National Latino museum in indefinite gridlock

Cid Wilson chairman of the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, a group that has been pushing for establishing a museum dedicated to Latinos and their role in U.S. A bill that would pave the way for the creation of the museum, however, has languished in Congress.

“It would be dedicated exclusively to Latino history and culture, so that we understand the 500 year history of Latinos in the U.S., so that Americans can know our story,” Wilson said. “Our Latino story is an American story.”

The bill pending in the House and Senate would approve the site for the new museum. In 2011, a presidential commission called for the creation of a Smithsonian American Latino Museum. But the effort keeps stalling in Congress. Some lawmakers have questioned whether there is a need for another museum focusing on a minority group in Washington. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida are chief sponsors in the upper chamber, and California Representative Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, is the lead sponsor in the House, along with Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

"We're looking for a home for our history, for our culture, for our contributions to this country," Becerra said last year. Actress Eva Longoria has been a leading proponent of the museum effort, along with producer Emilio Estefan, Rosario Dawson and other entertainers. It is estimated that supporters would have to raise at least $325 million in private donations to build the museum if it is authorized by Congress.

"We can't even get started on the fundraising until Congress approves the bill," Wilson said. U.S. Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, appeared before the New York City Council to urge it to pass a resolution calling on Congress to act on the Latino museum measure. “Latinos and Latinas have been an integral part of the United States for over 200 years,” Serrano said.

“This museum can teach the American people about the great contributions that Latinos have given our country,” Serrano added. “From the great Roberto Clemente in baseball, to the talented Jenni Rivera in music, to Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the Supreme Court, the United States has been deeply enriched by the Latino community.”

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