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In 2015, writer Sandra Cisneros made an installation at the National Museum of American History inspired by the tradition of Día de Muertos and devoted to her mother, Elvira Cordero Cisneros.

US House Votes to Create National Museum of the American Latino

The US House of Representatives voted yesterday to establish a national museum of the American Latino dedicated to the history and culture of America’s Latinx communities, which comprise nearly 60 million people. Introduced last year by New York representative José E. Serrano, the bill for the museum, which will sit on the National Mall, was unanimously approved on Monday and now goes to the Senate, where it has bipartisan support. The museum would be a subsidiary of the Smithsonian Institution and would model itself on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened on the mall in 2016 to popular and critical acclaim.

“The Latino story is an American story, and our history is a central thread in the history of our nation,” said Representative Joaquin Castro, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which praised the bill’s passage and noted that such a museum has been under consideration for fifteen years. If the measure is approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, the Smithsonian would be given two years to organize a board of directors and determine a site for the museum on the mall, which extends from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Its current legislation requires that half of the museum’s funding—expected to total hundreds of millions of dollars—come from the federal government and half from donors.

Four years after the 2004 founding of the nonprofit Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, legislation to create a commission to research the possibility of the institution was signed into law. In a 2011 report two years later, the twenty-three-person commission concluded that “a national museum focused on American Latino history, art, and culture is not only viable but essential to America’s interests.” In December 2018, the Smithsonian announced that it would open its first gallery permanently devoted to the Latinx experience in the US. The Molina Family Latino Gallery, named after donors who gave $10 million to the institution, will open in 2022 at the National Museum of American History.

“Latinos have fought in every US war. Food and music from Latin America are enjoyed in every American city,” Castro said. “American Latinos are parents, veterans, teachers, activists, innovators, artists, scientists, business owners . . . and so much more. Now, more than ever, America’s Latinos deserve to have our story told and our voices to be heard.”

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