A Latino Museum in the Smithsonian's Future?

By Suzanne Kianpour
|  Thursday, May 5, 2011  |  Updated 2:47 PM EDT
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A Latino Museum in the Smithsonian's Future?

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(L-R) Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar, Emilio Estefan and Eva Longoria spoke on the report regarding the development of a National Museum of the American Latino.

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Cinco De Mayo is a nationwide celebration often associated with (let's be honest) specials on margaritas.

But this year, the Mexican holiday bears more cause to celebrate for Latin Americans and Latin culture enthusiasts. Politicans and Hollywood notables gathered on the Hill today to announce what they're calling "a major milestone for the Latino community" -- the submission of a report to Congress and President Obama laying out a plan for an American Latino museum to be added to the Smithsonian system.

Members of the congressionally established National Museum of the American Latino Commission include actress/activist Eva Longoria, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, music producer Emilio Estefan and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.).

"The National Mall tells the story of America and it is incomplete," said Henry Munoz III, chairman of the commission, who discussed how the museum would outline the contributions Latinos have made to America throughout its history.

He also briefed attendees on the museum's proposed location, which they hope would be on Pennsylvania Avenue. The funding would be a 50/50 split between public and private partnership.

"I know what kind of world we live in," Munoz said, acknowledging the ailing economy when discussing the funding of the museum -- although Salazar did commend the team for "a job well-done and done under budget."

The 23-member commission met for the first time in September 2009, when they were given two years to come up with a plan for the potential museum. Their announcement comes several months ahead of schedule.

Today's conference was largely bilingual, remarks cascading back and forth from Spanish to English, with Salazar at one point echoing Obama's campaign slogan "Yes We Can" in Spanish ("Si Se Puede") and Solis beginning her remarks with "Felicidades Cinco de Mayo."

Hollywood notables Eva Longoria and Emilio Estefan both discussed their roles in the commission. When asked about her meeting with President Obama on immigration last week, Longoria got heated about the issue.

"Hopefully the Dream Act will come up before 2012," she said. "Those who don't support comprehensive immigration reform will hopefully pay for it in the election."

But as for when the museum could actually be built, Munoz said, "We hope to see it in our lifetime."


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