Chicano Commencement

In 1968, the Latino community in San Jose, California, began to protest what it saw. It saw San Jose State University, a university with over 20,000 students, planning for a ceremony for over 3,000 graduating students. Sadly, perhaps less than 20 of those graduates were Mexican American. Seeing this, hundreds of community members chose to hold a mass protest outside the stadium where the ceremony was to be held. Inside, about five young “Chicano” graduates chose to “walk-out” in the middle of the ceremony to help dramatize their concerns. These things were done in an effort to bring attention to the underrepresentation of Latinos and others in all higher education and to the apparent lack of concern for their educational needs by colleges, universities and by government.

Remember, in those times, there were no public financial aid programs and student support services, as we know them. However, most underrepresented first-generation students in higher education today do receive public support. And, most low-income students who wish to attend college today can receive financial aid.

The following year (1969) about 25 graduating Latino students at San Jose State University, rather than stage a walk-out, announced that they would hold a separate ceremony, which they labeled “Chicano Commencement.” Yes, it was an opportunity to hold a culturally relevant celebration with Mariachi music, Mexican food, etc. But, more importantly, it was primarily held to bring attention to what they saw as a continued lack of commitment by universities and by the government to meet the educational needs of the growing Chicano community. In the years to follow, students at many colleges and universities across California and the United States began to hold similar events called “Chicano Commencements.”

Chicano Commencement began as a form of protest. But, now more than 40 years later, nationally Chicano Commencement has clearly become a time to celebrate. It is a celebration of the Latino struggle in higher education and of growing academic success of all underrepresented communities.

Today this is our “success story.”

Dr. Thomás Martinez
Professor, Public Administration

Note: CSU, Bakersfield M.E.Ch.A. first celebrated its 1st Chicano Commencement in the Spring of 1980.

Open Quote
"Chicanismo is a concept that integrates self-awareness with cultural identity, a necessary step in developing political consciousness. Therefore, the term Chicano is grounded in a philosophy, not a nationality.” Close Quote
-M.E.Ch.A. Philosophy

42nd Annual Chicano Commencement

Commencement Celebration 2024
Friday, May 10, 2024
Icardo Center | 5:00 p.m.


January 22, 2024

Faculty interested in participating as a distinguished members of the Chicano Commencement Celebration Platform Party are encouraged to send an email of interest to the staff coordinators listed below. This is a ticketed event. 

Contact Information

M.E.Ch.A. President

Omar Correa