Since the inception of the Smithsonian Latino Center in 1997, there has been a need for a permanent gallery that explores the contributions of Latinos in the United States. “In our founding document, there is a reference to the need for a gallery, but it’s been put on the back burner because of funds,” said Eduardo Díaz, the center’s director, to the Long Beach Post. But now, a $10 million donation from five siblings is making this much-needed initiative possible two decades later.
It started when Martha Molina Bernadett and her brother, Mario Molina, became friends with Roel Campos, the chairman of the center’s advisory board. “Our chairman met and built a relationship with the Molinas,” Díaz added. “All that planning and then it happens because people become friends. When you think of it, that’s what this is about, that’s how most things get done: relationships.”
The Molina sibs – Martha, Mario, John, Josephine, and Janet – have donated $10 million to honor their father, Dr. C. David Molina, who started the first intensive care unit in Long Beach in 1962 and founded Molina Healthcare (a company on the Fortune 500 list). The new space will be called the Molina Family Latino Gallery, and it will be completed in 2021. Housed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC, the gallery will launch with the Making Home: Latino Stories of Community and Belonging exhibition, which will look at how Latino culture has impacted this country and beyond.
“Latino history is American history and we have a responsibility to reflect the stories and experiences of Latinas and Latinos in the US today,” Diaz said. “…We recognize that being on the National Mall is a very significant thing. But we also know that a lot of our visitors are not going to be Latino. So, when Mr. and Mrs. Jones from Des Moines, Iowa show up with their kids, there is going to have to be an educational component but we also want to tell the full story that really captures the complexity, the historical trajectory of Latinos as nation builders.”
For years, there has been a push to create a Latino Museum on the National Mall. Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, a non-profit organization, has been instrumental in bringing attention to this topic.