WASHINGTON—Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FRIENDS) applauds the Smithsonian Board of Regents for narrowing its focus to two locations on the National Mall for the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum: the South Monument site and the Tidal Basin site. 

“This announcement is great news—the focus on the South Monument site and the Tidal Basin site for the future American Latino Museum and the Women’s History Museum underscores the importance of these museums for the Smithsonian, as well as for the telling of our American history across our National Mall,” said FRIENDS President and CEO Estuardo Rodriguez. “Our future National Museum of the American Latino deserves to be built on a blank canvas that allows the full expression of our community through architectural design celebrating the diversity of our experiences and culture. Both the South Monument site and the Tidal Basin site will allow this.”

“Today’s announcement also makes it abundantly clear that our work here is not done. Our national partners and community leaders remain committed to advocating in support of our U.S. Latino experience to be rightfully displayed on the National Mall until we reach the finish line,” said FRIENDS Board Chair Lili Gil Valletta. “We will continue our support of the Smithsonian Institution, Secretary Lonnie Bunch, and the Board of Regents, and the work to ensure the appropriate legislation is passed, with full bipartisan support, to create a clear pathway for both museums.”

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FRIENDS APPLAUDS THE SMITHSONIAN’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO PRIORITIZE FOUR LOCATIONS FOR FUTURE LATINO MUSEUM

Washington, D.C. – Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FRIENDS) celebrates the Smithsonian Institution’s statement this morning announcing that it will prioritize four locations for the future National Museum of the American Latino and the National Women’s History Museum. Those locations include the Arts and Industries Building, the Northwest Capitol site, the South Monument site, and the Tidal Basin site. This announcement is a clear statement on the significance of these museums to our American history, and highlights the importance of placing them front and center, shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the other significant museums on the National Mall. 

“FRIENDS applauds and is grateful to the Smithsonian Institution, Secretary Lonnie Bunch, Director Jorge Zamanillo, the Board of Trustees, and the entire leadership team for prioritizing the recommendations of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission 2011 report,” said FRIENDS President & CEO Estuardo Rodriguez. “Choosing a location for this spectacular museum is a momentous decision, which is why we remain committed to working in a unified and collaborative manner in support of the Smithsonian to ensure that a pathway is clear for each of these identified locations.” 

The locations announced include three of the priority locations recommended by the National Museum of the American Latino Commission in their 2011 report. Each one of these locations, apart from the Arts and Industries Building, will require action by Congress and/or federal agencies with jurisdiction. 

“The work for the community, public officials, and corporate leaders is clear. Now, more than ever, is the time to form a collective effort to elevate the importance of the four sites, offer support to the Smithsonian in its work to secure the best locations, and ensure the sites are available to the Smithsonian for both museums,” said Lili Gil Valletta, FRIENDS Board Chair. “FRIENDS remains committed to ensuring the White House, Congress, and related federal agencies, do everything in their power to build the National Museum of the American Latino, along with the National Women’s History Museum, on the National Mall.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friends of the American Latino Museum (FRIENDS) today announced its 11th Annual Design Contest with a call for artists to submit their best work that depicts and celebrates Latino history and culture in the United States. This year’s design contest theme is “Build it on the National Mall.” The top 10 designs will advance to a national round where the public can vote on their favorite design. As in previous years, the submission with the most votes will be deemed the winner and receive a $500 gift card. In addition, their artwork will appear across the many digital and in-person platforms of the FRIENDS campaign, including posters and promotional materials throughout the remainder of the year.

“It is a great honor to have provided artists over the past decade an opportunity to share their vision of the future National Museum of the American Latino through art,” said Estuardo Rodriguez, President and CEO of FRIENDS. “Artistic expression is something that leaves a lasting impression in our country’s collective hearts, minds and history. Our nation’s Latino and Latina artists have been telling the authentic story of our community for hundreds of years. We must honor them and lift up the next generation. It is my hope that our Design Contest will help spotlight the next great Latino artist and one day their work will be displayed in our future museum on the National Mall for the world to see.”

“There are so many undiscovered talents that we hope to bring forth into the spotlight through this competition. Latino artists and their artwork have been, historically, left out of Smithsonian museums, according to a 1994 report called ‘Willful Neglect,’ which is what spurred the movement to create a National Latino Museum. Until we build a National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall, it is our duty to continue to highlight those who are bringing together their talent, creativity and culture to elevate our voices and impact to this great nation,” said Lili Gil Valletta, Board Chair of FRIENDS and President & CEO of Cien+.

