By Jorge Dastis
Washington, Jun 15 (EFE).- Though still a decade away from having a permanent home, the National Museum of the American Latino is just days away from opening in its temporary quarters at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington.
The inaugural exhibit, ¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States, begins Saturday in the Molina Family Latino Gallery, an expanse of 4,500 sq ft (418.6 sq m).
“A labor of love” was the phrase deputy director Eduardo Diaz used to describe the effort that has gone into making the Latino museum a reality.
He recalled Wednesday during a media event that the original proposal for creating the Museum of the American Latino dates from 2011.
In 2015, with the bill still languishing in Congress, the promoters turned to the idea of a designated Latino gallery in the American History Museum, Diaz said.
Finally, on Dec. 27, 2020, lawmakers approved legislation calling for the Smithsonian to establish the National Museum of the American Latino in a building of its own on the National Mall.
“The Molina Family Latino Gallery is the first iteration of the National Museum of the American Latino,” museum director Jorge Zamanillo said. “It will take 10 to 12 years to open a museum building, but the gallery gives the public a preview of the museum’s potential.”
Zamanillo told Efe that the museum’s mission will be to connect the diverse Latino communities across the US with each other and with the wider society.
“It’s also the shared experiences and what we do have in common that’s important. So there’s a lot that we not only share in the Latino community, but the average visitor is going to come in here and say ‘that resonates with me,'” he said.
Zamanillo also outlined a rough timetable of plans for the permanent institution at a site the Smithsonian is expected to select by the end of this year.
“In the next few years we’ll start working with designers and architects to really get a feel for the programming – what are the space needs, what kind of stories you’re going to see in this museum,” he said. “We’ll start collecting efforts in about a year, year-and-a-half, to bring in items that we need for the exhibits so there’s a lot of steps along the way.”
The team aims to give US Latinos representation in Washington’s world-renowned complex of museums.
Natalia Febo, community engagement and volunteer coordinator at the Smithsonian Latino Center, said that as someone from a small village in Puerto Rico, to be part of this project “means a lot.”
“And for my family, to see our story represented at this level … it leaves me without words,” she told Efe. EFE