Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Serrano, Hurd, Menendez and Cornyn Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation To Create a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino

May 1, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. –Today, Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) led a bipartisan, bicameral reintroduction of the National Museum of the American Latino Act, which would establish a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall dedicated to honoring the contributions of Latinos to the United States. Members of Congress and advocates from around the nation gathered to discuss the bill at a press conference today.

“Latinos have played an integral part in America’s history since its founding. Their stories, contributions, and sacrifices deserve a place in Washington, D.C. that honors and showcases an important part of our shared history. With passage of this legislation, we will be one step closer to making the American Latino Museum a reality. This is one of a few truly bipartisan and bicameral efforts in the Congress that honors Latinos’ diverse contributions to the American story. I am proud to work with Congressman Hurd to lead this effort in the House, and thankful for Senator Menendez’s and Senator Cornyn’s leadership in the Senate,” said Congressman Serrano (D-NY15).

“The story of our nation cannot be told without telling the story of Latino Americans. Throughout our country the contributions of Latinos can be clearly seen and heard, and in my majority-Hispanic district, I have seen firsthand Latinos shaping our history and culture across South and West Texas communities each and every day,” said Congressman Hurd (R-TX23). “A Latino Museum is long overdue, and I am proud to join Rep. Serrano, Sens. Cornyn and Menendez, and a group of my colleagues in this bipartisan, bicameral effort to fight for the over 57 million hardworking Latinos across the nation and make this museum a reality.”

“It’s hard to believe that in the year 2019, a museum devoted to Latino history does not already exist,” said Senator Menendez (D-NJ). “From day one, Hispanics have shaped this nation in countless ways – as military leaders, as pioneers in business and the arts, as activists and elected officials—all of them committed to the American dream. Our legislation will establish a National Museum of the American Latino right where it belongs, here in our nation’s capital alongside the Native American Museum, the African American Museum, and the Smithsonian’s many other fine institutions.”

“American Latino history and culture is woven throughout the fabric of our country,” said Senator Cornyn. (R-TX) “More than one third of all Texans identify as Hispanic, and I’m proud to partner with Senator Menendez in the fight to honor their contributions by establishing a new museum in the Smithsonian Institution.”

“Over 20 million visitors from all over the world come to Washington D.C. and visit Smithsonian museums every year, yet our museums have not honored and acknowledged the contributions of American Latinos the way that they should. Latino American history is American history with contributions going back more than 500 years.   I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation and making this long overdue tribute a reality,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13)

“Creating a National Museum of the American Latino will allow us to celebrate the immeasurable contributions Latinos have made to American history and share these accomplishments with visitors from across the U.S. and around the world. I know that one day we will establish a museum to celebrate our culture and past – a place to honor activists like Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, artists and performers like Lin-Manuel Miranda, and authors like Sandra Cisneros,” said Congressman Castro (D-TX20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “We are living at time when many Hispanic families are living in the shadows and in fear because of the anti-immigrant environment. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we tell Hispanic stories and celebrate our culture. I’m grateful to stand with Senator Menendez, Congressman Serrano, and our Republican colleagues to introduce this bill and take a step forward to establishing a Latino Smithsonian.”

“The Smithsonian failed to act on most of its own recommendations made in a 1994 report, the Smithsonian has yet to cooperate with Congress to launch a new Latino museum. These facts have been documented in the UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative report, “Invisible No More,” released on September 10, 2018.  At 58 million, Latinos are the nation’s largest ethnic group in America. We have played a positive and dynamic part in weaving the fabric of the United States of America’s past and present. The Latino contributions have always been and always will be a positive and beautiful force in our country. Today, we introduce the National Museum of the American Latino Act which will establish the first Smithsonian Institution Museum dedicated to the history and contributions of Latinos in America. We urge our colleagues to unite in support of this bill,” said Congressman Cardenas (D-CA29).

“The Latino experience is the American experience and deserves its rightful recognition and preservation in our nation’s cultural institutions,” said Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ3). “It tells the story of social change, perseverance, and overcoming incredible barriers to succeed. That’s why I’m proud to support the National Museum of the American Latino and ensure that our story has a permanent location on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.,”

“I am proud to support this legislation and this effort. It is time that we recognize, honor and emphasize the countless contributions Latinos have made to America and its history,” said Congressman King (R-NY3).

"Even though Latinos have been contributing to the fabric of America for over 500 years, we still don’t have a place on the National Mall to celebrate these contributions. It is now necessary and urgent that we establish a national museum to recognize the full picture of American history. Congress has all of the reason it needs to pass the bill authorizing the Smithsonian National American Latino Museum in this session," said Danny Vargas, Chair of the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino Board

“Our history, contributions, struggles and triumphs aren’t only Latino in nature, they are American. The time is now for a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall.  Until the museum is built, and until the names of Latino heroes, civil rights leaders, scientists, and artists are known and celebrated, the history of America will remain incomplete. I look forward to being back in Washington, D.C., for the ribbon cutting ceremony,” said Julissa Arce, Nationally Bestselling Author, Writer, Speaker, and Social Justice Advocate.

Serrano, Hurd, Menendez, Cornyn  and Cardenas, were joined by a bipartisan group of members and advocates at a press conference today where they discussed the importance of establishing a Latino Museum and urged passage of the bill in the 116th Congress. Participants included: Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA); Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee; Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee; Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Sylvia Garcia (D-TX); Peter King (R-NY); Dan Newhouse (R-WA); Danny Vargas, Chair of the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino Board; Estuardo Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino; and Julissa Arce, Nationally Bestselling Author, Writer, Speaker, and Social Justice Advocate.

The National Museum of the American Latino Act builds on nearly 16 years’ worth of work in laying the foundation for the establishment of a future museum. In 2003, the first Congressional bill was introduced to study the creation of a museum. In 2008, with Presidential and Congressional leadership, a 23-member Commission was established to study the viability of a museum. In 2011, the Commission’s work culminated in a final report that detailed that the creation of a museum on the National Mall was indeed feasible. In 2019, this legislation will act on the Commission’s report and put into motion the process of establishing a Latino Museum, similar to those that established other Smithsonian museums. The creation of a national American Latino Museum would educate Americans and visitors from around the world on the innumerable contributions that Latinos have made on American history and culture.

In addition to Congressman Serrano (D-NY15) and Congressman Hurd, the bipartisan effort in the House included the following Members as original cosponsors of the bill: Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), J. Luis Correa (D-CA-46), Peter King (R-NY-3), Darren Soto (D-FL-9), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32), Sean Duffy (R-WI-7), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-7), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13),  Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-3), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA-38), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4). A link to the House bill can be found here.

In addition to Senators Menendez and Cornyn, the bipartisan effort in the Senate included the following Senators as original cosponsors: Cortez Masto, Capito, Feinstein, Rubio, Harris, Portman, Booker and McSally.