Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

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By Rachel Aarons and Miguel Rodriguez for the Dolores Huerta Street Renaming Project

Neal Graffy is a well-known historian in the Santa Barbara community who is deserving of respect for his knowledge and love of history. The Dolores Huerta Street Renaming Project cited material from his book on Street Names in Santa Barbara in its brief submitted to the Mayor and Council on May 5th, 2020. In the Research section of that brief, there is detailed information about Andrés Pico, the person that San Andres Street is named after. Of course, this extensive information could not be included in a public flyer which is the sole basis of Mr. Graffy’s recent opinion piece in Edhat. In this piece, he adds some fascinating background about the military exploits of Andrés Pico during the Mexican American War.

What is not included in his article is the fact that, after the war, Andrés Pico became a United States citizen and made a fortune on the 60,000 acres of land allotted to him by his brother, Pio Pico. This was land annexed from Mexican owners as spoils of war which were taken over and became part of California. We have to ask: how would people of Mexican heritage feel about honoring a man who became fabulously wealthy from receipt of lands belonging to their ancestors?

Currently, there is a wave of protest across this entire country directed at figures in history who represent painful reminders to black people of their enslavement, disenfranchisement and violence. Statues, flags, memorial plaques and street names of Confederate leaders are being removed in many locations across the United States. This is part of a long overdue social justice movement to end the celebration of shameful periods of our history that do not deserve to be commemorated. It is not that the history is false; it is just that it is no longer considered worthy of honor. In fact, on the contrary, it is symbolic of white supremacy which deeply undermines the rights and inherent value of marginalized peoples, whether they be Black, Latinx, Native American, or other Americans of color.

As an example, it is a matter of history that there was a dead Indian found in the location of Indio Muerto Street. But this is no reason to retain this offensive street name. In fact, the Indio Muerto Street Renaming Project makes the point that:  “Because racism still exists in Santa Barbara, California, and in the USA, we need to stand up to ensure that Black Lives do matter, that Indigenous self-determination is honored, and that all manifestations of institutionalized racism are challenged and eliminated no matter what form it takes nor what people and groups support racism.” [Marcus Lopez, Letter to Mayor, June 15, 2020.]

“Calle Dolores Huerta” would give public recognition to a Latina hero who has devoted her life to promoting the rights of the poor and demanding their access to decent living and working conditions. For this reason, she is one of five distinguished honorees as 2020 RFK Ripple of Hope Laureates including Dr. Anthony Fauci.

As for the designation “Saint Andrew” given to Andrés Pico, is it acceptable to pay homage to a military leader by conferring sainthood on him?  Is this to be passed off as “humorous”? If one wants to convey distinction to a military leader, one raises his rank. One does not dub him a saint. Can you imagine saying “Saint Robert E. Lee” or “Saint Ulysses S. Grant”? Sainthood is a religious honor to be taken seriously. The process of canonization is rigorous and demanding, sometimes taking hundreds of years to complete. It is at best irreverent and at worst offensive to the Catholic faith to apply this designation so inappropriately.

Frequently, people mispronounce the name San Andrés as San Andreas, raising unpleasant reminders of the San Andreas fault and the frightening prospect of lost lives. It might be better to be reminded of gardens with, as Mr. Graffy says, “a slight play“ on Dolores Huerta’s last name.

His suggestion that we name a garden after Dolores Huerta might not have been intended to be demeaning to this iconic figure in history. However, considering the way that women have been erased from history for centuries, often deliberately, this implication must be addressed. Male figures dominate the cultural landscape so completely that they overshadow, even obliterate, the accomplishments of women. In the specific case of the City of Santa Barbara, are there any streets named after important women in history?  Dolores herself raised this question in her interview on KEYT news [July 15/20]. We are hard put to provide an answer. The naming of a street after Dolores Huerta would be a critical step in the direction of gaining gender equity. To be able to correct an unfortunate gender bias in this city that gives recognition to César Chávez and none to the co-partner who worked alongside him was a major incentive for this project. We have an opportunity to make a public statement of the equal importance of women’s work with that of men’s. Let us choose to honor a woman who fought for social justice her whole life rather than a man who fought in a 10 to 15 minute battle [Graffy, Edhat, August 8, 2020].

