.Cabrillo Name Change Gets Green Light

Trustees vote in favor of changing the Aptos community college’s name

Cabrillo College’s governing board voted Monday to change the institution’s name after a two-hour discussion that included comments from dozens of community members. The trustees voted 6-1 in favor of renaming the college, with trustee Rachel Spencer dissenting. 

The decision followed the Nov. 10 release of a 64-page report by the Cabrillo College Name Exploration Subcommittee and a seven-member Exploration Advisory Task Force, which included a survey of students, staff and Cabrillo Foundation supporters.

The drive to change the college’s name began in July 2020. As the Black Lives Matter movement grew following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, communities across the U.S. rethought the names and symbols bestowed upon their buildings, landmarks and institutions.

The college’s namesake is Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, known for exploring the west coast of the Americas around 1542, as well as for being a murderous conquerer who enslaved and brutalized the Amah Mutsun people who lived here.

The committee’s recommendation came despite a majority of survey respondents (66.9%) saying they wanted the college to keep its name, with many citing cost and others saying that changing the name would not change the underlying historical issues associated with Cabrillo. 

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But Trustee Adam Spickler said that majority opinions are not always the best for minority communities. He pointed to Proposition 8, which voters passed in 2008, and limited marriage to men and women. A federal court found that law unconstitutional, a decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Spickler also said that a majority of people opposed desegregation in the early days of the Civil Rights movement.

Cabrillo officials will now begin the process of finding a new name, a process that likely will involve voluminous community input and begin in summer 2023.

The overall costs associated with a name change have ranged from $200,000 to $800,000 at other colleges that have done so, Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein said. But these will likely be spread out over several years, he added. 

In explaining her vote, Spencer said that the committee tasked with exploring the name change contained no community members, and thus was “sorely lacking” in a vetting process.

She also said the report shows that a majority of respondents do not support a name change, and that going against that “will divide the community.”


  1. The two-ship Portuguese expedition under the command of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (João Rodrigues Cabrilho) explored northward from Jalisco in 1542, stopping at San Diego Bay on September 28th, San Pedro on October 6, Santa Monica on the 9th, San Buenaventura on the 10th, Santa Barbara on the 13th and Pt. Concepcion on the 17th. Because of adverse winds the expedition turned back at about Santa Maria, harboring at San Miguel Island, and did not progress beyond Santa Maria until November 11. With a favorable wind later that day they reach the “Sierra de San Martin,” probably Cape San Martin and the Santa Lucia Mountains in southern Monterey County. Struck by a storm and blown out to sea, the two vessels are separated and do not rejoin until the 15th, probably near Año Nuevo north of Santa Cruz. The next day they drifted southward, discovering “Bahía de los Pinos”and “Cabo de Pinos.” These are most likely Monterey Bay and Point Pinos. On the 18th they turned south, passing snow-capped mountains (the Santa Lucias), and on November 23 returned to their harbor at San Miguel Island, where they remained for nearly three months. Cabrillo died on January 3, 1543 from a broken arm he suffered in October. On February 18, 1543, the expedition, under the command of Bartolomé Ferrelo, again turns north and, with favorable winds, according to Bancroft, reaches about Cape Mendocino on March 1. There they were caught by a storm and blown all the way back to San Miguel Island by March 5. From there, the expedition turned south, and arrived at Navidad on April 14.

    Cabrillo never landed in the Monterey Bay areal. Never met up with so he could not have “enslaved and brutalized the Amah Mutsun people who lived here”. Don’t let the facts get in your way though and carry on