Presented with the generous support of Target and AARP, the 11th Annual Design Contest celebrates the Latino community’s rich heritage and talent, inviting artists to share their vision of what American Latino history means to them.

“As Chief Diversity Officer, I am immensely proud to sponsor the American Latino Design Contest this year. AARP’s commitment to inclusion started with our founding in 1958 and we continuously work to become a model DEI organization. The level of passion the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino brings to their work on the National Mall is admirable and something AARP strives to emulate,” stated Edna Kane Williams, Executive Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer at AARP.

Previous winners have included Latino painters, designers, and illustrators from coast to coast and everywhere in between who represent the full diversity of American Latinos in the US.

The deadline for artists to submit their designs is April 28, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. PST. Public voting begins on our Facebook page from May 2, 2022, through May 4, 2022. The winning artist and design will be announced on Cinco de Mayo, May 5, 2022.

Design Contest Announcement

On May 12, 2022, Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FRIENDS) announced Fatima Olea as the winner of its 11th Annual Design Contest. Fatima Olea is an illustrator from Arizona and won for her submission titled A little bird told me, pictured above.

““Keep dreaming, but never stop painting” — It’s what I keep telling myself everyday. Today, one of my dreams came true when My piece “A Little Bird Told Me” won the FRIENDS annual design contest,” Olea says. “This is a great opportunity to share what I do and inspire Latinos to feel proud of themselves and embrace their history and culture. It’s important to see our future National Museum of the American Latino built on the National Mall to share with the world the many things our culture has to offer, promote acceptance and welcome people to our community.”

Olea said the acrylic on canvas painting “talks about heritage, culture, and how it’s been passed [down] generation by generation like the whispering of a little bird that carries all that wisdom from our ancestors.” Olea continued, “The girl is not showing her face to keep the mystery of the spectators but at the same time to invite them to identify themselves with the painting.”

For 11 consecutive years, FRIENDS has organized a design contest and invited artists from across the country to share their talent with the Latino community. This year, FRIENDS invited artists to share their vision of what the future National Museum of the American Latino will look like on the National Mall. FRIENDS received over 250 submissions from artists across the United States and Puerto Rico. The FRIENDS 2022 Design Contest’s Finalists drew almost 2000 votes throughout the public voting period with Olea’s design earning the highest number.

“Fatima’s design artistically captures the beauty and richness of our Latino heritage and culture. The colors she used are vibrant, lively, and symbolize the 500 years of Latino contributions that deserve to be on the National Mall with the rest of our nation’s history,” said Estuardo V. Rodriguez, President & CEO of FRIENDS. “We are grateful to Fatima and every artist who submitted a design to help tell the Smithsonian leadership to build the National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall — specifically on the South Monument Site, on the corner of 14th St and Independence Avenue SW. Thank you to our sponsors, AARP and Target Corporation, for their continued support to make this year’s design contest a success.”

Olea won a $500 Target gift card for her design. Olea’s design will be at the center of FRIENDS’ 2022 campaign materials, including posters, digital imagery, and other materials to support advocacy efforts to secure the best location for the future National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall.

The 2022 Design Contest was made possible by FRIENDS partners AARP and Target Corporation’s generous support.

 

FRIENDS OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN LATINO CONGRATULATES JORGE ZAMANILLO ON BEING NAMED THE FIRST DIRECTOR OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN LATINO

WASHINGTON, D.C.—This morning the Smithsonian Institution announced that Jorge Zamanillo, the longtime executive director and CEO of HistoryMiami Museum, will serve as the inaugural director of the future National Museum of the American Latino.

“The decision to choose a director who is already so deeply involved in lifting up American Latino history, and who also has a keen understanding of the fundraising that will be required, is a great one. I have the utmost respect for Zamanillo’s work and congratulate him and the Smithsonian on the selection. Upwards of 25 million people visit the National Mall each year to learn about American history, and the FRIENDS group looks forward to working with Mr. Zamanillo and the Smithsonian to ensure that our story, nuestra historia, is front and center,” said FRIENDS President and CEO Estuardo Rodriguez.

“We are thrilled to see all of the great things to come as a result of Mr. Zamanillo’s leadership of America’s next great museum–the Smithsonian’s Latino American museum. His accomplishments in telling the full breadth of history that both Latinos and Americans share will now be a gift to share with the millions of future visitors to the National Latino American Museum when it opens on the National Mall,” said FRIENDS Board Chair and CEO of Cien+ Lili Gil Valletta.

