An elementary school has been named after an infamous murderer believed to be one of the first gangsters in California – infuriating some parents and law enforcement officers.
The Alisal Union School District in Salinas agreed to name the new school in honor of Tiburcio Vasquez – who was eventually hanged for killing at least two people in the nineteenth century.
Superintendent John Ramirez defended the board’s decision telling Fox News that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
“Tiburcio Vasquez, along with others, was an individual who was a revolutionary,” Ramierz said. “He was not okay with the oppression.”
Vasquez “was probably the most notorious bandit California ever saw,” according to the University of Southern California library. He was 14-years-old when he committed his first crime – stabbing a constable.
In 1875 Vasquez was convicted of two murders and subsequently hanged. Other historical records indicate he may have killed as many as six people – including a law enforcement officer.
“He took from the rich and gave to the poor,” Francisco Estrada told KION. “He was your inspiration of Zorro.”
Estrada sat on the naming committee for the new elementary school and said the convicted murderer was a good man who should be a model to the youth of East Salinas.
He said Vasquez was simply misunderstood.
“Mr. Vasquez, number one, was not a murderer,” he told the television station. “He was framed by the system at that time.”
“The history was written by mainstream whites,” he said. “It wasn’t written by Californians or people of Mexican descent. When do we have our history written by us? When do we stop having our heroes branded as villains?”
Ramirez told Fox News that Vasquez is a role model to Mexican-Americans.
“When you have individuals who have been struggling for so long, dealing with oppression and systematic opporession, then you bring up leaders who have fought against resistance, of course they are going to be role models to you,” he told Fox News. “Vasquez is an indivdual who did that prior to us — who can be sort of a hero to us.”
But some local officials said they have a problem with naming a school after a violent criminal.
“You would not name a school Charles Manson Elementary, Ted Bundy Middle School or Bernie Madoff High,” one parent told the school board.