Latinos Want a Museum on the National Mall

In town forums held across the country this year to gauge interest in a national museum devoted to Hispanics, nearly everyone agreed on this: They want it to be on the National Mall, and they wanted it to be part of the Smithsonian Institution.

“It was almost unanimous,” said Cid Wilson, a member of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission, which was created in 2008 to study the feasibility of creating a museum on the history, art and cultures of U.S. Latinos.

“More than 90 percent of the Latinos who attended these public meetings in cities around the country, as well as people who sent us emails, and messages through Twitter and Facebook, said that they don’t want this museum to be away from Washington D.C.”

“The National Mall has a museum dedicated to the American Indian, the Holocaust, and there will be a National Museum of African American History and Culture completed by 2015,” said Wilson, who is on the board of directors of National Council of La Raza. “Latinos tell us if there’s space for those museums, we’re Americans too and our story is an American story. They say that if getting it on the National Mall means that it’ll take longer to get it built, then they’re willing to wait.”

The 23-member commission is made up of appointees of President Obama and the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The panel includes music producer and songwriter Emilio Estefan, Jr. and actress Eva Longoria. Others on the commission are professors, local political leaders and executives of museums.

The commission was given two years to study the feasibility and logistics of a national museum, located in Washington D.C., about Hispanics, now the nation’s largest minority group.

Wilson, one of the commission members selected by Obama, said that a draft of a report on its findings to be submitted to the president and Congress is near completion.

“We could have something completed by winter,” Wilson said.

Wilson noted that getting a structure on the National Mall can be difficult. But groups covet the location because of its visibility and symbolism, he said.

Linda St. Thomas, spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution, said, “I take that as a compliment. People like when they’re part of the Smithsonian because they’re in good hands. The Smithsonian has been in the museum business for 164 years.”

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