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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Requests Meeting With Smithsonian Institution

Sep 28, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and members of CHC leadership, sent a letter to Smithsonian Institution Secretary David Skorton, requesting a meeting to discuss concerns about the recent findings from a University of California study which found that the Smithsonian has failed to heed its own recommendations and take measures to improve the representation of Latinos and Latinas across exhibitions and its workforce.

The letter was signed by Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Lujan Grisham (NM-01),  First Vice Chair Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20); Second Vice Chair Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07); Whip Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA-31) and Freshman Representative Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).

In addition to CHC leadership, the letter was also signed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congressman José E. Serrano (NY-15), who are primary sponsors of the National Museum of the American Latino Act (H.R. 2911/S. 1364).

The National Museum of the American Latino Act is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative effort to establish the National Museum of the American Latino within the Smithsonian Institution and help share and celebrate the history, culture, arts, and contributions made by Latinos in the United States. 

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

 

September 28, 2018

The Honorable David J. Skorton
Secretary
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012, MRC019
Washington, DC 20013-7012
 
Dear Secretary Skorton,

We write to request a meeting with you to discuss our concerns about the recent findings from a University of California study titled “Invisible No More: An Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution and Latino Representation.”[1] According to the study, the Smithsonian Institution has failed to implement six of its own ten recommendations to improve the representation of Latinos and Latinas across its exhibitions and workforce. As Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of progress on Latino inclusion efforts from the Smithsonian Institution

As you know, in 1994 the Smithsonian Institution Task Force on Latino Issues published a report titled “Willful Neglect; The Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Latinos.”[2] That report detailed a series of 10 recommendations “in order for Latinos to gain equitable and appropriate inclusion […] throughout the Institutions international complex of facilities and programs.”[3] The 10 recommendations broadly advocated for the Smithsonian to improve its efforts to recruit, retain and promote Latinos at every level, from its governance and advisory bodies to its curators and management areas.  The Task Force also recommended the creation of two new positions to assure the implementation of its recommendations including accountability measures, the inclusion of Latinos in its budgetary planning, and greater Latino representation among the Smithsonian collections. Most importantly, the Smithsonian’s own taskforce recommended the Institution to immediately lay the “groundwork needed to assure the establishment of one or more museums portraying the historical, cultural and artistic achievements of U.S. Hispanics.”

The researchers at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center found that since 1994, Latinos and Latinas have remained severely underrepresented in positions of leadership and governance. It states that since 1994, only four Latinos/as have served in the Institutions executive ranks or in its Board of Regents.  Additionally, there has not been a single Hispanic in the Office of the Secretary between 2008 and 2017 or a Regent since 2016. Furthermore, the researchers note that there has not been a single mention of a museum for the Latino American in any of its annual reports since 1994, despite the fact that there has been an active effort led by Congress for the past 15 years.

Given these findings, we would appreciate the opportunity for you to address our concerns in-person in the near future. To schedule a meeting please contact Alma Acosta, Executive Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, at Alma.Acosta@mail.house.gov, Angel Colón-Rivera, Senior Advisor to Senator Robert Menendez, at Angel_Colon@menendez.senate.gov, and Marcus Garza, Senior Legislative Assistant to Congressman José E. Serrano at Marcus.Garza@mail.house.gov.  We look forward to hearing from you soon and would like to thank you for consideration of our request.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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