The House approved a bill to establish a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, D.C., by voice vote on Monday.
The legislation, led by Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), garnered bipartisan support and had 295 co-sponsors.
If it becomes a law, the measure will allow the Smithsonian to begin an 18-month study and select a location on the National Mall for the museum’s construction. It will also appoint a board of trustees and initiate funding efforts, as only half its costs will be covered by the federal government. Creation of the museum is expected to cost roughly $700 million.
The bill’s approval is a culmination of efforts more than 20 years in the making. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has long advocated for acknowledgement of latinos in American history, especially within cultural institutions. In fact, the process to establish a Smithsonian Latino museum dates back to 1994, but setbacks have thwarted efforts to actually get it done–until now.
“It is an important milestone on a decades-long journey and the culmination of years of effort and advocacy by Representative Serrano, my Hispanic Caucus colleagues, and countless outside advocates. The Latino community represents one-sixth of the American population,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said on the floor.
“Latinos are an integral part of our history and culture and have been at the center of American progress for generations, and yet study after study has shown that the story of this community, within the broader scope of American history, has not been told. Passage of H.R. 2420 brings us closer to being able to tell this story, a story intertwined with the very history of our country. This is a story that deserves to be honored and recognized.”
Republican Congressman, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) chimed in, echoing Aguilar’s sentiment and emphasizing the impact that Latinos have had in shaping the nation.
“This is something we need to do. And I’ll probably catch some flack for it later from him, but I have to say, Mr. Aguilar is correct. We ought to do something to honor the Latino community that has made our country the greatest country in the history of the world,” he said.
“I rise today to support the underlying legislation that would create the first Smithsonian museum honoring Latinos. Again, our country would not be what it is today without their contributions.”
A companion bill was introduced to the Senate in May, but it has not been voted on yet.