Congress Is One Step Closer To Passing A Bill To Create A Latino American History Smithsonian Museum
In a groundbreaking moment, the efforts to establish a National Latino American History Museum finally reached the House Committee on Natural Resources. Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro (D-TX) testified in a congressional hearing for the National Museum of the American Latino Act. The museum would become the tenth installment by the Smithsonian Institution, alongside the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History.
The bill is expected to pass in the House, with 218 co-sponsors in both parties have already signed on. The Senate has long been an obstacle to the commemoration of Latinos’ contribution to American history. An earlier version of the bill died in the Senate in 2008. But things are different now.
Advocates are pointing to education as the solution for the rise in racism against Latinos in America.
Immigrant rights activist and author of “Someone Like Me” and “My (Underground) American Dream,” Julissa Arce has become a major advocate for the Latino history museum.
“On Aug 3rd, a day that many of us will remember forever, a white nationalist killed 22 people in El Paso,” Arce tweeted. “Maybe, just maybe if he had learned the full history of Texas … he would not have viewed us as targets, but as fellow countrymen.”
Dolores Huerta, of course, was there to advocate for Latino-American history.
Huerta has long been an icon in our history of fighting for the same civil liberties that are granted to white Americans.
“The infrastructure of the United States was built by many, many Latinos in this country,” she told the Washington D.C. crowd. “Unfortunately, there are so many people in the United States of America who think we just got here.”
We all know that’s simply not true. Latinos are not new, nor a threat to this country. Huerta continued to acknowledge that Latinos have been contributing to United States history for generations.
Huerta agrees with Arce that “the only way we can erase racism is through understanding and through knowledge. That is what Latino Museum would create.”
The Smithsonian itself has acknowledged that Latino stories are the most underrepresented in its collections.
In a 1994 Willful Neglect report, the Smithsonian Institution acknowledged that Americans and visitors alike were absorbing American history as presented by the institute with a near erasure of Latino contributions. The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute recently reconfirmed the erasure in a 2018 report.
“The American Latino community has been a part of that story for over 500 years – yet those stories are still not fully represented among our iconic federal monuments and national museums,” FRIENDS board Chairman, Danny Vargas, commented. “American history is incomplete without the stories of Latino and Latina leaders, artists, scientists, and trailblazers, which is why we need a National American Latino Museum to educate, inspire, and honor our shared history.”
During the hearing, Latino legislators and their allies passionately shared their case for the establishment of the Latino Museum.
“As full partners in the American story, Latinos need to have their place of prominence,” Rep. Raul Grijalva testified during the hearing. “When walking down the National Mall patriotism should overwhelm every American’s spirit. But for nearly 60 million Americans there is a void,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) shared.
Rep. Serrano was adamant that the U.S. can’t wait any longer for a Latino Museum, and later tweeted “#LatinoMuseumNow.” Meanwhile, the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, Senator Cortez-Masto told the House, “Our children and our children’s children … if they were to go to that museum and see people who look like them and learn the sacrifices that we have made … how proud they would be.”
If passed in the House, the bill will then move to the Republican-majority Senate to allow the National Museum of the American Latino to represent the 60 million Americans absent from Smithsonian history.
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has long been acknowledged as the official benchmark of immortalized United States history. It garners over 30 million annual visitors, admitted without charge. It’s where every 5th grader dreams of visiting on a field trip. It’s also where one-sixth of the U.S. population sees U.S. history without true reflection of their ancestral history on these lands.
If you want to help make this a reality, you can call your U.S. Representative and urge them to support the Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act.
READ: The Smithsonian Is Opening The First Permanent Latino Gallery In 2021 Highlighting Latino Contributions
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