Zamanillo, a trained archeologist who began his career at HistoryMiami Museum as a curator, will assume his new role on May 2, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

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The FRIENDS organization released this statement in response to the Smithsonian Institution naming a director for the new National Museum of the American Latino.

For a copy of the original press release, please visit the Smithsonian Institution’s online newsroom.

Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino Applaud the Bipartisan Effort of 24 United States Senators and Nearly 80 House Members Who Came Together to Urge Smithsonian Leadership to Build the Latino Museum on the National Mall

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WASHINGTON, D.C.— In two bipartisan letters sent Monday from 24 United States Senators and nearly 80 Members of the House—our nation’s top lawmakers urged Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch and the Smithsonian Board of Regents to commit to building the future Latino Museum on the National Mall, as well as the forthcoming National Museum of Women’s History.

The Senate letter squarely states, “We want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize Congressional intent as stated in the authorizing legislation that both the National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum be located on or near the National Mall, to the maximum extent practicable.” The House letter echoed this sentiment and the importance of the location of the Museum.

Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FRIENDS) President and CEO Estuardo Rodriguez says this is an important reminder of the necessary steps that remain for the campaign, and for the Latino American community, who represent nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population. Per the legislation that was signed into law, the location of the future museum must be determined within two years of the passage of the bill, meaning December 2022. The urgency is clear.

“It is inspiring to see Democrats and Republicans join together in agreement that the home of American history is on the National Mall and set the expectation that the National American Latino Museum should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other iconic museums on that stretch of land,” stated Rodriguez. “This unifying message demonstrates that, in honoring our nation and every American, there is only one place that should be considered, our National Mall.”

“We applaud the bipartisan work of both chambers of Congress for holding the Smithsonian Institution accountable for what the National Museum of the American Latino Act explicitly calls for: that our museum is built on the National Mall. With over 500 years of contributions and as America’s largest diverse segment of the population, it’s imperative that Mr. Bunch and the Board of Regents take action to secure a location on the National Mall,” says FRIENDS Chairwoman Lili Gil Valletta, who is also CEO of CIEN+.

Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) led a diverse and bipartisan group of senators who come from backgrounds that represent nearly every major ethnic group in the U.S., including those of African-American, Asian-American and European-American heritage.

Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) led the bipartisan letter from Members of the House, which was similarly signed by a diverse group from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Copies of both the Senate and House letters are linked.

The following letter was sent to Sec. Bunch on Nov. 22nd on behalf of a bipartisan group of 82 Members of Congress. To read the original letter, click here.


Lonnie G. Bunch III
Secretary
The Smithsonian Institution

Dear Secretary Bunch:

The 116th Congress saw the passage of the creation of two new Smithsonian Museums into law. It comes with great excitement and comfort to have a partner at the helm who oversaw the creation of the extraordinary Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened its doors in September 2016. Further, we applaud you for how quickly your team has begun to work to lay the foundation for both the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino.

As we continue to move through this process, we want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize Congressional intent as stated in the authorizing legislation that both the National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum be located on or near the National Mall, to the maximum extent practicable. From our perspective, the National Mall is the two-mile park from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, bounded on the north and south by Constitution and Independence Avenues.

With more than 25 million people visiting the National Mall each year, it comes as no surprise that many Smithsonian Institutions have claimed this area as their home and best for the diffusion of knowledge. The addition of the two new Museums on the Mall will further the Smithsonian’s mission by showcasing and highlighting the untold and overlooked contributions to our nation of both women and Latinos. It is fitting that these two museums be prominently located in the two-mile area we describe above as that will help ensure that more visitors will be able to enjoy and learn from them.

We appreciate your consideration of Congressional priorities as the Smithsonian works to establish these important museums. We look forward to working together and having a continued dialogue on how best to meet this intent.

Sincerely,

(more…)

The following letter was submitted to Sec. Lonnie Bunch on behalf of 24 Senators from both parties on November 22nd. To see the original letter, please click here.

Lonnie G. Bunch III
Secretary
The Smithsonian Institution

cc: Smithsonian Board of Regents

Dear Secretary Bunch:

The 116th Congress saw the passage of the creation of two new Smithsonian Museums into law. It comes with great excitement and comfort to have a partner at the helm who oversaw the creation of the extraordinary Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened its doors in September 2016. Further, we applaud you for how quickly your team has begun to work to lay the foundation for both the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino.

As we continue to move through this process, we want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize Congressional intent as stated in the authorizing legislation that both the National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum be located on or near the National Mall, to the maximum extent practicable. From our perspective, the National Mall is the two-mile park from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, bounded on the north and south by Constitution and Independence Avenues.

