San Diego State changing image of Aztec mascot

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 16, 2001

SAN DIEGO — “Monty Montezuma,” San Diego State’s red-faced, spear-throwing mascot, got the heave-ho Tuesday by the university president, who wants a more dignified portrayal of the Aztec leader. 

The most significant change announced by President Stephen Weber is eliminating Montezuma as a cheerleading mascot and using him as a historically accurate “ambassador.” 

So, gone are the days of Monty wearing a loincloth and headdress, emerging from a shroud of smoke, dancing around and flinging a flaming spear into the turf moments before kickoff of football games at Qualcomm Stadium. 

And the school plans to gradually phase out the logo of a red-faced, glaring Indian that adorns stationery, literature, uniforms and the basketball court at Cox Arena.  

The changes are expected to be completed by fall 2003. 

“If we are to employ the symbols of another culture, and portray a particular historical figure within that culture, we have an obligation to do so in an accurate and respectful way,” Weber said at a news conference. 

Monty’s performance at football games, for instance, doesn’t quite meet that standard, Weber said. 

“The Aztecs considered fire sacred. In a broad sense, I think what well-intended people inadvertently did was drift a little bit north toward Hollywood.  

“And I think we’re going to drift back down to Mesoamerica, where we belong.” 

The name “Monty” also will disappear in official references and campus business establishments using the name will be renamed, Weber said.  

The only exception will be an alumni association award named The Monty. 

Weber said the school plans to have the new Montezuma at sporting events, but it’s yet to be determined what he’ll do and look like. Experts on Aztec culture will have a say in the process, Weber said. 

“Remember, this is a person who was the head of state, the head of the religion and the head of the military.  

“If you’re going to take on that portrayal, you have to do it with behaviors that are appropriate to a person of that stature,” Weber said. 

Montezuma also will have broader responsibilities for educating the public on Aztec culture, Weber said. 

Times have changed since Monty made his debut in 1941 when, during a homecoming game, he emerged from a teepee and chased young coeds. 

The representation evolved over the years.  

In 1983, he sat atop a pyramid among his attendants on the sidelines at football games.  

The next season, he returned to his role of firing up the players and fans. 

American Indian and Latino students long have complained the Aztec identity is racist and disrespectful. 

In September, the Associated Students Council called on Weber to retire the Montezuma mascot.  

It later organized a student referendum in which 86 percent of voters opted to keep the current logos and Monty depictions. 

Recently, a panel of 20 students, faculty, alumni and community members, recommended the school keep its Aztec identity but do away with inaccurate depictions of the 16th-century ruler. 

Weber’s announcement Tuesday failed to please Ron Gochez, a leader of the Chicano student group MEChA, because Montezuma still will be used to represent the university. 

“We’re not going to stand for it,” he said. “We were calling for the abolishment of any human figure.” 

Freshman Randall Mack, however, said the school should have honored the student vote. 

“It’s not like it’s making fun of Indians or American Indians or anything. It’s just a mascot representing the school,” Mack said. “It’s something to proud of. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” 

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