Seven years after opening its National Museum of the American Indian, and four years before the scheduled unveiling of its museum of African-American history, the Smithsonian Institution is being urged to create another ethnic museum on the National Mall, this one to recognize the history and contributions of Latino Americans.
A federal commission has spent two years asking Latinos what they would want in such a museum, and next month the commission will report its findings to Congress, which would have to approve a new museum.
Though the creation of such an institution has support from members of Congress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and celebrities like Eva Longoria, building it faces significant obstacles, including budget pressures and a feeling among some in Washington that the Smithsonian should stop spinning off new specialty museums and concentrate on improving the ones it already has.
In Washington, where politics infects all matters, there is wide acknowledgment that the 50 million Latinos who live in this country have become an increasingly important constituency. But even supporters of the museum acknowledge it faces a battle. “The atmosphere is not friendly at all,” said Estuardo V. Rodriguez Jr., a lobbyist with the Raben Group who has worked pro bono on the museum proposal, citing the economic pressures and what he described as anti-immigrant sentiment.