The National Museum of the American Latino is one step closer to becoming a reality after Congress approved legislation to begin the process of development of the museum as part of a $900 billion must-pass Covid-19 relief spending bill, NBC Latino reports. The bill just needs to get approval from President Trump who would need to veto it since both the House and the Senate approved it. Supporters have spent decades trying to get congressional approval for the Latino museum including the Friends of the American Latino Museum (FRIENDS), the only non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a National American Latino Museum in Washington, DC. This year marks 26 years that the charitable organization has been advocating for the creation of the museum.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas from California and a co-sponsor of the museum bill said the legislation would establish a Board of Trustees to help guide the Smithsonian’s development of the museum, and would also authorize a 50 percent federal match to money raised privately for design and construction costs. “We need a Latino Museum not only for its symbolic significance but, more importantly, for its educational purpose,” Cárdenas told NBC.
The National Museum of the American Latino Act was added to the spending bill after Sen. Mike Lee of-Utah, blocked a scheduled voice vote on the museum and on a bill to establish a women’s history museum. He said with regards to the Latino museum that the nation was creating “an array of segregated separate but equal museums for hyphenated identity groups.” NBC reports.
Latino representation is sparse among the collections of the Smithsonian, the largest museum, education, and research complex in the world. In 1994 the Willful Neglect report demonstrated such a strong absence of Latino history that it seemed intentional, a fact the institution acknowledged in the report. The report included 10 recommendations among them the development of a Latino museum and an increase in the number of Latinx in the Smithsonian workforce. The National Museum of African American History and Culture established in 2003, was the last Smithsonian museum approved by Congress and The National Museum of the American Indian was established in 1989.
Estuardo Rodriguez, President, and CEO of FRIENDS previously shared with HipLatina that the objects that would be included would reflect the cultural, political, scientific, and medicinal contributions by Latinos in the U.S. It would also highlight how Latinos have fought in every war since the Revolution, and prominent Latino leaders and changemakers including astronaut Ellen Ochoa, baseball player Roberto Clemente, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.
Among the supporters for the museum are music producer Emilio Estefan, actress Diane Guerrero, actor John Leguizamo, and writer and activist Julissa Arce who celebrated the historic moment by posting an emotional video on Instagram. “There will be a Latino museum on the National Mall in DC, where we deserve to be, where our stories deserve to be told,” she said.
“Twenty-six years in the making, the determination of so many in Congress, in business, the arts, and across our communities, finally pays off. A museum that highlights the contributions of Latinos and Latinas to our nation at a time when the pandemic has so disproportionately impacted our community seems very fitting,” Estuardo Rodriguez, President & CEO of FRIENDS tells HipLatina in a statement. “We are eager to see the White House sign the bill into law and continue our work to not only help raise the millions that will be needed but ensure that the National American Latino Museum opens its doors alongside all of the iconic museums on our National Mall for the millions of tourists that desire to understand what has truly made our nation great.”