Sunday, September 15, 2019

Despite little support, Latino lawmakers continue pushing for Smithsonian Latino museum

Latino members of Congress are renewing their call for a national museum devoted to Latino history and culture, urging the passage of legislation to cover some of the costs.

Rep. Tony Cardenas, a California Democrat, said Thursday, “If we don’t take charge, another decade is going to go by, another decade is going to go by, and the biggest minority population in America is not going to have a powerful presence in Washington, D.C., as we should.”

Advocates have been pushing for a museum since 2004, a year after the federal government authorized construction of the Smithsonian Institution’s African-American museum. Citing the black history museum as an example, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said they plan to push Congress to pass legislation that covers half the cost.

They didn’t specify how much the Latino museum would cost, but casually estimated it could take $600 million to $700 million. Cardenas, speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference, acknowledged that fundraising efforts would face obstacles: “The Smithsonian is not exactly on our side,” he said.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian, said there are no plans for a new museum. However, she said, the Smithsonian does offer “extensive Latino programming” and has hired 11 Latino curators. There also is a Latino labor rights exhibit currently on display in the National Museum of American History, St. Thomas said.

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