A federal commission is appealing for a national museum devoted to American Latino history and culture to be built next to the U.S. Capitol as part of the Smithsonian Institution, to join ethnic museums about American Indians and African-American history.
A copy of the commission's report obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release said the museum would represent Latinos on the National Mall where their heritage has been absent.
“The mall, more than any other public space in our country does indeed tell the story of America, and yet that story is not complete,” wrote commission chairman Henry R. Munoz III. “There must also be a living monument that recognises that Latinos were here well before 1776 and that in this new century, the future is increasingly Latino, more than 50 million people and growing.” In recent years, Latinos have replaced black Americans as the largest minority group. The commission submits its report to Congress and the White House.
It calls for the museum to be established as the Smithsonian American Latino Museum. The commission recommends Congress provide half the cost of a $600 million museum to be built near the reflecting pool on the Capitol grounds. Private donations would cover the remainder. Since 2009, the commission has studied the feasibility for such a museum, the fundraising potential and how it would affect local and regional Latino museums. It also relied on models from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and its planned National Museum of African-American History and Culture, slated to open in four years near the Washington Monument.
The report lays out a case for retracing 500 years of Latino history with roots in Europe, Africa and Asia and from indigenous people before English settlers founded Jamestown in what is now Virginia. It notes Spanish explorers were first to land in Florida and created outposts that eventually led to cities like San Francisco, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Former President George W. Bush signed legislation establishing the Latino museum commission in 2008, and President Barack Obama, along with congressional leaders, appointed a 23-member commission. It includes Eva Longoria from TV's “Desperate Housewives,” producer Emilio Estefan and others for their expertise in museums, fundraising and Latino culture.