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The National Museum of the American Latino seeks to secure a site on the National Mall

The entrance to the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National American History Museum in Washington, D.C.
Tony Powell
National Museum of the American Latino
The entrance to the Molina Family Latino Gallery at the National American History Museum in Washington, D.C.

Planning is underway to establish the National Museum of the American Latino in Washington D.C.

The project was approved by Congress in 2020. The Smithsonian Institution will run the museum and will showcase Latino history, art, culture and scientific achievements to tell a deeper, more nuanced and complete story of who the are as a nation.

Antonio Argibay
Paul Porter
Antonio Argibay

Antonio Argibay is an architect in New York and a board member of the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino. WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with Antonio Argibay about the goal of securing a location for the museum on the National Mall.

AA: They have published the four finalists which are all on the Mall, which is great news to all of us because as a representative of the board of the Friends of the National Museum of American Latino, this is where we feel very strongly we should be, shoulder to shoulder with he other cultural iconic museums that the Smithsonian operates.

WSHU: So, it’s definitely going to be on the National Mall. Now it's determining where exactly it is going to be located. Right?

AA: Correct. Yes. There are four sites. They all have challenges, one way or another. Because as you can imagine, it’s a very important piece of real estate. To put it in perspective, it’s about 300 acres. And the footprint of this building is going to be less than a fraction of one hundredth of that. To put it into context, that is probably more understandable is to imagine your average American home, with a garage and several bedrooms, we are talking about a four-by-four space. About the size of the front door lock of the house. That’s how much space it is. But in order to get it built, there’s a lot of people, a lot of organizations, and a lot of things that have to be studied as part of the process.

WSHU: Now could you tell us the importance of celebrating and acknowledging the Latino contributions to America in a museum on the mall?

AA: Well the museum on the mall is necessary to educate, inspire, encourage, respect and understand the richness and diversity that the American Latino experience brings. American Latinos have been part of the thread that has woven this nation. We were here before the 13 colonies. In fact, most of this country was a Spanish country and as such the contributions that Latinos made to make this nation a free nation should be recognized. As well as all the cultural and economic aspects, sports and all the other areas in which Latinos have contributed to the United States.

WSHU: Now how soon would you be able to secure a location? And what happens after you’ve done that?

AA: I’m not a gambler. I am a dreamer. I would like to think that we could get this location done in the next year. And planning can begin on the museum. The museum on the mall is not controversial. We have the full backing and understanding of the Smithsonian. The secretary of the Smithsonian Mr. Lonnie Bunch was the director of the National Museum of African American Culture and History and is sensitive and understands the importance of this. The Smithsonian has selected a very well qualified secretary to lead in Jorge Zamanillo. Our board met with him a couple of weeks ago and it was great to hear that we are all working together.

WSHU: So after a location is secured, then the design of the museum can begin, then fundraising in order to build it, so how soon do we get to see the physical museum on the mall and be able to visit?

AA: I would be very glad if it’s within 10 years. I think it would be an aggressive schedule but I think it’s a very doable schedule.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.