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Smithsonian Museum could help reveal forgotten Latinx history

Smithsonian Museum could help reveal forgotten Latinx history

Smithsonian Museum could help reveal forgotten Latinx history
October 31
17:42 2019

America has gone through a lot for being a relatively younger country, from fighting for our independence more than 243 years ago to combating terrorism today. We honor American history by having museums like the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to never forget our past.

But have we forgotten Latinos’ place in American history?

According to CNN, there have been talks of building a Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino to educate other Americans on the American Latinx experience.

In 2004, former President George W. Bush signed a legislation to create a 23-member committee to study the potential creation for the museum. A bill named the National Museum of the American Latino Act was created to begin plans for the museum, but nothing ever came to fruition. Had it been built, the museum would’ve neighbored the respective Smithsonian museums of the African American History and Culture and American Indian.

Recently, a House committee released a bill for the creation of a Latinx Smithsonian museum that narrowly missed the majority with 218 out of 435 votes. Though the article says this is a positive sign, this is frankly not enough. Even if the bill was voted by most of the House committee, the bill would move on to the Senate and ultimately find its way onto the lap of the president and well, we all know how he feels about Latinos.

So what makes the creation of a Smithsonian Museum for the American Latino important?

Although there are museums for Latinx history in Texas, such as the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas, having a Smithsonian dedicated to us in the nation’s capital would mean acknowledging the fact that we were indeed there for every major event in American history from the Texas Revolution to the civil rights movement.

Hispanics of various backgrounds from modern day Mexico explored North America 100 years before the British founded Jamestown. This means that for a large majority of Latinxs, their roots tie back to this land further than those with European ancestry. Why wouldn’t you document a group of people that have been here since the beginning and share it with the public eye?

Growing up, history was my favorite subject. I was fascinated with the idea that important people and major events predated my existence. But while I was sitting in my seat staring at the dry erase board ahead of me, I was reminded of the fact that there was hardly any mention of my people in assigned textbooks or class lectures. Everything I was learning was related to the history of mostly white Americans.

I wasn’t taught about the plight of Latinxs during the era of the civil rights movement, either. I didn’t know if, or how, they were segregated. I had to conduct research of my own to find out about Mendez vs Westminster in 1947 when a Mexican student named Sylvia Mendez sued a whites-only school after being turned away. This event is important because it eventually paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 which led to the end of segregation in schools.

I had to look up prominent Hispanic civil rights figures like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta because they were barely taught to me in school. In many ways, these leaders are the reason my family and I don’t live in segregation today, but I feel a tinge of disappointment that the struggles of the Latino community are seemingly forgotten during that window of time.

Building the Smithsonian Museum for the American Latino will send empowerment to fellow Latinx Americans because we’ve contributed to America in many ways that we should feel proud of from politics to sports and pop culture. It’s empowerment that is needed during this time of very real discrimination in America toward Latinxs.

The museum should be built to remind us that we are just as American as everyone else, because I believe if you aren’t showing the full picture then you’re only telling half the story.

Featured Illustration: Jae-Eun Suh

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Adrian Maldonado

Adrian Maldonado

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