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Nevada senator urges passage of Latino Smithsonian bill

Updated August 3, 2020 - 8:47 am

WASHINGTON — The effort to create the National Museum of the American Latino won a big victory last week, but work remains in the Senate, where companion legislation that passed the House has yet to be scheduled on a crammed legislative calendar amid an upcoming presidential election.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., the first Latina elected to the Senate, said “our stories are our strength.”

“But the reality is that Latino stories have been left out of so many history books,” she said.

The House passed a resolution last week on a voice vote to proceed with selection of a site on the National Mall and commissioning of a design for a museum to display Hispanic culture, contributions and accomplishments in this country.

There were 295 co-sponsors to that House bill, including the entire Nevada delegation: Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford and Republican Mark Amodei.

Horsford said the legislation “provides a unique opportunity to recognize and uplift the voices, contributions and history of Latinos in Nevada and across the country.”

Latinos make up nearly a third of the population of Nevada, at 29.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to Cortez Masto, the state has elected a Latino as governor, Brian Sandoval, a Republican.

Latinos have been recognized for their sacrifice in wars, advancement of civil rights and service to the nation in government and politics.

Cortez Masto said the House took a step toward establishing a Latino museum.

“Let’s get this passed in the Senate,” she said.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and has 35 co-sponsors, including Cortez Masto, Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and six Republicans. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is an original co-sponsor of the bill with Menendez.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not publicly discussed the legislation, and nothing pertaining to it has been scheduled on the Senate calendar.

Meanwhile, supporters known as Friends of the American Latino Museum have waged a campaign for over a quarter of a century.

Henry Munoz III, chairman of the bipartisan commission to establish a National Museum of the American Latino, said that while the House vote marks an important moment of progress, more needs to be done.

The concept of a Latino museum was originally proposed in a 1994 Smithsonian report, “Willful Neglect,” which outlined the need for a museum to spotlight the contributions of Latinos, the nation’s fastest-growing minority group.

Since then, only one bill advancing that goal has passed. Legislation from 2008 established the creation of a commission to study the viability of such a museum. The latest legislation, the National American Latino Museum Act, now takes the next step to authorize the creation of the museum.

“We call on senators from both sides of the aisle to join us in making history,” said Estuardo Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Friends of the Latino American Museum.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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