The Smithsonian National Museum on Latino History makes headways
The stories, history, and culture of American Latinos remain to be shared at the Smithsonian.
In July, the House of Representatives passed the The National Museum of the American Latino Act. It would establish a Smithsonian National Museum on Latino history on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Four months later, Senators reviewed plans for two new potential national museums dedicated to Latinos and women’s history. The bill, met with bipartisan support in the House, was reviewed before a Senate committee on Nov. 17.
The idea for a museum dedicated to Latinx lives in the United States has been long in the making. Back in 1994, a task force noted that the Smithsonian Institution, “displays a pattern of willful neglect” toward the millions of Latinos in the U.S.
In 2005, then-Sen. Mel Martínez (R-FL), and then-Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), co-sponsored the National Museum of the American Latino Act with other advocates to create the first-ever national museum for American Latinos.
Since then, the Latino museum project has long been backed by multiple Latino leaders, including Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, Eva Longoria-Bastón, and current members of Congress.
The current version of the bill — the one passed — was introduced last year by Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) and Rep Will Hurd (R-TX), the bill (H.R. 2420) passed unanimously, the first time a bill of its kind has passed the House.
The National Mall is dedicated to honoring the contributions of Americans throughout history, but it is missing an integral piece: Latinx Americans.
There is already the National Museum of African American History, as well as the Culture and National Museum of the American Indians.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture itself was 100 years in the making, signaling the battle advocates will face until the bill passes the Senate.
“The Latino story is an American story. It’s past time for it to be told. It’s past time for a @Smithsonian Latino Museum!,” wrote Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) on Twitter. She, along with other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus voiced their support for the legislation Tuesday evening.
“The House voted for a #LatinoMuseum on our National Mall. Time for the Senate to follow suit! #YesonS1267,” Velazquez continued.
The Latino story is an American story. It’s past time for it to be told. It’s past time for a @Smithsonian Latino Museum!
The House voted for a #LatinoMuseum on our National Mall. Time for the Senate to follow suit! #YesonS1267 pic.twitter.com/eHX9O04NTn
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) November 17, 2020
The Senate Hearing also served to consider a museum dedicated to telling the stories of women throughout the nation’s history. At the end of the hearing, Senators called on activist Eva Longoria Bastón to hear her testimony on the issue.
“There is no story in American history that does not include American Latinos. We have been here since before the Mayflower, since before the colonies, since before the Declaration of Independence. We have a broad and diverse community, from indigenous Latinos, to Black and Afro-Latinos, to Caribbean Latinos,” she said.
Longoria-Bastón remarked that despite all this, Latino’s stories aren’t told in Washington.
This year, representation matters more than ever.
Latinos are an integral part of the country’s economy and prosperity, yet we the demographic has been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming out of a historic presidential election, it was made clear that Latinos’ contributions to the electoral process has the ability to make-or-break elections.
Both proposals await Senate approval. Should they pass that checkpoint, the bills for Latino and Womens museums will reach the president’s desk.