Actresses Sofía Vergara and Eva Longoria, musician and producer Emilio Estefan, and chef-activist José Andrés have been appointed to the board of trustees of the planned National Museum of the American Latino, the Smithsonian Board of Regents announced Tuesday.
Three executives will represent Smithsonian’s corporate partners: Bank of America’s Raul A. Anaya, Coca-Cola Co.’s Alfredo Rivera and Target’s Rick Gomez. Two more appointments are pending, Smithsonian officials said.
Congress authorized the creation of the Latino museum and the American Women’s History Museum last December and set a six-month deadline for the Smithsonian to appoint two boards. Establishing the board of trustees is the first step in the long process of creating a Smithsonian museum. The women’s history board will be announced in a few weeks, officials said.
The trustees will advise the Smithsonian on the Latino museum’s operations, including its collections, exhibitions and programs, and on the location, design and construction of its building. Members will also help the federal institution raise money for its construction, which will be a 50-50 split between federal government and private donations.
“We picked people who have experience in their fields, whether it is philanthropy or the corporate world,” said Eduardo Díaz, the museum’s interim director. “There are several entertainers and leaders in health care. It is a wide range of experience in a broad area of professional endeavors.
“They will be ambassadorial,” Díaz continued. “To reach out to their networks, be successful in attracting participation in their spheres of influence and help us raise money.”
The proposed museums will be the first new Smithsonian facilities since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016.
Latinos have a long and rich history that deserves a museum in the nation’s capital, Andrés said.
“All the Latin Americans, the Hispanics, are part of the DNA of America,” he said. “The diversity of Latinos in the country, ones that keep arriving as new immigrants and ones that have been here for generations, it’s about time we tell their story.
“We need a place that honors these men and women.”
In addition to the 13 citizen members, the authorizing legislation designates six public officials, including four Smithsonian leaders, for the Latino museum board: Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III; Undersecretary for Museums and Culture Kevin Gover; Smithsonian National Latino Board Chairwoman Margarita Paláu-Hernández; and Smithsonian Regent Franklin D. Raines. Congress is represented by two members: Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), selected by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), appointed by the Congressional Hispanic Conference.
“At the heart of the American story are Latino stories, those of individuals, many of them immigrants, who encompass an unwavering spirit of perseverance and positive contributions,” Cárdenas said in a statement. “Each of these trustees bring the energy and experience needed to build one of the greatest museums this country has ever known.”
The Smithsonian Latino Center, established in 1997, will merge with the museum and become a center within it, Díaz said, and the national board that advises the center will continue to work with the new board of trustees.
“We need more people on the ground fulfilling those ambassadorial functions, especially on the grass-roots level,” he said. “We have to have a broad base of support so it’s important to keep the [national board] together.”
The board of trustees is expected to meet for the first time this fall. The members, who are not paid, will serve one- to three-year terms and may be reappointed for a total of two terms.
A national search is underway for the museum’s founding director, Díaz said. In addition, the Smithsonian is close to hiring an architectural and engineering firm that will evaluate potential sites for the Latino and women’s history museums.