WASHINGTON—After a triumphant year in 2020 with getting the National Museum of the American Latino Act signed into law, Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FRIENDS) is working harder than ever in 2021 to ensure the future museum gets its proper placement on the National Mall.
While the historic legislation calls for the official establishment of a national museum dedicated to U.S. Latino culture and history within the Smithsonian Institution, there is no guarantee that the future museum will be constructed in the area between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol Building known as the National Mall. Leaders of the Smithsonian Institution have begun the process of determining where the Latino museum will be built.
“With two new museums in the works, one dedicated to U.S. Latino history and one devoted to women’s history, we understand that talks are fast moving around space on the National Mall and the definition of what it means to be ‘on the National Mall’ per se,” explains FRIENDS President and CEO, Estuardo Rodriguez. “Since the 2011 American Latino Museum Commission report, we have always been clear on the future location of this museum. Having finally secured the approval of Congress and the White House, we must ensure that vision is fulfilled.”
The National Museum of the American Latino will be the first-ever, stand-alone Smithsonian building dedicated to housing the long and storied history of the Latino community in the United States, many of whom are native peoples of this land as the border moved across the southwest. The National Mall sees upwards of 25 million visitors each year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. With the most prestigious Smithsonian museums being situated between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, FRIENDS leadership and supporters thought it necessary to write to Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch—who carries the ultimate decision-making authority on where to build—and respectfully urge him to enact a plan that will ensure the Latino museum gets its proper place on the National Mall.
More than 100 influential Latino leaders in business, government, education, and entertainment have signed on to the letter. The letter will remain open for FRIENDS supporters to sign-on and encourage others to do so as well.
“Latino history is American history,” said Lili Gil Valletta, FRIENDS Board Chair. “There is too much at stake for current and future generations—Latinos and Americans of all backgrounds—not to see the Latino story represented on the most influential promenade in the U.S. We cannot be down the street or around the corner. We deserve a building that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the iconic museums we all know and love,” said Gil Valletta.