The treaty that Andrés Pico negotiated benefited the landed elite - those with property and wealth - and he became one of them. Dolores, on the other hand, worked for the poor and dispossessed – those who had no land and no wealth. This is a significant difference in legacy that is not primarily about race but about class. Do we give precedence to the elite propertied class or to the poor disadvantaged workers? It is the legacy of Dolores Huerta that is more closely aligned with the current Black Lives Matter movement in this country than the ethnic make-up of Andrés Pico. Are we speaking for the rich or for the poor? Which legacy do we want to honor? 

We cannot eradicate history but we can choose not to celebrate it. We can move forward with the values we are advocating today in the direction of inclusion and promotion of diversity. We agree with Mr. Graffy that we should create something for future generations to embrace as part of our community’s legacy. Dolores Huerta represents the inherent value of women’s work and the significance of social justice over military exploits. She spent years helping the laboring poor and training leaders to fight for equity and human rights in Santa Barbara and throughout California. Calle Dolores Huerta is the perfect symbol for future generations to be proud of.


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a-1597562328 Aug 16, 2020 12:18 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

The committee has been working with the City for months, gathering documents, petitions, etc., etc. They are presenting their case August 24 at a NAC meeting like the one on August 10 on the Indio Muerto St.

a-1597677338 Aug 17, 2020 08:15 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

I could only find the following for private development street name chances in the SBMC:
22.48.090 Change of Private Street Name.
Whenever it is ascertained by the Subdivision Review Committee that the existing name of any private street or way should be changed to avoid duplication of or confusion with the names of public streets, such Committee may adopt a resolution proposing a new name to be designated for such private street or way and submit the same to the City Council for action. The procedure for such change of name by the City Council shall be the same, as near as may be, as that provided by Section 970.5 of the Streets and Highways Code or any comparable section for change of name by County action. Upon the adoption of a resolution changing such name, notices thereof shall be sent as provided in Section 22.48.080 of this chapter. (Ord. 4090, 1980; Ord. 3249 §2, 1967)

a-1597537635 Aug 15, 2020 05:27 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

I don't think anyone was proclaiming him a saint. He was a person of note in California history, whether you like the role he played or not. I think the biggest problem your committee had is you picked the WRONG street to try your name change on. You did not take into account the inconvenience and cost to residents and businesses this name change would cause. Also you want to change the "main drag" of the Westside and therefore part of the identity of the neighborhood. You should have done a COMPREHENSIVE survey of the residents/businesses who actually live/work on San Andres to find out how they felt. I think it is apparent that Westsiders stick together.

REX OF SB Aug 15, 2020 05:31 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

This "woke" shit is getting very, very old. We have plenty of local people who deserve to have streets named after them. And if we're going for out-of-towners, I can think of plenty of them who should be recognized before Ms. Huerta, who has absolutely zero local ties.

Ahchooo Aug 15, 2020 06:09 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

The saint issue is kinda silly. Many residents don’t care a bit about Catholic sainthood, official or honorary. In fact, maybe we should get rid of all the San This and Santa Thats because they have religious significance for only one religion? Nah, that would be silly too. Leave San Andres Street alone and spend your energies finding a better way to honor Ms Huerta.

REX OF SB Aug 15, 2020 07:59 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

The committee wanting to rename San Andres St. to Calle Dolores Huerta has withdrawn their application. NAC meeting scheduled for August 24 to review proposal has been cancelled. San Andres St. will remain San Andres St. Hallelujah!

dukemunson Aug 15, 2020 08:13 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

There have been some classic quotes over the years on Edhat... but this is an Instant classic! Best laugh of the day!!!! “ Frequently, people mispronounce the name San Andrés as San Andreas, raising unpleasant reminders of the San Andreas fault and the frightening prospect of lost lives.”

