The Cal State Long Beach 27th Chicano Latino Graduation introduced a second ceremony to accommodate the high volume of Latino graduates.
The two ceremonies took place at the Walter Pyramid on Sunday. Both ceremonies totaled nearly 700 students, though the total number of Latino graduates is upwards of 3,000 students, according to Latino Student Union Vice President Emelyne Camacho. Camacho is a Chicano and Latino Studies major who spearheaded the organization of the ceremonies.
“The students don’t have to help, but I feel like if it wasn’t for the students trying to help out … there wouldn’t be these little details in the ceremony,” Camacho said.
Various Latino student organizations such as La Raza Student Organization, Hispanic Student Business Association and the Chicano Latino Studies Student Association contributed to the planning for both graduations under the umbrella of LSU, which is responsible for putting together the ceremony and performances.
A handful of those details came to light in the performances that took place before the ceremony. The performances included Los Graduados de Playa Larga, a Norteno group composed of four CSULB students, as well as Grupo Folklorico Mexica CSULB. Camacho said that both performers were chosen partly because student organizers wanted to support Latino student artists on campus by providing them with a platform to showcase their art.
“I wanted the parents to see the organizations that are on campus,” Camacho said. “I think it’s a really bold statement for people to get 700 students to participate in the graduation and break down [Latino] stereotypes.”
The ceremony began with traditional folklorico dancing, a salsa performance by CSULB Salsa Club and norteno music from Los Graduados de Playa Larga to carry the Latino vibes throughout the crowd.
Graduates walked into the ceremony to the beat of Aztec drums and traditional Aztec dances as the mistresses of the ceremony made her opening remarks.
“I think it’s great that the college honors that we are all different, we all are proud of our cultures so [the graduates] voluntarily sign up for these graduations to support our culture,” said Limairy Molina, journalism major and a mistress of ceremony.
This year, part-time lecturer and CSULB alumnus Alfredo Carlos served as the Grand Marshal who led both graduations.
Though Carlos is optimistic about the increased number of Latino graduates, he said that it’s important to use this milestone as a way to seek out further socio-economic equality for people of color — namely, Latinos.
“It serves as a point for us to look back and really kind of interrogate what that really means. So we’re graduating more Latinos, which is historically a great thing — but is it enough to graduate Latinos?” Carlos said.
Carlos elaborated on this sentiment with his echoing question to the graduates, “Why are you here?”
Robert Garcia, mayor of Long Beach and fellow CSULB alumnus, gave the keynote speech and echoed a similar message. “We’re going to be called a lot of names…but we all know that we are so much different than what some folks call us,” he said. “The truth is, as latinos and latinas we’re doctors, we’re teachers, we’re business people, we’re social workers..we’re undocumented, we’re citizens, we’re straight, we’re gay, we’re feminists …and our community is special. We have corazon.”
Sheila Salinas, Mariana Lizbeth Rudas and Erick Moran were gifted with $500 scholarships during the course of the ceremony. The three were chosen out of 32 applicants for their academic achievements and will be finishing their degrees in the fall semester.
The scholarships were furnished by portions of the $35 graduation fee paid by those who participated in the event. The fee included two tickets, a graduation gift and a sash.
Graduating psychology major Sandra Lopez was one of the two students who delivered the “student perspective” speech. She said she loved the idea of a more personal graduation ceremony that was welcoming for bilingual families.
“It is great because even though it’s divided it’s more intimate,” Lopez said, “and students get to say something on stage… but at the regular commencement everyone just goes in.”
Camacho said that with the tumultuous political state currently surrounding the Latino community, graduation spaces like the one offered at the Chicano Latino graduation are imperative for the Latino identity.