The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District has agreed to hold future discussions regarding the use of one of Christopher Columbus’ ships in its logo, and the issue also surfaced during the public comment portion of a Santa Maria City Council meeting. 

The discussion was initiated by Santa Maria resident and Hancock College professor Scott Fina, who said the use of the logo is demeaning, considering Columbus’ inhumane treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Americas.

While the city name “Santa Maria” is historically known to have come from early settler Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, who arrived in the region on the Feast Day of Mary in 1856, both the high school district and City Council adopted the image of Columbus’ ship by the same name as their logo in the 1960s and 70s, respectively.

“This was decades ago, before accurate accounts of Columbus’s activities in the Americas became common knowledge. However, and with all due respect, I question the appropriateness of the continued use of Columbus’s ship to represent the city of Santa Maria,” Fina said in a letter to the City Council, penning similar concerns to the district board. 


Seniors in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District could be invited back to campus as soon as April 19 for hybrid learning, the Board of Education decided at their Wednesday meeting. 

Imagery of the ship, which sailed to the Bahamas in 1492, has become widespread throughout the city, with several murals of the ship described as representing the city’s “positive, bold and enterprising spirit unafraid of the challenge and sailing into the future.”

City spokesman Mark van de Kamp said Fina’s comments will be introduced at Thursday’s meeting of the City Council, with no further discussion of the topic by the council planned at this time. 

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Fina’s letter to the district also referenced the large number of Indigenous students among the high schools’ population, and the disrespect communicated by the logo.

“I argue that the [district] logo is an unintended but undeniable affront to a number of students in the district and their families, who are of Mixtec and Zapotec ethnicity,” Fina said.

Board members in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District introduced the topic at their Wednesday meeting, and agreed to continue discussions of the appropriateness of the logo to a future session. 

“As well, I would add the opportunity for each of the sites to look at their own mascots and see if they still find them relevant,” board member Carol Karamitsos said. 

In recognition of the troubling history surrounding Columbus, monuments and celebrations recognizing the Italian explorer have been phased out in recent years throughout California and the United States. A statue of Columbus featured in the state Capitol Rotunda in Sacramento was removed in July.

This story has been updated to correct the position of the Santa Maria City Council.