New Salinas School's Namesake Is Outlaw -- Or Hero

New school named for bandido hanged in 1875

By Chris Roberts
|  Wednesday, Jan 2, 2013  |  Updated 9:14 AM PDT
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Some schools are named after presidents, some schools are named after astronauts. Some students have no idea who their school is named for, but when it opens, students at Tiburcio Vasquez Elementary in Salinas will attend classes in hallways named for an outlaw and bandido.

Tiburcio Vasquez was hanged for murder in the 19th century, according to the Associated Press, so there are some who feel naming Salinas's newest school after him "glorifies crime." There are others who see him as a Mexican-American and Latino icon, and in a city that is two-thirds Latino, he is a source of cultural pride and "opposition to discrimination," the local school superintendent says.

The school is in Alisal, Salinas's poorest neighborhood, where most residents are farm workers who pick the lettuce, spinach and other crops in the "Salad Bowl Of the World," the news agency reported. They are almost all of Mexican descent.

The school named after Vasquez is to be completed in June, and will be a magnet school where each student will receive a tablet computer. So it'll be good for the students when they're inside.

Vasquez is considered a hero or freedom fighter by some despite his death by hanging in San Jose in 1875. He was from a prominent Californio family, one of the Mexican nationals who lived in the area before it became part of the United States and a target for economic opportunity worldwide during the Gold Rush.

Californios lost their land and their hegemony "overnight" to white settlers, and became "second-class citizens," the AP reported. Vasquez opposed this, building his folk hero status.

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