In 1969, Raphael Montañez Ortiz founded El Museo del Barrio to provide a platform for the Latino art that mainstream museums ignored. Since then, things have changed. This fall, for example, LA museums will showcase an unprecedented number of exhibitions that explore the connections between Latin America and Los Angeles. But despite these strides, we still remain woefully underrepresented at these institutions. For years, Latino members of Congress have pushed for a national Latino museum (though the idea first emerged in the mid-1990s) without success. Because we also don’t often see ourselves accurately depicted in film, media, and even in US history classes across the country, many Latinos aren’t able to access their own histories. But a new Google Arts & Culture collection is hoping to correct this imbalance. Launched on September 7, Latino Cultures in the US is one of the largest digital collections of Latino art, culture, and history.
Google collaborated with about 50 institutions, including the Smithsonian Latino Center, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, California State Archives, and Miami Dade College. The collection features more than 2,500 pieces of art through 90 exhibits. (Google is also creating curriculums so that more students can learn about Latino history, the company reports.) The digital collection is impressive and much-needed, but it’s still incomplete because it doesn’t capture every facet of our identities. We hope to see it grow in the future, but if you’re looking to immerse yourself in this massive amount of history, here’s a few good places to start:
Following the Trump Administration’s dissolution of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded young undocumented immigrants from deportation and granted them work permits, Google’s exploration (created in collaboration with Latino USA) of the Dream Act is required viewing. In 2013, nine undocumented activists risked never being allowed to return to the US with their protest. They left the country and walked from Mexico to the border, demanding to be allowed to re-enter and granted asylum.
For many, the Statue of Liberty marked a new beginning for those hoping to start anew in the United States. In Miami, however, the Freedom Tower came to represent the city’s history of immigration. The Miami Dade College archive, which features a mix of images and footage, breaks down the importance of the building.
Since the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Mexico’s national identity has been defined by mestizaje – a term that recognizes mixed racial ancestry of the New World after colonization. But although Mexico’s African presence was considerable from the start of colonization, this “third root” is often excluded from classic views of mestizaje, which focus on indigenous and European ancestries. This National Museum of Mexican Art exhibit looks at the African Diaspora’s presence and importance in Mexico.
When Salvadoran artist Juan Hector Ponce arrived in Los Angeles, he began working on both cultural and commercial murals. One of his most recognized is a tribute to Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian immigrant who defied the odds when a record number of students considered “unteachable” passed the AP calculus exam, and Edward James Olmos, who played the educator in Stand and Deliver.