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Introduction Of The Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act

Rep. Xavier Becerra

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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) the Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act--a companion bill that is also being introduced today in the U.S. Senate by our colleagues Senator Robert Menendez (NJ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and Senator Marco Rubio (FL).

The Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act we introduce today advances the work of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission--a 23-member bipartisan, congressionally authorized commission of experts that investigated the potential creation of a museum. Through an exhaustive process that involved consultations with national experts, forums in 8 cities (Chicago, Albuquerque, Austin, Miami, St. Paul, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Juan, Puerto Rico), and communication via several online platforms that engaged tens of thousands of supporters, the commission generated valuable input regarding the feasibility of an American Latino museum in Washington,

Over the past 18 years the call has grown stronger and stronger to establish such a museum on our National Mall that shares the rich and full story of what it means to be an American. The effort to create the American Latino Museum dates back to 1993, when a Smithsonian Task Force on Latino Issues formally called for the creation of a national museum dedicated to sharing the story of Latinos' historic, cultural and artistic contributions to the U.S. I was proud to introduce the legislation in 2003 that created the National Museum of the American Latino Commission. Five years later, in 2008, Congress passed the bill and it was signed by President George W. Bush. Once appointed by Congress and President Barack Obama, the Commission began its work in 2009 with the support of the Department of Interior and Secretary Ken Salazar. The Commission's final 2011 report and recommendations can be viewed at .http://www.americanlatinomuseum.gov

The bill we are introducing responds to the Commission's call for the creation of a national museum in Washington, DC that illuminates the American story for the benefit of all'' by preserving, presenting and interpreting American Latino history, art, cultural expressions, and experiences. Specifically, the bill:

(1) Establishes within the Smithsonian Institution a museum to be known as the ``Smithsonian American Latino Museum.''

(2) Designates the museum's site as the Arts and Industries Building on the National Mall, at 900 Jefferson Drive Southwest in Washington,

(3) Authorizes the Smithsonian Board of Regents to prepare a plan of action for the museum, as referred to in the May 2011 Report to Congress submitted by the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of the American Latino, in consultation with the Secretary of Interior, the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission and federal and local agencies.

(4) Authorizes the Regents to identify and evaluate viable funding models for both the construction and operation of the museum, within 18 months after the bill is enacted.

(5) Authorizes the Regents and Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement that allows for the planning, design and construction of an underground annex facility, in a manner harmonious with and to protect the open space and visual sightlines of the Mall.

Today marks a key moment in our effort to ensure that the contributions of Americans of Latino descent receive the respect and recognition earned by a patriotic community of Americans who have served this nation since its inception and now number over 50 million. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill and to supporting the Smithsonian Institution in an important new chapter of its work to increase understanding of the American experience.