Letters to the Editor

Let’s learn about Cabrillo’s life - not endlessly argue about his name

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To the editor:

I have been disappointed by the endless letters to the editor which do nothing to enlighten us about the life of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, but promote division and distrust between supporters and opponents of changing the name of the college named after him. The fault lies partially with newspapers requiring letters to the editor to be the length of a few sound bites.

Details of the life of Cabrillo, including where he was born and even his name, are disputed. However, what is not disputed is that he led ships up the coast of California and “discovered” this area for Europeans, 200 years before other Europeans arrived. That feat makes him a hero to those who admire a person who has the courage to set out into uncharted territory, not knowing what challenges he will face, like the first astronauts going to the moon.

On the flip side, on-line sources reveal that he treated indigenous people on his “encomienda” (long-term leasehold from the Spanish government) in Guatemala as slaves, removed the men from their families and turned the women over to his soldiers to be used as sexual slaves.

That is horrific in any time period, whether it was “socially acceptable” and legal at the time, or not.

We should remember that lynching, even when socially acceptable to those perpetrating the lynchings during the Reconstruction era in our country, was never acceptable to the victims, just as the victims of our current epidemic of gun violence and women who are victims of abuse should never “accept” that we can do nothing to stop it now.

Sandy Lydon has spent much of his life educating this small town about the persecution of the Japanese and Chinese communities in Santa Cruz County. State Parks has done much to educate us about the genocide of indigenous populations here by the Spanish and we are all aware of the current plight of migrant farm workers.

In every age, the powerful find a way to justify abusing the less powerful, and only by exposing that abuse have the victims and the larger society been able to turn the tables and make the abusers the targets of vilification and scorn.

The reaction to turning the tables on the abusers in the historical record has been the condemnation of those who demand a more realistic teaching of history as “woke,” which simply means not being willfully ignorant.

We cannot erase the abuses of the past by ignoring them.

The name Cabrillo should be kept, but plaques should include the full biography of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and every history class in the college should be required to teach what he and other explorers did to the people they “discovered” here and elsewhere.

Columns, such as those by Ross Eric Gibson, enlighten us about our local history. Knowing that deeds here from the 1950s prohibited sales to non-whites, and kite-flying was prohibited because it was popular among the Chinese, might prevent such ignorance as singer Jason Aldean thinking a music video in front of the site of lynchings in Tennessee was somehow a protest against violence in small towns.

Everything is connected.

Cynthia Dzendzel
5600 Lincoln Way

Felton Ca 95018

ered my public comment when I read in the Patagonian that the breach of the levee occurred near the Murphy Crossing area on March 11th though I leaned later that it occurred about one mile from the bridge. I started to advocate for a real bridge.

Moreover, I learned that the bridge was a significant historical place for Philipino Americans by a poem “I Remember Tobera 1930 “by a Philipino American poet Jeff Tagami. it was the place where Fermin Tobera and his Philipino co-workers must have taken a rest and played after their hard work in the lettuce fields in the Murphy Ranch. They were shot by eight white people while they were sleeping in the midst of the Watsonville Race Riots in January 1930.

What I started to advocate for a real bridge by one person about three years ago now has 30 supporters as of May 28th 2023 !