On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would create a national Smithsonian museum dedicated to the American Latinx community.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx. If it passes the Senate, the bill will set in motion the process of creating the museum, beginning with an eighteen-month feasibility study. The bill also requires the Smithsonian to secure a location on the National Mall for the museum within two years and establish a board of regents.
Estimates suggest that the new museum will cost about $700 million. The bill provides for government funding for half the estimated cost. The other half will come from private donors.
This was far from the first attempt to dedicate a museum to the Latinx community; efforts have been under way since 1994, when a Smithsonian task force developed ten goals that would help the institution correct its neglect of Latinx Americans. One of these goals was the creation of a museum. Lawmakers have unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation to create the museum in 2011, 2013, and again in 2016.
Twenty-nine senators co-sponsored the bill– a significant number, but short of the fifty-one needed to pass the bill through the senate. Supporters are optimistic about the bill’s chances of passing the senate, as it had the highest number of bi-partisan co-sponsors of any of the previous iterations of the bill.
In a statement, Representative Serrano described his optimism about the museum becoming a reality. “Today, we reached an important milestone for the Hispanic community with passage of this legislation. After nearly 20 years of work, the National Museum of the American Latino Act was finally considered and approved with overwhelming bipartisan support,” he said.