WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) joined Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), in issuing a joint statement in response to the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative report entitled Invisible No More, which highlights the Smithsonian Institution’s systemic underrepresentation of Latino arts and culture and failure to implement its own recommendations to improve Latino representation within the Institution.

“The findings in the Invisible No More report are quite alarming, but come as no surprise to many of us. In the 24 years since the initial report was released, the Smithsonian Institution has ignored many of its own recommendations to improve Latino inclusion and representation at all levels of the Institution. The continued failure to make any progress on these key goals underscores the Institution’s lack of commitment to the Latino community.

“American Latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. The U.S. Census estimates that by 2060 this population will reach nearly 119 million, or 30 percent of the U.S. population. The contributions this community has made to American culture and our way of life since our nation was founded are immeasurable. Yet, Latinos remain vastly underrepresented in nearly every facet of American life.

“We urge our colleagues in Congress to join us in supporting The National Museum of the American Latino Act to quickly pass and begin the process of establishing a new museum on the National Mall dedicated to highlighting and sharing the American Latino experience with the world. The rich history and experience of millions of American Latinos that have helped shape our society deserves to be told. The time to act is now.”

In 1994, the Smithsonian Institution issued Willful Neglect, a report that acknowledged a severe lack of Latino representation within the Institution. It issued 10 recommendations to improve Latino inclusion. The UCLA LPPI report is the first attempt to measure the Institution’s progress in implementing its own goals in 24 years. The report found that the Institution failed to make progress on 7 of its 10 overall recommendations. In addition, the report found that the continued decrease in federal funding for the Smithsonian Latino Center and a pervasive dearth of leadership roles held by Latinos remain ongoing barriers to full Latino inclusion and representation.

The National Museum of the American Latino Act (H.R. 2911/S. 1364) is bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will establish the creation of the National Museum of the American Latino within the Smithsonian Institution to share and celebrate the history, culture, arts, and contributions made by Latinos in the United States. Its primary sponsors are Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The legislation currently enjoys the support of 47 members of the House of Representatives (14 Republicans and 32 Democrats) and 13 Senators (5 Republicans and 8 Democrats). More information about the legislation can be found here.