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Education

South Texas Students, Lawmakers Take Issue With UT-RGV Mascot

The new president for the University of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley campus approved “Vaquero” as the university’s mascot despite a backlash from students, alumni and South Texas lawmakers. 

UT’s Board of Regents set up its Rio Grande Valley campus as a way to grow their South Texas institutions. They merged UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American, and added a new medical school for the region. Part of that transition involved coming up with a new mascot and school colors.

But a unilateral move to name that mascot the “Vaqueros” by UT-RGV’s President, Guy Bailey, has thousands of students and even some lawmakers concerned. They allege that the Spanish-term for cowboy is gender-biased and could, in addition, lead to an insensitive portrayal and stereotyping of Latinos.

Meanwhile, UT-Pan American alum Alex Del Barrio has collected 10,000 signatures of protest and kicked off an ongoing social media campaign aimed at changing the mascot name to the “Broncs.” Bucky the Bronc, incidentally, was the longtime mascot of UT-Pan Am.

“A mascot isn’t just a name, it isn’t something that stands as a statue in the middle of the quad, it’s something that becomes a digitized cartoon image as the emblem of the athletic program. And when you choose something A) in Spanish and B) something that can be associated with images from the 'Three Amigos,' we saw that haciendo sombrero become UT-RGV’s new cap and gown, said Del Barrio.”

Officials with the UT system said the president of the Rio Grande Valley campus simply wanted to create a new identity for students.

State lawmakers like Edinburg Democratic Rep. Terry Canales are now also weighing in, and have asked the Board of Regents to reject branding the school as the Vaqueros.