Latino influence in the United States is everywhere. It takes the shape of farmworkers’ rights, civil-rights reporting and Supreme Court representation. The toil of Latino labor is in the food that we eat and the names that line our streets. It precedes the foundation of this country, yet the recognition often gets overlooked if not erased entirely.
The important legacy of Latino Americans cannot be overlooked, and especially not now as we memorialize the first anniversary of the killings of 23 people in El Paso by a North Texas gunman who targeted them for their race.
And that’s why, after the bill to create the National Museum of the American Latino passed through the U.S. House unanimously, we celebrate. It’s time that the narrative shifts and that Latinos are recognized for the wealth of expertise, hard work and culture they have given to this country.
The move to support the museum follows years of effort to create a space to highlight the contributions of Latinos. Work toward this museum dates to at least 1994, when a study revealed that Latinos had been largely left out of exhibits and programming in the museums that line Washington’s Constitution Avenue. Legislation for the museum was introduced in 2013. It’s exciting to see an official step forward, though the end result is years away as the bill must still pass through the Senate and begin its earliest stages of planning.
Currently, Latinos constitute nearly a fifth of the U.S. population, the second-largest group behind only the white population. In Texas, that percentage of Latinos doubles to two-fifths. The state has also been home to major events that involve Latinos and have shaped the U.S. as it stands now, including the Mexican-American War in the 1840s.
The establishment of such an institution would allow that history to be seen in greater depth and color, telling the American story from a perspective that has been too often untold.
We must not forget that the Latino story is an American one.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS