On Nov. 14, the Cabrillo College Governing Board will meet to answer a question that has been vexing Santa Cruz County for two years: Should the name of its community college be changed?
The effort to possibly change Cabrillo College’s name began in 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam and inspired institutions and jurisdictions to take a look at what names they placed on their buildings and institutions.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo has been lauded for exploring the West Coast of the Americas around 1542. Historians say he was on a mission to map the coast to the north and chart a course to China, find a route from Europe above Canada to the Pacific and establish trade relations with China.
It was on that mission that he discovered the winter wind patterns and southern pacific trading current, and helped establish the beginning of trade with China and the greater Pacific Basin.
But that legacy is tarnished by his reputation as a murderous conqueror who stole occupied land and enslaved and brutalized the Amah Mutsun people who already lived here.
Proponents of the name change say they do not want the college to bear the name of a person who embodies European imperialism.
Adam Spickler, who sits on the Cabrillo College Name Exploration Subcommittee, says the group did widespread community-wide outreach, as well as delved deeply into the issue.
Spickler declined to say what recommendation the subcommittee will bring to the board in November. If the board decides the name change will move forward, the subject of the new name will be the next topic of discussion.
Spickler added that the move to change Cabrillo College’s name moves far beyond a binary yes-no issue.
“There are some important truths that are fundamental for everybody who cares about the name of our college,” Spickler says. “No matter what perspective is held, it is rooted in deeply caring about what is best for the college so that the students attending and the staff working there are really getting and giving the best educational experience possible.”