Bipartisan Coalition Introduces Legislation to Authorize Smithsonian American Latino Museum
(Washington, DC) Today, members of Congress introduced the National Museum of the American Latino Act, legislation that will authorize the establishment of a Smithsonian Museum dedicated to American Latinos. The bill starts the process of securing a location on the National Mall for the site, crucially advancing a process that has had national public support for more than a decade. The introduction comes on the sixth anniversary of the bipartisan Commission to Study the Potential Creation of the National Museum of the American Latino. Released in 2011, the report articulates the urgency for a museum located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of the Smithsonian Institution. The legislative campaign was first in 2003 launched by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Xavier Becerra in 2003, and enjoys a growing base of bipartisan support including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23), and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29).
An American Latino Museum would rightfully place the history and legacy of the community who—as one-sixth of the population—are an integral part of both the nation’s heritage and its future. Latinos and Latinas have contributed in every area of American society, and fought in every American war dating back before the founding of the country. Yet, their stories, an inextricable part of the nation’s heritage, have been drastically underrepresented in the Smithsonian collections—admitted by the Institution itself in its 1994 report “Willful Neglect.” A Smithsonian American Latino Museum, located on the National mall, ensures the story of this integral community receives the visibility it deserves.
“This is an initiative over 20 years in the making” said U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27). “As the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress, I understand as much as any Latino what it would mean to recognize the contributions millions of us have made—whether you’re a farmworker or a CEO, an activist or a veteran. The Smithsonian has not told the full story of America, but I know we will celebrate the success of the hispanic community at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino, and reaffirm the values that bind us together as a community and as a nation.”
“As a child, I dreamed of being an artist. I always believed that my dream to be an actor would come true, because my immigrant parents believed in the American dream,” said actress and supporter of the campaign Diane Guerrero. “My parents’ story, and the stories of millions of families, are the story of our nation, intertwined in everything our country has achieved since its founding—but less than two percent of National Monuments and National Historic Sites are dedicated to women or communities of color. Young people deserve a place to learn about our history. We need to elevate the stories of all of us who have come to create the rich tapestry of America. For our families, for our community, for those who remained in our home countries and those who worked to build new homes here, for today’s young people and future generations, for our nation’s story and America’s heritage—we need to build a Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino.”
“The proud story of Latinos in the U.S. is an integral part of American history worth telling, and I can’t think of a better way for Congress to honor our nation’s rich multiculturalism than by passing this bill,” said Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). “At a time of heightened fear and uncertainty for our nation’s Latino community, swift and long-overdue action on this legislation would help send a clear message that we refuse to turn our backs on them. This should be non controversial for anyone who understands that Latinos – almost 57 million Americans in the U.S., representing the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority group – play an important part of our nation’s past, present, and future. I will continue fighting to make this museum a reality so that we acknowledge, as a government, that America's success would not be possible without the contributions of Hispanic Americans.”
“The Latino story is the story of our nation, therefore it is only fitting that the Smithsonian house a museum celebrating our people’s contributions throughout American history,” said Danny Vargas, chair of Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, a non-profit that has advocated for the museum for more than a decade. “This museum will serve to better complete the telling of the American story which includes vital but lesser known contributions made by American Latinos. The bipartisan sponsorship of today’s bill shows that honoring our history is not a partisan issue, but a patriotic one. The National American Latino Museum will be an institution of which all Americans can be proud, and from which we can all learn about our heritage.”