The warrior ethos is alive and well elsewhere in America. Last week, the student body at San Diego State University voted 78% to 22% to retain an Aztec warrior as the school’s mascot, despite complaints that the students weren’t being “sensitive about the inappropriate use of a figure from [a minority] culture,” as Douglas Oden, president of the San Diego chapter of the NAACP told the Los Angeles Times.
The new Aztec warrior is a revamped and more politically correct version of Monty Montezuma, a beloved halftime figure since 1926 for the San Diego State football team, which calls itself, as you might expect, the Aztecs. Monty, played since 1993 by San Diego State alum Carlos Gutierrez, was a hunk. Usually clad only in a loincloth and sporting a giant feather headdress, Monty turned cartwheels and ran onto the field with a flaming spear. But in 2000, the university’s president, Stephen L. Weber, forcibly retired Monty as culturally offensive. Weber even removed a ferociously grinning image of the last of the Aztec emperors from the team’s logo. Monty, subsidized by donations from alumni, continued to appear at games, but university regulations barred him from the field.
The new Aztecs mascot is no longer a king but rather, in the interests of democracy (I guess), an ordinary warrior, a sort of Aztec GI Joe. His new attire is also more modest, consisting of a leather-(or maybe feather-)pcovered-up chest and something that looks like a pair of drawers instead of a loincloth. Gone is the flaming spear, too, replaced by a small javelin. No more huge feather headdress for the new warrior, either, who instead wears something that looks like an oversized parrot perching on his forehead. What with the parrot’s beak blocking the warrior’s view and that tiny spear as his only weapon, no wonder Cortez creamed the Aztec army in 1519 with only 500 men and a few rusty muskets.
When the new generic Aztec was unveiled at San Diego State last year, many students complained that the redesigned mascot was “ugly.” But even a wimpy warrior is better than no warrior at all, and both students and alums were embarrassed that theirs was the only Division 1 team with no mascot at all. Gutierrez has gamely agreed to play his role in the new costume. That hasn’t stopped the activists, however. Next Native American cultural symbols ripe for banishment from the nation’s football fields: Chief Illiniweek of the University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus, and of course, the Chief Wahoo yell of Atlanta Braves fans.