Chicana, Chicano Studies helps students for more than 50 years

Plaque outside of Chicana, Chicano Studies room.

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Plaque outside of Chicana, Chicano Studies room.

by Juniper Perkins, Staff Writer

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San Diego State’s Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary this school year with several cultural events on campus. 

The department was founded in 1969 after groups of Chicanx students, faculty and community members participated in drafting and signing the Plan de Santa Bárbara, which created blueprints for the inclusion of Chicanx history in higher education. In the fall of 1969, the department’s first class was scheduled, making history as the first of its kind. 

“We’re an example of visionary youth who had a dream and they did it,” Associate Professor Victoria González-Rivera said. “Young people really are at the forefront of what we do.” 

Today, the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies focuses on teaching the history, culture and contributions of Mexican Americans as well as other Latinx groups. The department offers a major, two minors and a certificate in U.S.-Mexico border studies. It has also maintained a Chicana and Chicano History Archive on activism since 2007 as well as a Chicano Collection that has accumulated over 3,000 books since the 1970s. 

“I’m very proud that my department has persisted, has thrived and has been working on this campus for 50 years,” Associate Professor, Undergraduate Advisor and Department Chair María Ibarra said. “We do so many important things with our students. We engage in a whole range of research and also work with our various communities for programming and collaborations.”

Ibarra was elected chair this year, but she’s taught at SDSU for 23 years. Her colleague González-Rivera has taught at SDSU since 2005. 

“We’re different from other departments in that we are very connected to the surrounding communities and we respond to them,” González-Rivera said. “It’s very fashionable to speak about student-centered teaching, but in many ways our departments are the model of that.” 

To commemorate its history and accomplishments, the department organized numerous entertaining, educational events throughout the school year. 

The events started on Sept. 27 with the first showing of the play “Just Like Us,” a show that details the lives of four Latina teenagers from their senior year of high school to their first year of college. The last showing will be on Oct. 6. 

More events are set to take place during the remainder of the semester. There will be an International Academic Conference on 50 Years of Chicana/o Studies held from Oct. 10 to 12 in Tijuana. Performance troupe Culture Clash will present a satirical set on Oct. 15 in the Aztec Student Union Theatre. Multiple research projects conducted by students and faculty alike will also be displayed on various dates.

A Day of the Dead altar will be on display from Nov. 1 to 15 with a special program opening day about the meaning of the holiday and to honor the individuals pictured at the altar. 

Ibarra said it’s been a privilege to be a part of this department and to have met its founding members. 

“It’s that sharing and that joy of having created something or in having taken something that was very useful,” she said. “It’s also a very good moment in looking towards the future.” 

Ibarra said she hopes to better serve students by investing in areas such as education and art. She also wants the department to continue maintaining and accumulating resources to add to their archive and collection. 

González-Rivera wants to continue educating students about Chicanx history and issues affecting them today. 

“Some people might think we focus on a very narrow subject as a department,” González-Rivera said. “But I like to tell my students that the history of Chicano students is the history of everyone.” 

More information about the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, its history and upcoming events can be found on their website

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