Latino Museum shortchanges NYC, says Senator

A museum dedicated to Latinos in the United States has been in the pipeline in the nation’s capital for several years, but at least one Latino lawmaker from the Bronx is unhappy. State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. is concerned that Puerto Ricans and New Yorkers are being left out.

The National Museum of the American Latino was first proposed by Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of California in 2003, with the goal of educating the public about Latinos’ artistic, cultural and historical contributions nationally.

After five years of fine tuning, Congress passed and the president signed a bill supported by both parties in 2008, and a federal study commission was formed. The commission is expected to submit a report to Congress and the White House in two years.

But Díaz expressed his displeasure with the fact that not one of the 23 appointees to the federal commission is a New Yorker.

In a letter to Congressman José Serrano, Díaz argued that “the National Museum of the American Latino has no representation from the state that has over one million Puerto Ricans and Latinos,” calling the oversight “reprehensible.”

Díaz, who chairs the State Senate’s Puerto Rican and Latino Caucus, added that “The state of Florida has six members, Nevada has four, California has three, Texas has two and we get nada.”

The members of the commission were chosen for their “qualifications in museum administration, expertise in fundraising, experience in public service, and demonstrated commitment to the research, study or promotion of American Latino life, art, history, or culture,” according to the museum’s website.

Díaz contends the composition of the commission should be restructured to allow New York more influence.

“Salsa and Cuban Jazz came out of New York,” Serrano’s letter states, naming the Bronx’s Pregones Theater among numerous New York cultural organizations with a Hispanic flavor.

Of the 23 members of the commission, the White House selected 11, while Congress chose 12.

Díaz cited the contributions of New York’s Latinos, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez as examples of the oversight.

“On behalf of a community that yet does not get the respect that they deserve, we ask for your help due to your commitment to our community and the arts,” Senator Díaz concluded in his letter to Serrano.

“It is something that should be dealt with,” agreed Serrano in a phone conversation with The Hunts Point Express, noting that he will soon be in contact with Congressman Becerra to discuss what can be done to add a New Yorker to the federal commission.

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