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Story Behind the Name "El Centro Chicano y Latino"

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El Centro Chicano y Latino Name Proposal

El Centro Chicano y Latino professional staff discussed the four alternative names presented by Guiding Concilio members and agreed that “El Centro Chicano y Latino” is the name that best honors the legacy of the Chicano student movement of the late 1960s and 1970s at Stanford University and also acknowledges and celebrates the diversity in today’s Chicana/o and Latina/o student community. 


As part of its strategic plan, El Centro Chicano y Latino conducted student surveys in the spring quarter of 2010, 2011 and 2012. Due to the anonymous nature of the surveys and to comply with Human Subjects Research and IRB protocol, summaries of these surveys were shared with Concilio members and collected at the end of the meetings.
The student surveys had the following introduction which underscores El Centro Chicano y Latino’s goal to serve Stanford’s diverse Chicana/o and Latina/o population:

“El Centro exists for the benefit of all Chicano/Latino students. Its programs and services support academic success, leadership, and professional development. It also promotes understanding and pride in Latino culture and traditions. We strive for broad, widespread participation by all Chicano/Latino students. Please respond to this survey and help make El Centro a place that reflects your interests, concerns and pride. Your responses to this survey are anonymous.”

The surveys provided valuable insights that informed our plans to make El Centro a “home away from home” and a safe and beautiful space for all students. Some of the major changes to our facilities are detailed below.

  • Summer 2010: the beautification of El Centro’s lounge.
    In the summer of 2010, El Centro staff began to radically move forward with plans to update the lounge area of the Center. A design was selected that would refresh the space with paint and new, gender-neutral furniture and reflect the changing and increasingly diverse population of Latina/o students at Stanford. Following this plan, El Centro staff replaced older furniture and outdated media with new sofas, area rugs, side tables and a flat-screen television that would be mounted to the wall. The seating was arranged in such as way that would allow for wider participation in events such as talks and presentations at the Center but also encourage small conversation groups in designated seating areas. In an effort to celebrate the rich history and culture of Chicanos and Latinos, the 2010 beautification project included carefully researching and selecting prints and art pieces from various countries (e.g., Guatemala, Colombia, Cuba, Argentina, Panama, Peru, Honduras, Venezuela, Mexico) to display in El Centro’s lounge.
  • Summer 2011: the transformation of a VSO storage room into the Wellness Room.
    El Centro professional staff then moved forward with a plan to renovate a space formerly used for VSO storage into a room designated as a wellness space for student use.  After an initial meeting with Dr. Alejandro Martinez from CAPS, El Centro staff accepted his professional recommendation to paint the room a specific color of green that is often used to communicate calm in counseling settings. They also discussed the needs for the room suggested by CAPS staff to provide patient seating, office space for counselors, furniture to display mental health literature and devices to ensure the privacy of students who sought counseling there.  In addition to these specifications, El Centro staff extended the theme of inclusion and broad appeal to a diverse group of Latina/o students for this space as it had with its renovated lounge. Thus for the art pieces for the room, El Centro staff solicited photos from students that would celebrate the beauty of places throughout Latin America. The photos selected show scenes from places such as Peru, Chile, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. These photos were later enlarged and framed for display in El Centro’s Wellness Room, adding to the welcoming and peaceful nature of this sanctuary.
  • Fall 2012: inauguration of suite of murals by reknowned artist Juana Alicia.
    Our community had the unique opportunity to provide input in the initial phase of her mural designs.
    Juana Alicia states the following in the Narrative about the “The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor,” inaugurated on November 9, 2012:  
    “My concept for the suite of murals for El Centro Chicano de Estanfor was inspired by the history and literature of multiethnic Latinoamerica, from the ancient stories of the Popol Vuh to modern Xican@ poetry . . . The challenge was to create a series of works that altered an institutional-feeling entryway into a sanctuary for some of our collective narratives as multi-faceted Latina@s and original peoples of these continents. . . As the students and alumni requested in my initial meetings with the Centro and Concilio, I sought to represent past, present and future realities for Latin@ indigenous students at Stanford.”
  • Spring/Summer 2013: computer cluster computer replacement.
    El Centro’s computer cluster provides crucial academic support for Stanford’s students. Guiding Concilio undergraduate members invited VSOs affiliated with El Centro to contribute funds towards the purchase of new computers. The center needs to replace its computers every three years in order to be serviced by Academic Computing. Thanks to the Concilio and VSOs’ collaboration, El Centro was able to purchase six new computers and have the computer cluster fully operational before the beginning of the new academic year.
  • Fall 2014: unveiling of the name expansion, El Centro Chicano y Latino.

The surveys also provided useful information for the design and execution of academic, cultural, social and wellness programs, leadership and professional development, and the center’s marketing strategies. The surveys reinforced the importance of personal invites and word of mouth when marketing our programs and services.

El Centro Chicano y Latino Then and Now

During the academic year 1978-79, El Centro Chicano opened its doors. This new resource became a reality after a five-year planning and advocacy process on the part of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff.  
El Centro Chicano’s proposal (May 26, 1977) addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by Chicano students and the opportunity and responsibility for Stanford University to provide all students with a quality education. The proposal states:

“It is the University’s commitment to provide its students with quality education within the setting of diversity and our own will to develop and secure our presence on campus. . . A Center would provide many common sources to Chicanos and non-Chicanos alike—informational, educational and cultural . . .” (page 8).

El Centro today continues to be guided by the values of inclusion, leadership development, social consciousness and responsibility towards our historical roots and the communities we currently live in. El Centro’s proposal states the following:

“Besides providing appropriate space for Chicano activities, a Cultural and Activities Center would provide a setting for much needed interaction between Chicano graduate students and undergraduates, as well as an environment where Chicanos from different parts of the country could share their cultural experiences. In this way, we will expand our knowledge of Chicanos and increase our understanding of the need for cultural and political consciousness. . .” (page 5).

These values were important to first generation students in the 1960s, and 1970s, and continue to be true today as Stanford University and El Centro Chicano y Latino welcome more students from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. According to Stanford Facts 2014, Stanford University has 6,980 matriculated undergraduate students. Of these, 7% (488) are Mexican/Chicano and 7% (488) are Other Hispanic. Our community has made great accomplishments in its undergraduate student diversity when compared to the enrollment figures of the late 1960s when seventy Chicano freshmen enrolled.
We welcome and embrace the opportunity to work with an increasingly diverse Chicana/o and Latina/o student population and to support them academically, personally, socially and culturally.