While the big news coming out of Congress is the long awaited COVID-19 Stimulus Bill finally passing, there’s another piece of big news coming from DC–we are finally getting a National Museum of the American Latino!
“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,” said Estuardo Rodriguez, President & CEO of FRIENDS.
The legislation passed by Congress is heading to the President’s desk to be signed, after years of lobbying and petitioning. The Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act and the National Museum of the American Latino Act were folded into the massive legislation that included Covid-19 relief and government funding. A lone Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, blocked the two bills from passage earlier this month.
“What an amazing opportunity to celebrate our 500 years of sacrifice and contributions to the making of this great country and our suffering as well,” said actor, activist, and FRIENDS board member John Leguizamo. “We are the second oldest ethnic group in America after Native Americans. We are the only minority to have fought in every war dating back, and prior to, the Revolutionary War! Our contributions and struggles must be accounted for, including the atrocities which include the 6,000 Hispanics lynched, burned alive and shot in the 1800’s. I can’t wait for my children and my grandchildren to visit and feel seen and respected, as well as have other communities appreciate our value, through a National American Latino Museum!”
A report by the Smithsonian Institution Task Force in 1994 concluded that the “Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world, displays a pattern of willful neglect” to the American Latino population. “Because of both Indigenous roots and Spanish heritage, Latinos predate the British in The Americas,” said the report. “Yet the Institution almost entirely excludes and ignores Latinos in nearly every aspect of its operation.”
Since then activists and notable Latinos like Emilio Estefan, Cristela Alonzo, John Leguizamo and more have called for the museum to be created to display the achievements and accomplishments by Latinos that have contributed to the American landscape.
“We are eager to see the White House sign the bill into law,” stated Rodriguez via press release, “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.”