House approves bill to establish Smithsonian Latino Museum

Smithsonian Institution

The US House of Representatives have approved legislation to establish a National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, DC, as part of the Smithsonian Institution.

The bill, which was introduced last year by Democratic Representative José Serrano of New York, was approved by voice vote with support from Democrats and Republicans.

It had a total of 295 co-sponsors in the 435-seat chamber, and a companion measure is awaiting action in the Senate (via The Art Newspaper and CNN).

As part of the legislation, the Smithsonian Institution must designate a site for the museum on the National Mall within two years and embark on a study for the museum’s creation.

“Today, we reached an important milestone for the Hispanic community with passage of this legislation,” said Serrano, dean of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“After nearly 20 years of work, the National Museum of the American Latino Act was finally considered and approved with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

Bill supported by Democrats and Republicans

In 1994, a task force found in a report that the Smithsonian revealed a pattern of excluding the presence and contributions of Latino Americans in its workforce and exhibitions.

In 2011, a presidential commission was established to study the creation of a National Museum of the American Latino and delivered a report detailing the museum’s feasibility.

Danny Vargas, chairman of the Friends of the American Latino Museum, said: “For over 500 years, the Latino community has been instrumental in the building, shaping and defending of our great nation.

“The time has come to commemorate those contributions in a national museum that will illuminate the American story for the benefit of everyone and serve to inspire future generations.”

“To fully understand American history, we need a museum for the American Latino and Latina,” Texas Republican Representative Will Hurd said before the vote on Monday (July 27).

‘Latino history is American history’

Following the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Today is a proud day for the Congress and the Country, as the Democratic House passes the National Museum of the American Latino Act.

“This long-overdue legislation will celebrate the contributions of generations of Latinos, acknowledging this truth: that Latino history is American history.”

The National Museum of the American Latino, which will document Latino life, art, history and culture in America, would be the Smithsonian’s first addition since 2016 when it opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“Latinos are a crucial part of the American identity,” said Washington Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler.

“I look forward to visiting the National Museum of the American Latino and sharing these stories with my children. These American stories.”

The Smithsonian is also launching the Race, Community and Our Shared Future initiative following a $25 million donation from the Bank of America.