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A Latino Smithsonian museum is inches away from a bipartisan passing in the Senate. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images
A Latino Smithsonian museum is inches away from a bipartisan passing in the Senate. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images

Unanimous vote advances legislation for a Smithsonian American Latino Museum

The museum would be a long-overdue exhibition of Latinos’ diversity, cultural impacts, and politics.

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In a unanimous vote on Dec. 3, the Senate Rules Committee chose to send to the full Senate the House version of The National Museum of the American Latino Act, giving it the chance of getting a final vote. Depending on the outcome, it could soon land on the president’s desk to sign into law.

The bipartisan bill would establish a museum on the National Mall dedicated to honoring the contributions of Latinos throughout American history. Supporters are now urging the Senate leadership to bring the legislation to a final vote. 

Some have been advocating for its creation for over 16 years. Despite this, the U.S. — home to about 60 million Latinos — has never had a monument to showcase the contributions the demographic has made to the country. 

“I’ve been fighting to build the @LatinoMuseum since 2003, and we’re finally one step closer. It's time we showcase American Latinos as part of the long history of this country—a history that preceded this country,” wrote Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the highest-ranking Latino in Congress and co-sponsor of the bill.

Back in July, the House of Representatives first passed the The National Museum of the American Latino Act. It was the first major legislative step that would establish a Smithsonian National Museum on Latino history on the National Mall.

Four months later on Nov. 17, Senators reviewed plans for two new potential national museums dedicated to Latinos and women’s history.  

The National Mall is dedicated to honoring the contributions of Americans throughout history, but it is missing an integral piece: Latino Americans. The Smithsonian operates 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoo.

In 2011, a president-appointed study to explore the potential creation of a National Museum of the American Latino submitted a report that found exhibits and collections of Latino history in the U.S. are the most underrepresented across all of its Smithsonian museums.

There already exists the National Museum of African American History, as well as the Culture and National Museum of the American Indians. But the National Museum of African American History and Culture itself was 100 years in the making, a testament to the many roadblocks advocates were forced to navigate. 

When the The National Museum of African American History and Culture was finally established by Congress in 2003, it took over a decade for it to be executed and open to the public in 2016.

“As we see the finish line within reach of this decades-long process, we are hopeful that we will soon celebrate this bill becoming law so we can begin building a world class institution we can all be proud of,” said Danny Vargas, Chairman of the Friends Board of the Latino Museum.

Latino museum officials expect the full Senate passage of the Latino Museum act in the coming days.


 

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