House Spending Bill Imperils Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino

6Oct. 22, 2022

House Spending Bill Imperils …

The fate of the Smithsonian’s forthcoming National Museum of the American Latino (NMAL), which had been slated to rise on the National Mall in Washington, DC, is uncertain following the July 19 passage by the House Appropriations Committee of a spending bill that bans further federal funding for the institution. The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM), which wasapprovedby Congress alongside NMAL in 2020, will continue to receive taxpayer money. According toThe Hill, which first broke the news, Republicans came out strongly against funding for NMAL after the forthcoming institution—for which a site has not yet been selected—mounted its first exhibition, in the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Critics argue that “¡Presente!A Latino History of the United States,” which is currently on view, focuses only on the Mexican experience of migration forced in part by US aid of right-wing Latin American governments, leaving out altogether the story of Cubans who fled Communist Cuba after 1959.

One of the conditions of NMAL’s initial approval was that the institution be impartial.RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD “I don’t know who [organized the exhibition], I don’t know if they’re Hispanic, but it’s really kind of like a racist portrayal of Hispanics. And also just trying to portray the United States as evil in every way,” Representative Mario Díaz-Balart, a Florida Republican and House Appropriations Committee member whose constituency includes a large Cuban population, toldThe Hill. Fellow committee member Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Upper Manhattan in New York, disagreed with Díaz-Balart’s take. “The Latino community is not monolithic,” Espaillatwroteon Twitter.

“We are very diverse and the fact that Republicans want to drive a stake into the heart of the Smithsonian Museum honoring the Latino culture in America is unacceptable.” Espaillat on July 19 introduced an amendment that would restore funding for the museum; it was defeated in a 33-27 vote. NMAL’s approval came on the heels of decades of grassroots lobbying, and was nearly scuttled after Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah stood against it during a unanimous-voice vote on the matter, calling both it and the NWHM “divisive” and arguing that the history of women and Latinos should be honored within the confines of existing Smithsonian museums. Jorge Zamanillo wasnamedNMAL’s founding director in February 2022..