at Aztec Warrior Stadium (Qualcomm Stadium), part of the pre-game procession is the announcement of the Aztec Warrior, who charges out of the tunnel touting a spear and shield in his hands.

And then he, or a special guest, thrusts the spear into the ground. Very primal indeed, considering the ancient Aztec people were known for their sacrificial rituals.

Certainly not all tribes were like that, but upon arriving at SDSU, how many freshmen know that? How many freshmen's first exposure to Aztec culture is outside the classroom, at a place like a football game, where a nearly-naked, $11,000 costume-wearing barbarian portrayal makes an absolute meal out of stabbing a football field with a spear.


~Why SDSU should keep the Aztec mascot~

QPOCC argues the Aztec mascot is offensive and invites stereotypes about Native Americans. But on the surface, it doesn't appear that local tribes are bothered by it.

The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation has its name on SDSU's Sycuan Institute for Tribal Gaming, conveniently located one floor above the school's journalism department. The Sycuan Institute is still here, and the tribe must have taken the mascot into consideration before putting its name on the institute.

Then there's Viejas Arena, all 12,414 seats of SDSU basketball heaven. It's an awesome venue, and that may be why the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians has its name all over it.

And for the love of basketball, Viejas Arena is plastered with Aztec basketball signage, logos--heck even the staff at the arena wears shirts with the SDSU logo on them.

Until the Sycuan and Viejas Bands issue formal complaints with the school, changing the school's mascot is merely a twinkle in QPOCC's eyes.

If ones takes the view of the athletic department, one wonders how much of a pain in the tush would changing a mascot be. Uniforms, logos (the SDSU logo has a spear), tapestry at the practice fields and so on. All that would have to be changed, which would cost a lot of money, money the athletic department doesn't really have at the moment.

At last check, the athletic department doesn't have a budget surplus. There's about a 3.2 percent budget deficit. So, where would the money come from to fund something like this? The state? Private donors? New student fees?

One part of QPOCC's resolution asks the university as a whole to separate from the Aztec image. That means renaming and rebranding Aztec Shops, the Aztec Recreation Center and some of the names of the dorms and campus-owned apartments, like Tenochca (similar to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan). Don't forget the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

Even take a look at The Daily Aztec's logo, they had to make sure it was historically accurate. Oh, and "The Daily Aztec" is another name that would have to change.

Again, all this renaming and rebranding would come with a pretty big price tag wrapped in a swarm of ill will.

Lastly, the mascot changed more than 10 years ago. "Monty," as he was called, was deemed cartoonish and not representative of the Aztec people.

So the university, particularly then-SDSU President Stephen Weber, changed the mascot so it would be an accurate representation. And The Daily Aztec reported he read a lot about the Aztecs, so he wasn't exactly uneducated about the subject.

So why change it? It wouldn't serve the best interests of the general student population. So far, there's only one group that's formally complained.

And unless the Sycuan and Viejas Bands complain, or there's full-scale riots (with riot police), SDSU President Elliot Hirshman probably won't bat an eye.


What do you think?