Lawmakers Renew Efforts to Open 'The National Museum of the American Latino'

A bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill to establish the National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, DC. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), along with US Representatives José Serrano (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Texas’ Joaquin Castro (D) and Will Hurd (R) reintroduced the National Museum of the American Latino Act on May 2. The bill would establish a Smithsonian museum at the National Mall that would honor Latino Americans’ heritage and history.

“It’s hard to believe that in the year 2019, a museum devoted to Latino history does not already exist,” Menendez said in a statement. “From day one, Hispanics have shaped this nation in countless ways — as military leaders, as pioneers in business and the arts, as activists and elected officials — all of them committed to the American dream. Our legislation will establish a National Museum of the American Latino right where it belongs, here in our nation’s capital alongside the Native American Museum, the African American Museum, and the Smithsonian’s many other fine institutions.” The act would create a 19 member board of trustees that would help plan the construction of the museum and assist with the development of the collections displaying the culture and history of American Latinos. It would also establish grants, scholarships, and educational programs for children and adults.

“American Latino history and culture is woven throughout the fabric of our country,” said Cornyn in the statement. “Nearly 40 percent of all Texans identify as Hispanic, and I’m proud to partner with Senator Menendez in the fight to honor their contributions by establishing a new museum in the Smithsonian Institution.”

Other lawmakers that support the act include Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Legislation to create a national Latino museum has been previously introduced, but the bills never passed through Congress, NBC News reported. In 2008, former President George W. Bush established a commission to study the creation of such a museum, which submitted a report to President Barack Obama and Congress in 2011. The commission found that creating the museum would not only act “as a monument for Latinos, but as a 21st century learning laboratory rooted in the mission that every American should have access to the stories of all Americans.”

However, the original legislation was delayed by Congress, according to NBC News. “Latinos have played an integral part in America’s history since its founding. Their stories, contributions, and sacrifices deserve a place in Washington, DC that honors and showcases an important part of our shared history. With passage of this legislation, we will be one step closer to making the American Latino Museum a reality,” said Serrano.

“This is one of a few truly bipartisan and bicameral efforts in the Congress that honors Latinos’ diverse contributions to the American story.” As of May 1, the bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, according to Congress’ website.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.