In 1960, Burciaga joined the United States Air Force, being stationed in Iceland and Spain. In Spain, Burciaga was exposed to the writing of Federico García Lorca, an influence in his own conceptualization of his identity.
In 1966, Burciaga began work as a graphic illustrator in the town of Mineral Wells, Texas and later in Washington, D.C. In Washington, Burciaga met his future wife, Cecilia Preciado. They were married in 1974, and Tony Burciaga moved with his wife to her native California. In California, Burciaga began to write critical assessments and columns for various newspapers and journals. He also began writing more short stories and poetry for publication.
Tony Burciaga and his wife lived near Stanford University, where Cecilia Burciaga served as Vice Provost for Chicano Affairs. In her post, Cecilia became very active in the support and formation of the Chicano community at Stanford, including the creation of El Centro Chicano, a Chicano/Latino student center. Tony Burciaga continued his writing and drawing.
In 1985, Tony and Cecilia became Resident Fellows in Casa Zapata, a unique Chicano Theme Dormitory where approximately half of the residents were Chicano undergraduate students. Tony and Cecilia lived in a small apartment attached to the dormitory. The dormitory put on various Chicano and Latino-related educational events and gatherings, and was also well-known for its history of mural art. In Casa Zapata, Tony Burciaga contributed to this tradition, and painted several murals with students. His most well-known mural is the critically-acclaimed "Last Supper of Chicano Heroes" in the Casa Zapata dining hall, depicting figures important to Chicanos, including César Chávez, Robert Kennedy, Che Guevara, and Martin Luther King, Jr..
Through his poetry, he regularly spoke in various community-based activities for social justice of the San Francisco Bay Area including East Palo Alto, Redwood City, and San Jose. Burciaga was intensely involved in supporting actions for social justice including opposing anti-immigration movements such as California Proposition 187 and other English-Only policies. The Burciagas served as Resident Fellows until 1994.