Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced a bill on Friday that would establish a National Latino Museum on or near the National Mall in Washington D.C., a longtime goal for some members of Congress. The effort comes less than a year after the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened up near the Washington Monument after years of planning.
Ros-Lehtinen along with other Latino members of Congress like Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., are longtime proponents of a Latino American museum. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn also co-sponsored the Senate version of Ros-Lehtinen's bill with Menendez.
“Latinos have made incredible contributions to our nation in every field and endeavor," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "This bill is the first step in the right direction to make this museum a reality. Together, in a united bi-partisan manner we will make this happen. As the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Florida House, Florida Senate, and Congress, I know that while we have made great strides, much more is left to be done and it us up to us to show young Latinos and Latinas that they can achieve great things with hard work and dedication.”
Ros-Lehtinen first introduced bipartisan legislation to jump start a museum project in 2003 with former Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. A 1994 Smithsonian report found that the world's largest museum complex failed to properly recognize Hispanic contributions to art, culture and science.
The non-profit seeking to create a new museum praised Ros-Lehtinen's longtime interest in establishing a national Latino museum.
"Upon her retirement, the Friends of the American Latino Museum would like to thank Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her years of service and vision," the Latino Museum said in a statement. "As the first Latina in Congress, she has earned a rightful place in the future National Smithsonian American Latino Museum she has long fought for."