The school board in Alisal Union School District in Salinas, California, is going to name a new elementary school after Tiburcio Vasquez, a man who was convicted of killing at least two people and as many as six and was hanged in 1875.
Superintendent John Ramirez believes Vasquez was not a terrorist fighting against the U.S. system, but a freedom fighter, saying:
Tiburcio Vasquez, along with others, was an individual who was a revolutionary. He was not okay with the oppression … When you have individuals who have been struggling for so long, dealing with oppression and systematic oppression, then you bring up leaders who have fought against resistance, of course they are going to be role models to you. Vasquez is an individual who did that prior to us — who can be sort of a hero to us.
Francisco Estrada, who was part of the committee naming the new school, echoed Ramirez:
He took from the rich and gave to the poor. He was your inspiration of Zorro. Mr. Vasquez, number one, was not a murderer. He was framed by the system at that time. The history was written by mainstream whites. It wasn’t written by Californians or people of Mexican descent. When do we have our history written by us? When do we stop having our heroes branded as villains?”
But the University of Southern California Library describes Vasquez as “probably the most notorious bandit California ever saw.” He stabbed a constable in his first crime at the age of fourteen and may have also killed a policeman among his six murders.
There are dissenters; one parent said, “You would not name a school Charles Manson Elementary, Ted Bundy Middle School or Bernie Madoff High.” Councilman Steve McShane was also angry about the change, saying:
I don’t like the idea of naming the school after a criminal. There’s a big difference between naming a school after people in our history who have shown leadership and courage – and those disrespectful of common laws and decency.
The Monterey County Deputy Sheriff Association and the Salinas Police Peace Officer Association said they were “extremely disappointed.”
Incoming mayor Joe Gunter agreed: “We’re a city fighting crime. We don’t want to be honoring people who are criminals. We want to honor good people.”
Ramirez tore into Gunter with this nonsense about whites falsifying history:
He needs to learn history. He should not be making comments based on what he finds on Google. There are issues with our Founding Fathers. They wrote a great Constitution. I understand that. But Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner. Does that make it okay? Ronald Reagan ordered the killing of over 400,000 Central Americans and had the whole propaganda against Grenada in the 80s. Is that okay?
Perhaps Ramirez should get over his parochial views and do some serious study himself.