.Watsonville Speaks Out at Cabrillo Renaming

Watsonville residents say the name Aptos, a previous top choice for Cabrillo Colleges' new name, symbolizes affluence and racism.

The weight of history changed the focus of debate as community involvement in the Cabrillo College name change continued at the Watsonville campus on June 28.
In a long and emotional open forum, speaker after speaker explained how the name Aptos has come to symbolize privilege and exclusion, despite its origins in indigenous language and culture.

Aptos had previously appeared to be a favored choice in the first renaming contest on June 14.

Around 30 Watsonville citizens attended the meeting, the second in a series of community input on changing the institution’s name given Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s, the college’s namesake, unacceptable colonial legacy.

Cabrillo president Matt Wetstein explained the pros and cons of the five names selected by a Board of Trustees appointed community task force: Aptos College, Cajastaca College, Costa Vista College, Seacliff College, and Santa Cruz Coast College.

During what Wetstein called a “gallery walk” past posterboards displaying each name, attendees placed sticky notes on each with written opinions and preferences.
Following the note-placing, attendees were offered an opportunity to voice opinions for or against each name.

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The first participants were in favor of the name Aptos, citing its native American roots and translation as “the people.”

As the fourth speaker shared his thoughts, a previously unheard but deeply felt opinion emerged, associating the name Aptos with “affluence and racism toward Watsonville.”

A former student of Rolling Hills Middle School admitted that the name conjured feelings of “divisiveness” while reluctantly accepting Aptos as a potential second choice.

Andrea Ponce, 22, a Watsonville native and Cabrillo student, was the youngest person in attendance. Though thankful for the work the renaming committees have done, she admitted to being “not too thrilled with the outcome.”

Ponce was the most specific in voicing her opposition to Aptos as a choice. She described her memories of Aptos High as a time when her friends segregated themselves to feel comfortable, and where, if you played Latin music, Anglo students would look at you “like you’re weird.”

“The last thing I want,” she said, “is the segregation in any of these three names, Aptos, Santa Cruz, Seacliff.”

She voiced her belief that a new name should speak to generations to come of who we are now. She offered her support for Costa Vista as a name that reflected the college’s commitment to serving the Latinx community. Other attendees also voiced support for Costa Vista College, praising the name for being the only Spanish language choice in the mix.

Cajastaca quickly emerged as the most popular name, despite a debate over how it might be spelled differently to make its proper pronunciation, caya-stah-kah, easier to interpret.

Attendees rejected Seacliff College for its representation of an affluent enclave.

As anticipated by the trustees in their pros and cons, Santa Cruz was judged by most as tied to colonial oppression and as undesirable.

The name changing process that began in 2020 with a petition from students, faculty, and community members will conclude with a final choice announced on August 7.

The cost of renaming the college will be paid through grants and donations, and the new name will become official in July 2024.

Future Meetings:
The next public forum to discuss a new name for Cabrillo College will be held at 6 p.m. July 12 at the Felton Library, 6121 Gushee St., Felton.


  1. Sounds more like “Jack-a-lope”! Please consider my great uncle Ralph D Mattison who lived in Aptos for 102 years. He was a 3rd Geneeation Native. His father was a politician, whom he accompanied to San Francisco many times. Ralph owned Vinegar Plant(with Lamp Pon), in Aptos, near Bayview Hotel & Mushroom Factory in Soquel. He was the 1st Fire Chief, which, by aid of horse drawn water trucks, put out the Bayview Hotel fire. He also owned Cement Ship 1 year, as owner needed $500. State took away the ship from him & owner of Ship never paid my great uncle back. His family “donated” land that Cabrillo College now stands on. I could add more if needed. Please don’t name college after a Jack rabbit! Keep our History & check out the Aptos Museum!

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  2. While I like Cajastaca, it will be a complete nightmare for anyone who works there to have to forevermore try to say and spell it for every vendor and other contact that they have. Ask anyone who works there and they will prob tell you that. Any place name such as Santa Cruz, Aptos, Seacliff is not inclusive of the rest of the County. Costa Vista is easy to say and spell and includes all of our costal folks. Just saying.

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  3. Agree with Andrea Ponce’s good points, and with the former RHMS student.
    Thank you for speaking out, students. I am a former Cabrillo student, and agree with you.

    I also like Cajastaca, but would like to hear from people most familiar with its best translations and meanings. Speaking of translations, according to KSBW and other sources, “Costa Vista roughly translates to “coast view” in Spanish. The subcommittee was quick to point out that the actual translation of coast view would be closer to “vista de la costa.” As a college, how important is this to us? I would be especially happy to hear replies from native Spanish speakers here.

    I think the process should just simply start over at this point. Too many choices are reluctant. Many people are out of town for summer meetings. Unless they are recorded, and available remotely, with some means of participation, this is a discussion that logically should take place during the school year, right?

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