Wednesday, August 1, 2018

By Beatrice Jin

 

WASHINGTON (AP)—Hispanic 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.

Advocates have been pushing for a Hispanic museum since 2004, a year after the federal government authorized construction of the Smithsonian Institution's African-American museum.

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.”

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.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016, was built with more than $500 million in public funds and private donations.

Cardenas, speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference, acknowledged that fundraising efforts would face obstacles.

“The Smithsonian is not exactly on our side,” Cardenas said. “The Smithsonian was not exactly on the Black community's side when they said you guys can do this.”

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.

Before their news conference, Hispanic caucus members met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. They did not offer details about their meeting.

Hispanic caucus chair Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said she was moved by a new virtual reality art installation, “Carne y Arena,” created by Academy Award-winning director Alejandro G. Inarritu. The exhibit, located in a building about two miles from the Capitol, details migrant and refugee experiences at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“That's what this is about—making sure you can see and visualize these issues,” Grisham said.