The Daily Aztec

Mascot metamorphosis

Jenna Mackey, Photo Editor

by Madison Hopkins, Managing Editor

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The Aztec Warrior mascot can be seen running the length of the field at football games, cheering on “The Show” at Viejas Arena and promoting the San Diego State spirit in the community. But what many current students may not know is that the warrior, whose history is relatively short lived, has been frequently contested by members of the Aztec community. As recent as last Thursday, new voices have emerged in the debate regarding SDSU’s official mascot.

timeline

The SDSU Queer People of Color Collective called into question the appropriateness of using an indigenous figure as a mascot on Oct. 2 when the group submitted Resolution to Change the Mascot to the Associated Students University Council, stating in an official resolution  “the continued use of the name ‘Aztec’ and the ‘Aztec Warrior’ mascot perpetuate harmful stereotypes of Native Americans.”

QPOCC members have rallied behind this issue and hope to inspire the campus body to partake in the movement.

“Our goal is to end the use of cultural appropriation and racist stereotypes perpetuated through our mascot and allowing the Associated Students and university to do their work to choose a new mascot if they decide that one is necessary,” QPOCC member and LGBT studies senior Thomas Negron said.

The resolution calls for the end of any official association with Aztec culture, including the spear in the SDSU athletics logo and the slogan “Fear the Spear.” If or when the university should choose to create a new mascot, the resolution states that the appropriateness of the mascot should be considered and that it should add to SDSU’s Mission and Goals to “promote human dignity” within its diverse community.

The QPOCC isn’t the first group at SDSU to raise questions related to the cultural sensitivity of various mascots, and movements such as these has spurred wide-scale campus debates in the past. The historical context of this conflict extends back nearly 100 years ago to SDSU’s first football game.

At the inception of the university’s athletics program, the media was lost on how to refer to the red and black team. Some pushed for the title of “staters” or “professors,” and in 1923 the student newspaper tried to encourage the “Wampus Cats” — none of which stuck among the campus community. It wasn’t until 1925 that SDSU President Hardy formally approved the “Aztec” nickname, as it was considered representative of a southwest culture and supported by the student body, according to GoAztecs.com.

For decades, Aztecs remained the title of SDSU sports teams, but there was still no official mascot. In 1941, Art Munzig was the first person to dress up and act as the ancient Aztec ruler Montezuma II during a halftime skit at the football season opener. The character gained popularity and students, faculty and community members began to commonly refer to the newfound mascot as “Monty” for short, according to Go Aztecs.com.

Monty spent the next six decades with relatively little controversy. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the debate surrounding the misappropriation of cultural references to Aztec history thrust the campus community onto the national media scene. The topic proved to be divisive when the Native American Student Alliance submitted a petition to A.S. claiming Monty was disrespectful toward Native American culture, spurring former SDSU President Stephen Weber to convene a task force of students, alumni and faculty members to look into the matter. Weber personally created a 70-page report from his research and findings, according to an article from The Daily Aztec in 2000.

As the result, President Weber formally announced his decision to remove Monty as the mascot. He concluded that it was acceptable to have a human character represent the school, but the university must encourage a more historically accurate depiction of the ancient ruler.

These steps included removing the name “Monty,” insisting on referring to the charachter by his full name. Also, Montezuma was then to be referred to as the “ambassador” and was meant to behave more appropriately at sporting events, as opposed to the mascot who ran up and down the field with a flaming spear.

This still wasn’t the end of road for the Aztec Warrior. In the years following the transition from Monty the mascot to Montezuma the ambassador, some students and alumni felt they were deprived of having a true mascot. The absence of Monty gave way for the formation of The Aztec Warrior Foundation, a non-profit alumni association whose goal was the reinstatement of the Aztec Warrior mascot, and unofficially introduced the character to SDSU crowds at the Sept. 14, 2002 football home opener, according to the LA Times.

More than a year later, a campus referendum with unprecedented turnout showed the student body overwhelmingly voted in favor of adding the Aztec Warrior to the SDSU family, according to U-T San Diego. Three months later, the warrior made his official debut at a men’s basketball game against Colorado State University, sporting a new $11,000 costume.

