From the decades of activism of labor leader César Chávez to the groundbreaking career of Roberto Clemente in Major League Baseball, to the music of “Salsa Queen” Celia Cruz with a message, the stories of Latino notables who have made history will be on display in a new Smithsonian exhibit.
The National Museum of the American Latino will open its inaugural gallery at the National Museum of American History on June 18. The new American Latino Museum likely won’t open in its own building for at least 10 years, but the Smithsonian will roll out exhibits until the museum finds its permanent home.
The initial exhibit, titled “¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States,” aims to “illuminate the historical and cultural legacy of Latino America,” the Smithsonian said in a statement. Inside the interactive gallery, which is named after the family of late Smithsonian donor David Molina, artifacts are organized by themes such as “colonial heritage” and “stories of immigration.”
Celia Cruz, the “Queen of Salsa” and a prominent Afro-Latin artist, will be honored in the Latin American Museum’s inaugural gallery. Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images
The present!” The gallery will tell the stories of figures like Chávez, the Mexican-American founder of United Farm Workers of America who advocated for safer working conditions and higher wages for his fellow farm workers. Also highlighted was Clemente, a Puerto Rican baseball player who primarily played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and used his platform for 18 MLB seasons to advocate for Puerto Rican children and Afro-Latinos amid segregation. was still rife in the United States. Cruz, a legendary Cuban-born salsa artist, used the catchphrase “¡azúcar!” – it became a rallying cry for black Cubans whose ancestors had been enslaved on the island nation’s sugar cane plantations.
Other prominent figures like Luisa Moreno, a Guatemalan-born labor leader and civil rights activist, and Colombian American drag artist José Sarria, who was the first gay man to run for public office in the United States, will also be included in the exposure, the Smithsonian said.
All of the information found in the gallery will be available in English and Spanish – and, for those who can’t travel to Washington – online, through a “companion website” that showcases some of the artifacts and stories found in person at the exhibition. , said the Smithsonian.
Robert Clemente, considered one of the greatest Major League Baseball players of all time, championed Puerto Rican children throughout his 18 seasons in the league. Credit: Archive Bettmann/Getty Images
Eduardo Díaz, acting deputy director of the American Latino Museum, said 2022 was a “special year” for the gallery to open – it’s the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Latino Center, which was an initiative of the Smithsonian to better represent Latin Americans within its walls.
But it wasn’t until December 2020 that Congress approved the creation of the American Latino Museum, as well as an American Women’s History Museum. Proponents had been asking Congress and the Smithsonian to create the American Latino Museum for years. A cost estimate was presented via a presidential commission in 2011.
The process of introducing, approving and opening a Smithsonian museum can take more than a decade: the bill that called for the creation of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was adopted in 2003, but the museum itself did not open until 2016.