|BROWNSVILLE, November 9 - State Rep. René Oliveira is the latest Rio Grande Valley leader to offer his support for the name chosen for the UT-Rio Grande Valley mascot – Vaquero.
“I think the ‘Vaquero’ is very appropriate. It is reflective of the Valley’s rural, ranching, Spanish, Mexican, and Texas cultures. Most importantly for an athletic mascot, it symbolizes the toughness of the people who settled the Valley,” said Oliveira, D-Brownsville.
Oliveira is aware there has been come criticism of the name “Vaquero’ on social media but hopes students, parents alumni, staff and faculty will get behind the new mascot name, the new university and its founding president, Guy Bailey.
“We are well on our way to building a great, new university. We are providing more educational opportunities and building a medical school. I am certain that our graduates will accomplish great things,” Oliveira said.
Bailey chose the name “Vaquero” and it was confirmed unanimously by the UT System’s board of regents last week. Bailey said he wanted a name for the mascot that reflected the tradition and history of South Texas.
“I truly believe it was imperative to recommend something that is authentic to the Rio Grande Valley, represents the spirit of South Texas and can be embraced by the entire region,” Bailey said.
Bailey pointed out that vaqueros were the horsemen and cattle herders who laid the foundation for the North American cowboy and cowboy culture. “There is no more iconic figure in American lore than the cowboy and that iconic figure was born in the Rio Grande Valley,” Bailey told reporters.
Tejano historian José “Joe” López, a regular columnist for the Rio Grande Guardian, said Bailey is correct.
“Chances are that if you have a Spanish last name and you originate in Texas, your earliest ancestors developed the vaquero way of life. Indeed, their very survival depended on it. While that is true throughout our state, it is especially true in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. So, Texans who qualify should feel much honored to claim that distinction in their genealogy,” López wrote, in his latest column for the Guardian,
López said that so important to the founding of our state, the word “Vaquero” symbolizes the most important of Texas icons.” Even the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team”, have their team name’s roots in the word vaquero,” López pointed out.
“’Vaquero’ is embedded in the Rio Grande Valley. Most young people are unaware that the entire South Texas region was once part of the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and its rich vaquero traditions. Nor are they aware that key pieces in the mainstream Texas history puzzle, missing since 1848, are just now re-surfacing, such as the Tejano Monument in Austin,” López said.
“Learning anew of their heritage, modern-day students will find out the reasons why their earliest roots in Texas lead to the honorable vaquero. The truth is that it was honest, hard work. The unique occupation enjoyed a dignified, respectful reputation and lifestyle in early Texas.”
The main campuses for UTRGV will be in Edinburg and Brownsville. The mayors of these major Valley cities have thrown their support behind Bailey and his name for the new university.
“Choosing a mascot clearly was not an easy decision. I am personally grateful that the students, alumni and public were allowed to provide input,” said Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez. “Now that the decision has been made, it is time to move forward, to support and promote UTRGV and its mascot and to work together to make UTRGV a premier university in South Texas.”
Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia expressed a similar view. “I will always be proud of being a Bronc, but I’m extremely excited about the opportunities that UTRGV brings to our students and the entire region,” Garcia said. “So, I will personally support the UTRGV mascot and the leadership in this new era.”
One of the most vocal opponents of the naming of “Vaquero” as the UTRGV mascot has been state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. Canales wanted UTRGV to retain UT-Pan American’s mascot name – the Broncs. “The term ‘vaqueros’ is not indicative of who we are and I think it’s going to become a joke to some degree,” Canales told KURV Radio last week. He said he might try to take up the issue in the next legislative session.
Retaining UTPA's "Bucky" the "Bronc" was always highly unlikely because, for one thing, it would have probably caused uproar among many students, staff and faculty at UT-Brownsville. UTB’s mascot is the “Ocelot.”
Bailey told reporters last week it is a good sign the name of the mascot is generating fierce debate. He said it shows passion. He may now find he has two immediate tasks at hand. One may be to get UTPA faculty and staff that had been campaigning for retention of the “Broncs” to drop it. The other may be to get UTPA alumni who had threatened to pull their financial support from the new university over the mascot issue to chill out.
Those who want to retain the “Broncs” or at least block adoption of the name “Vaquero” for the UTRGV mascot claim to have attracted more than 6,000 online signatures. They plan a protest on the UTPA campus for Monday.
Alberto Adame, student government president of UTPA, hopes critics of the naming of the “Vaquero” as UTRGV mascot will take a deep breath and think about creating new traditions at a new university with much greater ambition and resources than UTPA or UTB ever possessed.
“We will always honor the legacies of the past. Our history is important and it will not be forgotten,” Adame said. “I think the Vaquero is a perfect choice that represents South Texas and honors our past and the region’s impact on the state.”
Bailey chose the colors green and blue for the UTRGV colors, with a hint of burnt orange thrown in as a way of connecting with the UT System. UTPA’s colors are green and burnt orange. UTB’s colors are blue and burnt orange.