In a packed reception room at the U.S. Capitol, the members of the commission who studied the need for a National Museum of the American Latino spoke about their own stories.
And Longoria, in a beige sheath and towering beige open-toed shoes, got right to one of the main points. The Hispanic history in the U.S. is a very long one. “I am a 9th generation American,” describing the homestead in Texas that had been given to her family in the 1600s. “I am living proof that Latinos have been here for a very long time.”
Longoria joined the other members of the commission in saying the understanding of the Latino story “benefits all Americans.”
The panel called for an establishment of a major museum on a site near the Capitol building that would come under the administration of the Smithsonian Institution.
The desire to have a Latino museum has been gestating for years. Secretary Salazar and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Ca.) were long-time supporters and beamed when Henry R. Munoz III, the commission chair, announced the public sessions about the museum and the complex feasibility study had been “finished in under a year and under budget.” Becerra, speaking in Spanish, said of the commissioners that he not only wanted to “give them a hug, but a kiss.”
The official presentation of the report to Congress and the White House Thursday was a first step, everyone agreed. Ahead is a legislation procedure to authorize the museum, fund-raising in tough economic times, building a collection, a design process and reviews by all the oversight boards, including the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission on Fine Arts. The supporters have proposed a private-public campaign to raise funds for an estimated $600 million project.
Though the Smithsonian has its hands full with 19 museums and its own fund-raising, officials said they would be glad to add a future Smithsonian American Latino Museum. “If Congress passes legislation to establish and fund a national Latino museum-the National Museum of the American Latino-the Smithsonian would be prepared to welcome it to the Smithsonian family of museums in Washington,” officials said in a statement.