Although this extensive past may seem convoluted to some, this is only a brief summary of the aspects that lead to our current university icon. Regarding the most recent addition to the Aztec mascot’s timeline, SDSU Chief Communications Officer Greg Block said the university has no plans to reconsider the use of the warrior.

“We are the Aztecs and we have every intention of remaining the Aztecs,” he said.

During the next few months, the SDSU community will likely have the opportunity to share their varied perspectives on the issue.  The Daily Aztec will provide more in-depth coverage of this debate and readers are encouraged to join the ongoing discussion by commenting on our website.

Update: Read the pro and con arguments by the Opinion section.

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11 Comments

11 Responses to “Mascot metamorphosis”

  1. Scott on October 6th, 2014 10:58 am

    The over reach of small, but vocal minority that paints people of various groups, ethnicities, and subsets as victims is slowly eroding the fabric, resolve and strength of America. Even addressing the silly issue of a mascot is catering to this misguided minority.

    Stop it. Stop losing your sense or rational thought. Stop contributing to the litigious aspect of our society that continues to grow.

  2. Charles on October 11th, 2014 10:31 am

    THANK YOU.

  3. josh on October 6th, 2014 4:54 pm

    Reading over the resolution, I think that the argument is well made. That said, I do have a few questions on the matter. What will be the cost of changing the mascot and how will the school pay it? How does the specific usage of “Aztecs” malign modern Native Americans who have nothing to do with the ancient culture? While I think that their proposal to not use “[A]ny other human, human culture, human name and/or human mascot” is mostly reasonable and fair, I’m not sure that I am entirely convinced by the argument they put forth that:

    “[T]he continued use of the name “Aztec” and the “Aztec Warrior” mascot perpetuate harmful stereotypes of Native Americans, including the notion that Native Americans are innately violent, dangerous, and “savage” which is demonstrated by the Aztec Warrior’s aggressive body language, the Aztec Warrior’s use of a spear at special events, the use of a spear on the SDSU Athletics Logo which is printed on uniforms and SDSU memorabilia, and the slogan ‘fear the spear’. ”

    Does the QPOCC have any other resources on the matter that might clear it up?

  4. Emily Crowder on October 6th, 2014 7:53 pm

    What are they proposing be the mascot instead?

    I would like to see some compromise. A suggestion of how to keep the Aztec (but not necessarily the phrase Aztec Warrior) in a way that does not negatively portray Native Americans?

  5. Frank on October 6th, 2014 10:34 pm

    Once again the minority of police are out to make everyone adhere to their uninformed agenda. Two writers on the DA are trying to wussify the College and its mascot. I hope the AS hold firm and keep the proud, rich heritage of the Aztecs.

  6. Mark on October 7th, 2014 11:10 am

    Wow, people have becoming incredibly over sensitive. It is all a tribute to the Aztec people. How is this in any way offensive??

  7. Eli on October 7th, 2014 11:18 am

    As an American who had ancestors that fought in the revolutionary war, I’m offended by the mascot and use of the name “Patriots”. All organizations using the term and image need to stop, as I am bothered by it

  8. Paul Harris on October 12th, 2014 4:56 pm

    Just wondering if a mascot was named the SDSU “Poor White Trash” or “The Skin Heads” if some people would have a better opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone else and have some empathy for those who are stereotyped.

  9. Megan on October 13th, 2014 10:19 pm

    We have already compromised by getting rid of Monty. Also, clearly the Aztec Warrior didn’t offend them enough to make them not want to pay to go to school here and become an Aztec themselves. The Aztec represents our school and we, as a school are proud of it.

  10. JAVIER on October 14th, 2014 8:18 pm

    I think we are getting over sensitive with this issue. Why not ask the Mexican Hispanic population if they feel offended about it? I am Mexican and actually feel proud of SDSU having an Azteca as a mascot! AZTECS FOR LIFE!

  11. Michael DeWees on October 17th, 2014 7:33 pm

    Just another small group of kids who didn’t get into the fraternity/sorority they wanted…

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