WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S.Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, today led a bipartisan group of his Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to reiterate the intent of congressionally approved legislation from last year that both the NationalMuseum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum be located on or near the National Mall. U.S. Representatives Tony Cárdenas(D-Calif.-29) and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.-12) led an identical letter in the House ofRepresentatives.
“The 116thCongress saw the passage of the creation of two new Smithsonian Museums intolaw… As wecontinue to move through this process, we want to take this opportunity tore-emphasize Congressional intent as stated in the authorizing legislation thatboth the National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian AmericanWomen’s History Museum be located on or near the National Mall, to the maximumextent practicable,” wrote the senators to Smithsonian Institution SecretaryLonnie G. Bunch III.
The passing of this critically important legislation is the culmination of a decades-long process to create Smithsonian Museums that celebrate the historical, cultural, and economic contributions of women and Latinos throughout American history.
In 2008, with Presidential and Congressional leadership, a 23-member Commission was established to study the viability of a museum. Sen. Menendez and then-Majority Leady Harry Reid first introduced Senate legislation to establish a Latino museum in 2011 following the Commission’s report that determined the museum’s creation was indeed feasible. Sen. Menendez introduced similar legislation again in 2013, 2016, and 2017 before Congress finally passed legislation to establish the National Museum of the American Latino as part of last year's congressional approved year-end omnibus. As a member of the House of Representatives, Sen. Menendez co-sponsored the original bill to create a Commission to Establish the National Museum of the American Latino, introduced in 2003.
The senators added, “With more than 25 million peoplevisiting the National Mall each year, it comes as no surprise that manySmithsonian Institutions have claimed this area their home and best for thediffusion of knowledge. The addition of the two new museums on the Mall willfurther the Smithsonian’s mission by showcasing and highlighting the untold andoverlooked contributions to our nation of both women and Latinos. It is fittingthat these two museums be prominently located as that will help ensure thatmore visitors will be able to enjoy and learn from them.”
In addition to Sen. Menendez, the letter was signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.),Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Michael Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), MartinHeinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey(D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla(D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.),Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse(D-R.I.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Susan Collins(R-Maine). Joining Reps. Cardenas and Maloney in signing the House letter were Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.-02), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif-24), GwenMoore (D-Wis.-04), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.-44), Sylvia R. Garcia(D-Texas-29), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.-32),Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.-47), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.-07), J. Luis Correa(D-Calif.-46), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.-31), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.-09),Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.-04), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20), Jesús G. “Chuy” García(D-Ill.-04), Darren Soto (D-Fla.-09), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.-14), Dwight Evans(D-Pa.-03), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas-16), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), JahanaHayes (D-Conn.-05), Mike Levin (D-Calif.-49), Amata Radewagen (R-AmericaSamoa), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.-24), Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.-35), JamieHerrera Beutler (R-Wash.-03), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.-04), Jan Schakowsky(D-Ill.-09), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.-15), Alma S. Adams (D-N.C.-12), Linda T.Sánchez (D-Calif.-38), Marc A. Veasey (D-Texas-33), Sheila Jackson Lee(D-Texas-18), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.-26), Jennifer González-Colón (R-PuertoRico), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.-10), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-Mich.-14),Katherine Clark (D-Mass.-05), Michael F. Q. San Nicholas (D-Guam), Dina Titus(D-Nev.-01), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.-16), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.-06), Marie Newman(D-Ill.-03), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.-01), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.-11), MarkTakano (D-Calif.-41), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Mo.-05), Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37),Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.-03), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.-12), JimCosta (D-Calif.-16), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.-13), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.-04),Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.-08), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.-01), Tom Suozzi(D-N.Y.-03), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.-12), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.-13), NikemaWilliams (D-Ga.-05), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas-28), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27),Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.-10), William D. Keating (D-Mass.-09), Bobby L. Rush(D-Ill.-01), Rashia Tlaib (D-Mich.-13), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-36), Raúl M.Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-15), Yvette D. Clark(D-N.Y.-09), David Trone (D-Md.-06), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.-01), Henry C.“Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.-04), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.-03), and David N.Cicilline (D-R.I.-01).
Find a copy of the full letter here and below.
Dear Secretary Bunch:
The 116th Congress saw the passage of the creation of two new Smithsonian Museums into law. It comes with great excitement and comfort to have a partner at the helm who oversaw the creation of the extraordinary Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened its doors in September 2016. Further, we applaud you for how quickly your team has begun to work to lay the foundation for both the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and the NationalMuseum of the American Latino.
As we continue to move through this process, we want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize Congressionalintent as stated in the authorizing legislation that both the National Museum of the American Latino and Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum be located on or near the National Mall, to the maximum extent practicable. From our perspective, the National Mall is the two-mile park from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, bounded on the north and south by Constitution and Independence Avenues.
With more than 25 million people visiting the National Mall each year, it comes as no surprise that many Smithsonian Institutions have claimed this area their home and best for the diffusion of knowledge. The addition of the two new museums on the Mall will further the Smithsonian’s mission by showcasing and highlighting the untold and overlooked contributions to our nation of both women and Latinos. It is fitting that these two museums be prominently located as that will help ensure that more visitors will be able to enjoy and learn from them.
We appreciate your consideration of Congressional priorities as the Smithsonian works to establish these important museums. We look forward to working together and having a continued dialogue on how best to meet this intent.
December 03, 2021