With more than 25 million people visiting the National Mall each year, it comes as no surprise that many Smithsonian Institutions have claimed this area their home and best for the diffusion of knowledge. The addition of the two new museums on the Mall will further the Smithsonian’s mission by showcasing and highlighting the untold and overlooked contributions to our nation of both women and Latinos. It is fitting that these two museums be prominently located as that will help ensure that more visitors will be able to enjoy and learn from them.

We appreciate your consideration of Congressional priorities as the Smithsonian works to establish these important museums. We look forward to working together and having a continued dialogue on how best to meet this intent.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Susan M. Collins
United States Senator

John Cornyn
United States Senator

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Marco Rubio
U.S. Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Alex Padilla United States Senator

Margaret Wood Hassan
United States Senator

Ben Ray Luján
United States Senator

Jacky Rosen
United States Senator

Michael F. Bennet
United States Senator

Patty Murray
United States Senator

Martin Heinrich
United States Senator

Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

Chris Van Hollen
United States Senator

Edward J. Markey
United States Senator

Tammy Baldwin
United States Senator

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator

Jeffrey A. Merkley
United States Senator

Tina Smith
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator

In the spirit of empowerment through collaboration, Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino organization is proud to announce a new partnership with the National Women’s History Museum Coalition.

The Coalition is composed of more than 60 national organizations, predominantly women’s groups, with educational, professional and/or service missions. These like-missioned organizations have demonstrated a commitment to women’s equality, women’s empowerment, and/or women’s storytelling. These organizations seek to  support the Museum’s mission and goals through their work with the Coalition.

The National Women’s History Museum was established in the same legislation that also established the National Museum of the American Latino within the Smithsonian institution in December of 2020.

FRIENDS looks forward to a strong and fruitful partnership with the National Women’s History Museum Coalition as we work on similar missions to help share the full and complete story of the United States in museums on the National Mall.

FNMAL Names Award-Winning Journalist Mariana Atencio, Founder of Golike Productions, as An Official Spokesperson and Media Partner

WASHINGTON, D.C | Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FRIENDS) is thrilled to announce the expansion of its relationship with award-winning journalist, author and entrepreneur Mariana Atencio as an official spokesperson of the organization to advocate alongside FRIENDS leadership for the future Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino.

“With her journalism background, multimedia expertise and established communications credentials, Mariana Atencio is the perfect addition to our team of passionate spokespeople for our national advocacy efforts,” said Estuardo Rodriguez, President and CEO of FRIENDS. “As we have always said, we have not made it this far on our own and it will require each one of us to ultimately open those doors. We are truly grateful for Mariana’s willingness to commit her time to this shared vision for the nation.”

The spokesperson role expands an ongoing media partnership with Atencio, whose company GoLike—promoting diversity and motivation through 360 storytelling—is an official media partner of FRIENDS.

Atencio’s first official duty as spokesperson will be hosting The Changing Perceptions of American Latinos, a Facebook Live event streaming Thursday, Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day at 2:15pm ET featuring producer, writer and actress Gloria Calderón Kellett (One Day At A Time), FRIENDS Chair Emeritus and United States Air Force Veteran Danny Vargas, Executive President of the Latino Donor Collaborative Ana Valdez, and CEO & President of the Latino Corporate Directors Association Esther Aguilera. (Register for this free, public event here)

“Having a museum where we can all take our children to teach them about our shared culture, history and contributions has become a big part of my life’s purpose,” said Atencio, a newly-minted American citizen. “I would like to thank Estuardo and the leaders at the Latino Museum for letting me be a part of this gigantic effort. I won’t stop until we are at the ribbon cutting ceremony on the National Mall!”

Atencio is an alum of MSNBC and NBC News. She founded GoLike in 2018 to represent and lift Latinos through storytelling and speaking.

“GoLike creates content that is educational, engaging and inclusive, shining a light on where our communities are now and helping them chart a new path forward. This dovetails perfectly with the work I’ll be spearheading with the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino.”

Atencio is the recipient of many esteemed journalism awards, including the Peabody, the Gracie and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Presidential Award.

About Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino

The Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino organization strives to create a museum in our nation’s capital to educate, inspire and encourage respect and understanding of the richness and diversity of the American Latino experience within the U.S. and its territories by highlighting the contributions made by Latino leaders, pioneers and communities to the American way of life.

The FRIENDS organization is not affiliated in any way with the Smithsonian Institution.