Hoping to follow the example of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), two Latino lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday that would create a museum devoted to American Latinos on the National Mall. The pitch for the museum came two days ahead of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on Sept. 15.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), both longtime supporters of building the museum, are hoping to ride the momentum surrounding the opening of the NMAAHC on Sept. 24.
The proposed National Museum of the American Latino would give Latinos a long-awaited space on the National Mall, Becerra said. The legislation would establish the museum in the Arts and Industries Building on the southern end of the Mall.
“A lot of people do not know that there are American Latinos who couldn’t walk into restaurants in the last century,” Becerra said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “People like my dad would run into signs that read, ‘No dogs or Mexicans allowed.’ A museum gives people a sense of our history and culture and makes it clear how proud we are to be Americans.”
The House and Senate bills have so far received bipartisan support. But if Congress votes to establish an American Latino museum, the project would likely be years away from a grand opening. The NMAAHC was established by Congress in 2003, and has been more than 13 years in the making.
A museum gives people a sense of our history and culture and makes it clear how proud we are to be Americans. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)
Becerra began his efforts to establish an American Latino museum in 2003, introducing a House bill that created a commission to explore the prospect of such a museum in Washington. In 2011, a report by the commission estimated that opening the museum would cost $463 million.
Following the report, Becerra and Menendez introduced legislation to create the museum, but the measures failed in both chambers. Another measure died in 2013.
“The National Mall should be the space where we get to tell our American story,” Becerra said. “It’s bad enough that we’re missing from TV and the books we read in school. The more we give people the chance to see what it means to be an American Latino, the better off we are.”