With the nation’s Latino population booming and now the country’s largest minority group, the Obama administration’s top Hispanic official is concerned that the federal government is not giving enough attention to Hispanic history and culture.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the past year has pushed the National Park Service to identify more sites or properties related to the histories of women and minorities that could be added to the National Register of Historic Places or be preserved as national parks or historic landmarks.
“Less than 3 percent of all the national landmarks that we have–the highest designation you can receive as a historic landmark–are designated for women, Latinos, African Americans or other members of minority groups,” Salazar said in a meeting with reporters last week. “That tells you that the score is not even.”
The secretary’s concerns will be one of several issues discussed at White House meetings on Latino heritage scheduled for Wednesday. The meetings, set to bring together a who’s who of Latino business, political, religious and entertainment leaders, are slated to focus on whether the government is properly serving Hispanic students, small business owners, military veterans and artists.
“I think when you look at the way Americans most understand the history of Latinos in this country, a lot of it is being told now through the lens of what’s happening with the immigration debate,” Salazar said last week at a meeting hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “While that’s an important debate that has security and moral implications, in my view, there’s also a huge history of Latinos in the United States that’s never been told.”
The most ambitious attempt to date to memorialize Latino history will come with construction of the National Museum of the American Latino, whose planning commission is pushing to build on a site near the U.S. Capitol. The project would cost about $600 million and be financed with a mix of private and federal dollars.