GrammaSB Aug 15, 2020 08:53 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

Interesting they withdrew their application. Goes to show strength in #s. Good job supporters in opposition to this attempt. We can't change history it is what it is! Too much good energy being wasted people wanting to ( what I consider ) change the past, if you don't like it don't follow it.
If you don't like the street names of a city the don't live there. You are going to find a multitude of catholic oriented names all over California b\c of the history right or wrong it is what it is.
Great News!

MR2 Aug 16, 2020 01:17 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

What's so bad about being rich and not a saint?

"Annexed as spoils of war" is BS. Under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the US honored private land ownership, and offered them full US citizenship. In reality, some owners got screwed, but ~600 of the ~800 ranchos in California were kept by their original Mexican grantees.

Andres bought half of Ranch San Fernando from the original grantee, Eulogio de Celis, of Spain. It was granted to Eulogio by Pio. Andres bought half of it later, and it was later taken back by the US federal government, and recognized as belonging to Eulogio.

Justbeachy Aug 16, 2020 08:59 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

I'm all for recognizing and celebrating ALL that have made positive and often heroic contributions to our town, Country, environment and humanity.

That being said, renaming streets is a massive undertaking and hughly expensive. It is far more than a few street signs. All legal records including property tax rolls, every map, post office, delivery and courier services, stationary, business forms, bank records, utilities, VOTERS REGISTRATIONS. That's just a few of the changes and only the local level, the State would need to make the same changes and more. The list is endless and not at all easy or efficient.

I live a couple of blocks off San Andres and I can tell you first hand that the money that it would take to change the street name would be much better spent on neighborhood improvement. Use the money for a family park and name it after Doleres, make a place of beauty where people from the community come together to celebrate. Changing the name of a street will create hardship, is that the best way to memorialize Dolores?

a-1597594282 Aug 16, 2020 09:11 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

Adopt the Anapamu Pedestrian Overpass. It badly needs to be a showcase of city pride and the symbolic bridging among our diverse communities. But make sure it honors someone locally who worked here to make a difference, and actually did make a difference. And conforms with the city policy on naming streets, parks monuments etc.

a-1597647939 Aug 17, 2020 12:05 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

You’re wrong. The City notifies all its departments, as well as the County. Then the County notifies all its departments. The USPS gives free, automatic forwarding for 18 months. By then, all large companies (credit cards, banks, utilities, etc.) have updated their addressing software to match that of the USPS. Most companies do that quarterly.

a-1597608315 Aug 16, 2020 01:05 PM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

If you think Street names are controversial, wait until we discuss proposed and new "Landlord rules" and the attacks on private property-bound to be the next absurd and dangerous think. Older people live on these supplements to Social Security, and many cut rents and reduced them for COVID-19 compassion. However, the other rules proposed--paying for relocation if they improve property is pretty outrageous. There needs to be special funding for this period of struggle for both landlords
(actually hate that word) owners... and tenants that support both during pandemic. No unnecessary evictions. And, low income at 15% on new projects? It should be the other way around if "lives" of all colors matter to us. These are our workers/ workforce being evicted from a possible middle class livelihood. Will this become " a destination wage- slave site" catering to our new rich who need them , with all their mansions and gardens? Noveau-rich? They are already so engaged in fundraising other's money, crying about deficits for great programs,and changing history and street names!!!

PitMix Aug 17, 2020 09:34 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

Well, the issue has been raised so probably the next new public thing that gets built or dedicated in this town will have the name of Huerta attached. Too many naysayers and change-resisters to get something renamed in a residential neighborhood.

a-1597684613 Aug 17, 2020 10:16 AM
Op-Ed: Andrés Pico was Very Rich and Definitely Not a Saint

I'll bet if you did a local consensus of who should have things named after them, Huerta wouldn't even be in the Top Ten. The entire Huerta agenda seems to be pushed by only two men. I question whether they are "the voice of the community."

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