FederalTexas Lawmakers Push Congress to Establish National Latino Museum

Sen. John Cornyn's bill to establish a $700 million American Latino museum as part of the Smithsonian passed the House on Monday, but still requires Senate approval.
July 29, 2020
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Several Texas lawmakers are urging the Senate to pass legislation that would create the National Museum of the American Latino as part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the legislation last year alongside Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

“Close to 40 percent of all Texans identify as Hispanic, and their history is an integral part of Texas history that must be recognized and remembered,” said Cornyn. “By creating a new museum in the Smithsonian Institution, we can honor American Latino contributions and highlight their stories for future generations.”

The project is estimated to cost $700 million, which would be funded in half by taxpayer dollars via the federal government and in half by outside fundraising.

On Monday, the House of Representatives approved their bill by voice vote, which includes an additional $15 million for a grant program to support other American Latino museums and $20 million for planning the museum.

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Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) introduced the House version of the legislation with Texas Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Will Hurd (R-TX-23), and Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29) as original cosponsors.

Other Texas cosponsors of the bill include all Democrats in the delegation and 14 Republicans:

  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02)
  • Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX-05)
  • Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX-06)
  • Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-07)
  • Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX-08)
  • Rep. Al Green (D-TX-09)
  • Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10)
  • Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX-11)
  • Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX-14)
  • Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15)
  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16)
  • Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX-17)
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18)
  • Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX-22)
  • Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24)
  • Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX-26)
  • Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28)
  • Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30)
  • Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31)
  • Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX-32)
  • Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33)
  • Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX-34)
  • Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35)
  • Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX-36)

Castro, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, applauded the passage of the legislation, saying, “Spanish was the first non-native language to be spoken in the United States.  Latinos have fought in every U.S. war. Food and music from Latin America are enjoyed in every American city. American Latinos are parents, veterans, teachers, activists, innovators, artists, scientists, business owners, immigrants, patriots and so much more.”

“Right now, Latinos are disproportionately represented among the essential workers keeping America safe, fed, and running during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis,” said Castro. “The Latino story is an American story, and our history is a central thread in the history of our nation.”

If the legislation is approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president, then the American Latino museum would join 11 other Smithsonian museums on the National Mall.

Most recently, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016.

That museum was created through a similar process, with a bill establishing the museum authored by the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) approved by Congress in 2003.

Similar to the legislation for the Latino museum, Lewis’ bill provided $15 million for a grant program, $17 million for planning the museum, and stipulated that the federal government would fund half of the total cost of $540 million.

The Smithsonian’s private fundraising campaign brought in an additional $116 million above its $270 million target.

In 2011, the National Museum of the American Latino — chaired by Texas Democratic activist Henry Muñoz III — published a report exploring the potential addition to the Smithsonian.

The report concluded that the total estimated cost of the project would be $600 million.

Now, nine years later, the estimated cost is about $100 million more according to The Hill, an increase that can be mostly attributed to inflation.

Cornyn’s bill has been cosponsored by nearly a third of the Senate, and the latest action to be taken on it was a referral to the Rules and Administration Committee after it was introduced.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.