Asian American activists support the Cabrillo College name change.
(Via Ami Chen Mills)
Opinion from Community Voices

Santa Cruz County Asian Americans support Cabrillo College name change: Let’s empower the next generation

Local Asian American activists write that they believe changing the name “Cabrillo” to one of Indigenous origins is a positive step toward a stronger, more inclusive future. “Standing in solidarity with the Indigenous community,” they write, “we state that this name change is a small but crucial step toward righting a grievous historical wrong.”

Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.

We are a group of Asian American residents of Santa Cruz County and we strongly support the Cabrillo College name change.

The name-change vote by the Cabrillo board of trustees happened after careful deliberation and a multiyear process. We — community members from north, south and mid-county, including Cabrillo students, families and alumni — encourage alumni, donors and all community members to recognize this as an opportunity to honor past and present Indigenous people among us and to create an inclusive future, within a spirit of justice, care and equity.

We believe this is entirely fitting for an educational institution which serves to nurture and empower the next generation.

Chair Valentin Lopez of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band has described this name change as “long overdue.” He and other members of the Indigenous community have made it very clear that the name “Cabrillo” continues to harm Indigenous people.

We recognize there is a direct connection between the actions of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo 400 years ago and the inequities and injustices experienced by Indigenous communities today. We oppose attempts to dismiss and minimize these historic and continuing harms by claiming that the Cabrillo name can be separated from the violent, slave-owning, colonial legacy of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. We support greater community education around the truth of Cabrillo’s legacy, but we do not believe this can be a substitute for removing his name from its place of prominence and honor, where it perpetuates harm to Indigenous communities.

As Asian Americans, many of us also carry the multigenerational trauma of marginalization of and violence against our communities in this county and across the nation, including the histories of Japanese American incarceration during World War II, violence against local Chinese and Filipino communities, the formation of local organizations to eject Chinese from the area (Caucasian Society and Workingmen’s Party), race-based immigration exclusion, as well as hateful rhetoric, harassment and microaggressions which continue to this day.

We have felt the pain of witnessing when others attempt to minimize and erase these legacies and dismiss our voices when speaking about historical and present-day experiences of harm.

Standing in solidarity with the Indigenous community, we state that this name change is a small but crucial step toward righting a grievous historical wrong, and also that a name change by itself is not enough. We must continue to invest in actions that bring us toward equitable and right relationships, such as reparations and the return of land.

Our hope is that the new name will recognize the original inhabitants of the area, and thus help to reverse the long history of Indigenous erasure in our county and state. Of the final shortlist of names, Aptos and Cajastaca are both of Indigenous origin and pay homage to the Awaswas-speaking tribes of the area.

The Cabrillo name is tarnished, a group of Santa Cruz County Asian American activists writes.
(Via Ami Chen Mills)

However, Aptos now refers to a specific geographic area within the county, and so is currently a less inclusive option than its original meaning (“the people”) would suggest.

Therefore, we believe the strongest choice is Cajastaca College, a name that has been criticized for being difficult to pronounce. As Asian Americans, we are all too familiar with being told that our names are strange and unpronounceable. We believe that learning to pronounce a person or place’s name correctly is an act of care and respect for them and their culture. We have full trust that the community can and will demonstrate this respect for Indigenous cultures.

We recognize and appreciate the institutional leadership of the Cabrillo College board of trustees, as well as the courage of the original petitioners in paving this path of positive change. We also appreciate all community members who are participating in the name-change process.

Ultimately, we are all united by our love for the college, and a desire to see all its students thrive — including and especially those who have been most affected by the harm of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s legacy.

Signed (in alphabetical order by last name),

주 리 얀, doula, artist, parent
Reez Aikawa, Cabrillo College parent and former student
Kristiana Chan, Rydell visual arts fellow, teaching artist mentor, Cabrillo College student
Terry Yee Ebersole, retired
Brian Garvey, retired
Eanna Huang-Ramirez, community advocate for Indigenous reparations
Victor Kimura, UC Santa Cruz employee, Cabrillo College graduate
Duane Kubo, J-Town Community TV
Lucien Kubo, member of Asian American Women Artists Association and Pajaro Valley Arts, Cabrillo College alumna
Louise Leong, member of Bitter Cotyledons, head of exhibitions at UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences
Nat H.N. Low, member of Bitter Cotyledons, co-director of the Asian American Justice + Innovation Lab
Kellee Matsushita-Tseng, farm manager at Food What?! youth farm, Co-founder of Bitter Cotyledons, land justice/food sovereignty educator, AAPI community organizer
Reiko Michisaki, Cabrillo College student
Ami Chen Mills, Ami Chen Coaching & Education, activist, author, former candidate for county supervisor, member of the AAPI Collective of Santa Cruz County and various DEI committees
Akiko Minami, Pajaro Valley Unified School District middle school teacher, community activist, former Cabrillo College student
Allison Nguyen, Santa Cruz resident
Meilin Obinata, alum of Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Cabrillo College and UCSC
Shizue Shikuma, retired
Amanda Linh Vòng, chef & owner of Auntie Manna’s, member of Bitter Cotyledons, operations coordinator at UCSC
Tam Welch, co-founder of the AAPI Collective of Santa Cruz County, co-founder of Bitter Cotyledons, program coordinator at UCSC Institute of Arts and Sciences
Ann-Marie Yap, community member, 418 Project board member, member of the AAPI Collective of Santa Cruz County
Maggie Yee, retired