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Iowans Look Forward To Possible National Latino Museum

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is sitting in front of a microphone wearing a blue shirt. She is holding her thumbs up.
Al Drago
POOL Bloomberg via AP
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., speaks during a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 4. The House has passed a bill to establish a Smithsonian Museum for American Latinos that would showcase Latino history, art and culture. The bill was approved Monday by a voice vote and now goes to the Senate, where it has bipartisan support.

The Smithsonian Institute includes the African-American History and Culture museum, and the museum of the American Indian.
But the country's largest minority group isn’t represented, yet. The House recently passed legislation to include a museum for the American Latino.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the proposal on July 27. Although the museum would be in Washington D.C., it would impact Iowans, according to one resident of West Branch.

Alyssa Palante visited the Smithsonian Institute in December. She said she loved learning about the different cultures and histories of the people who have made up the United States, but she did not see herself represented. She said a museum to recognize her own Mexican-American culture is overdue.

“Even hearing that is a forthcoming project is something that kind of makes you feel more a part of the country's fabric and, just feel more empowered to be Latino," Palante said.

According to Leo Landis, the Iowa state curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, this is exactly why national museums are important for people across the country.

“When you see your photographs or people who look like you, in the storytelling that happens at a museum, it really can bring out, you know, that, hey, we're part of this story,” Landis said.

If the National Museum comes to fruition, Landis said he expects the Smithsonian to borrow some artifacts from the Iowa State Historical Society.

"Those are stories that that certainly can represent the experience of Latinos in the United States and that Iowans have those stories," Landis said.

Palante said the stories represented in national museums can make Iowa a more diverse and accepting state, for Latinos and non-Latinos.

"I think it's important that people know that we have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years even before the country's inception. And I think for people, you know, seeing something tangible in front of them, like I saw the African American Museum, that was very powerful," Palante said. "I saw people who were like me and different from me at that museum just standing there looking at pictures. Just different objects, it's history. And I think that's really just a significant difference-maker for people or it could be."

The effort to build a national museum for the country's fastest-growing minority population started in 1994 after the Smithsonian Institution Task Force on Latino Issues published a report that said Latinos were overlooked by the Smithsonian.

According to the report, "significant changes will be required in the Smithsonian in order for Latinos to gain equitable and appropriate inclusion."