May 21, 2004

Senators Introduce Bill to Create National Museum of the American Latino in Washington D.C.

WASGHINTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT),  Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation to celebrate the culture of American Latinos by beginning the process of creating a National Museum of the American Latino.

The Senators’ legislation would create a national commission to study and plan for the development of a National Museum of the American Latino as part of the Smith-sonian Institution in Washington, D.C. 

Boxer said, “Throughout our Nation’s history, Latinos have enriched our culture, contributed to our economy, and served honorably next to their fellow Americans in times of war.  It is long past time to fully recognize and celebrate the Latino community as part of our diverse history.”

After extensive collaboration among educators, scholars, and community leaders as well as museums, universities, and public institutions, a task force determined that the Smith-sonian had a poor record of representing Latinos in its permanent exhibits and other public programs. This criticism led to the creation of the Smith-sonian’s Center for Latino Initiatives in 1998.

The Center for Latino Initiatives has been well received by the American Latino community and the general public, and has increased the profile of Latino arts and culture.  Still, the level of representation of the Latino community at the Smithsonian is far from where it should be.

With more than 38 million Latinos in the United States, Latinos now make up the largest minority group in the country.  The size, youth, and growth of this population indicate that American Latinos will continue play a critical role in every aspect of American life.

Boxer said, “From families with Puerto Rican and Dominican origins in New York, to those with Cuban blood in Miami, to the giant Mexican American and Central American community in California, American Latinos share a host of common values and similar experiences. A National Museum of the American Latino would help the larger American family celebrate this community’s  history and diversity.”

Representative Xavier Becerra and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have sponsored the companion legislation in the House, H.R. 3292.

Representative Becerra said, “I am elated that this bill has earned such strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and am so very grateful for the leadership Senators Bingaman, Boxer, Hatch and Hutchison have shown in introducing this important legis-lation. Our shared goal is to provide visitors to the museums in Washington, D.C., with a more complete picture of our collective history and culture so that the American mosaic portrayed in the nation’s capital more truly reflects who we are, and who we are becoming. With this legislation’s latest progression, we are getting closer and closer to making that dream, and this museum, a reality.”

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