    • Rather narrow view of how this man lived his life. He was a conquistador who gained his wealth through forced labor that destroyed communities, because he’d rake in the bounty of labor that once sustained the egalitarian communities he preyed on. He was part of a distinct system of destruction, a low affect, sensation seeking person who yearned to dominate and centralize power for the sake of personal versus societal benefits. You narrow in on a detail of dispute – just like people dispute where the came from. and that narrow view ignores the bigger issue. It’s not as if there isn’t enough evidence to confirm his abuses, whether they happened in this area or just Guatemala. The bigger point is, why are we remembering this person and honoring him? We are in a time of reflection where there are people in society who are questioning the habit of calling power seekers heroes. There is nothing heroic about hoarding and violence. There is, however, something heroic about taking a stand and calling out these patterns on thinking and how they influence society as a whole. Given that this community college’s mission is driven by the goal to increase critical thinking, I suggest you enroll in one of their intro. to philosophy classes and present your case, allowing you to understand there is a name for this kind of rhetorical thinking – it’s a fallacious argument – you didn’t prove your premise, you just took us down a distracting trail that muddies the primary point rather than voids the effort. It’s the matter of context versus distinction. If he was not person who enslaved the locals, then for some reason his “type” represents the person who did – do you know the name of that conquistador or missionary?

  2. It’s a ridiculous idea and a waste of money. A lot of our taxes go to Cabrillo. There has to be more important things to spend money on.

    • Seriously? Naming a college after a murderer and rapist is the ridiculous idea.

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  3. What a waste of time/energy/bureaucracy.

    Who cares what the college is called?

    Better to just keep same name to spare confusion.

    • I care and you should educate yourself by asking indigenous communities who cares.

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  4. I think changkng the name is a huge mistake. They are going against the will of the community. Sometimes things gets a little too “PC”…..

  5. I saddened by this decision. I graduated from Cabrillo in 1973 and went on to earn a Bachler’s degree in the state college system. I have many fond memories from my time at Cabrillo and it’s sad that a movement supported by a few is pushing their agenda on the rest of us. And sadder still that the college’s governing board is being weak enough to bow to their ideologic stand.

    • It’s not ideologic stand. It’s a strong, moral imperative. Why would your memories change when the college name does?

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  6. So why do we celebrate George Washington? Because he had slaves, or because he led the USA independency? Talking about critical and philosophical matters, why do we still use these Roman letters and alphabet, and have senators and aqueducts, if the Roman’s enslaved white and blacks, all the defeated ones? Surely we must fight discrimination today, be against slaving, etc., no doubt. I thought though Cabrilho’s name was about discovery and mapping, and astronomical navigation, and naval construction capacities, etc. Taking down Cabrilho’s name is also taking down all the natives from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico, without whom Alta California would not have been mapped. Are they to blame about cruelties half a millenia ago? Or where they that equalitarian? Several of those natives enslaved other tribes and would give those slaves to the Spaniards first. Other natives were cruel cannibals (in Guatemala too) as cruel as the Spanish war dogs. After Cabrilho it took 60 years for Sebastián Vizcaino to visit California again, changing the name San Miguel to San Diego. The Spanish were just sailing down with the winds along the coast of California, wit the rich Manila Galeões crossing the Pacific with merchandise to distribute from Acapulco to Peru. San Diego was only developed as a city 200 years ago. How can Cabrilho be blamed for all of that 200 years later? He did not fight the natives in his exploratory voyage, following such specific instructions, plus he died in the voyage, gave his life to explore the world. You are picking up with the wrong guy. Pedro de Alvarado, or Nuno de Guzman were by far way more cruel than Cabrilho, even considering what was the correct moral of those times. I do not think this acephalous historic revisionism, often lacking detailed knowledge is beneficial to any one. At this rate we will change the name of Washington State, stop using the Roman alphabet, or Arabic numbers (due to the way Islam mistreats women), etc., etc. When judging history nothing will hold as pure to nowadays eyes. To confuse historical misjudgements with the surely needed fight to protect minority or any discrimination today, is not the best way to go in my view. Heroes always need to be seen with telescopes, at distance…both in space and time. We should celebrate the good things from the past, instead of erasing them. It was good to map California, or for the USA to become independent. Ironically in Quito many streets have the names of the European founders; in Nicaragua the currency is the Cordoba, after the Spanish founder of León de Nicaragua – while in neighbor Honduras the currency is the Lempira, after the native fierce chief who fought hard against the Spaniards. Not all natives were angels either…

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