Not exactly a household name, Vasquez was executed in 1875 for the murder of two individuals and is called “probably the most notorious bandit California ever saw” by the University of Southern California library.
With a rap sheet that extended back to his early teens, Vasquez stabbed a constable at the age of 14 and experts believe he actually murdered as many as six people.
Administrators tried desperately to paint Vasquez as someone worthy of an honor, as the school district’s superintendent called him “a revolutionary” and a member of the school’s naming committee claimed “he was framed by the system at that time.”
Continuing the effort to justify naming an elementary school after him, the committee member said Vasquez “took from the rich and gave to the poor” and has seen his character sullied by “history … written by mainstream whites.”
He views the 19th century murderer as “sort of a hero” to the Mexican-American community.
“When you have individuals who have been struggling for so long, dealing with oppression and systematic oppression, then you bring up leaders who have fought against resistance,” he said, “of course they’re going to be role models to you.”
Salinas already suffers from a high crime rate so there must be a whole lot of resistance going on here. The homicide rate in Salinas tripled since 1991. There were 200 armed robberies last year, 174 non-armed robberies, 694 aggravated assaults, 22 cases of arson and 1,163 stolen cars and 1,10 burglaries. Or as Salinas school administrators call them, acts of resistance.
But naming a single school after Tiburcio Vasquez isn’t enough. If you’re sick, then you can always stop by the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center where their motto is “We believe that all people have a right to quality health care, regardless of their ability to pay.”