Why the National Museum of the American Latino should be defunded


Funding for the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum is in limbo as both parties wrangle over budget spending — and there it should stay until Congress can repeal its enabling statute entirely.

Who’d oppose a museum? For starters, anyone whose consciences have been awakened by the sight of anti-Israeli demonstrations since Oct. 7.

Americans are discovering that teaching new generations to look at life through the “oppressor vs. oppressed” prism, as the museum does, has been a horrendous mistake.

That is why Republicans cut funding for the museum in November.

Yet some Republicans and Democrats have palled around with Smithsonian Director Lonnie Bunch and openly discussed the future site of the Latino museum.

Some GOP staffers and lawmakers are privately seeking a compromise. They tell me they can make the museum a model for all the future Smithsonian museums that will be erected for each “marginalized” group (yes, Republicans speak this way in private).

“An Ofrenda for Dolores del Rio” by artist Amalia Mesa-Bains. AP
The museum is accused of looking at the world through an “oppressor vs. oppressed” lens. AP

In September, a bill called for an LGBTQ museum on the National Mall.

But the curators the Latino Museum hires make it clear they mean to turn the Latino museum into another woke-indoctrination camp, which is what the other museums would be, too.

The statements of the museum’s director, Jorge Zamanillo — touted by some Republicans as a savior — also inspire no confidence.

The record of the museum’s first exhibit, already on display elsewhere on the National Mall, has been itself disgraceful, elevating leftist ideologues and transexual activists while ignoring the everyday experience of Hispanics.

The National Museum of the American Latino should focus on the everyday concerns of those in the community. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Listen to comments this week by Johanna Fernandez of Baruch College, whom the Smithsonian hired in 2020 to curate what was going to be the Latino Museum’s second exhibit.

She worked for two years on the exhibition until Zamanillo yanked it, fearful that it would attract further negative coverage.

Fernandez has identified an entire category of oppressors: Florida’s Cuban-Americans.

In comments published recently by Madrid’s ABC, one of Spain’s leading newspapers, Fernandez painted with a wide brush.

“These Cubans were literally part of the dominant class in Cuba that supported a dictator and were in favor of the prolongation of slavery in Cuba. Slavery ended late in Cuba. . . . So, these people are part of a dominant class that is autocratic and dictatorial and predominantly white. They came here and were welcomed by the US government in the midst of the Cold War. Everything was given to them. They were immediately granted US citizenship.”

These Cuban bad hombres, added Fernandez, are working with the Heritage Foundation in a “deliberate intent to mold the historic narrative at its convenience, minimizing and even censuring Latin history.”

Ahem. I work at Heritage, have been among the leaders of the campaign to expose the museum and was born in Cuba (though I came here as a minor half a century ago).

So excuse me if I feel somewhat included.

It would take far too much space to rebut all these unhinged calumnies point by point, so suffice it to say that my family had a distinguished history of battling Fulgencio Batista (the dictator Fernandez mentions).

Johanna Fernandez asserts that there was dominant class of Cubans that were affiliated with the dictatorship. AP

Fernandez is a professor with a political agenda, who also just happens to be bad at history.

Hers is the mindset that produces Hamas-embracing kids.

Yet Zamanillo is no better.

The museum’s first exhibit doesn’t just display an anti-American bias, but animus against Spain and the Catholic Church (betraying that its enemy is really Western Civilization).

A group of Spanish citizens wrote to Zamanillo last year expressing their concerns.

His reaction? He treated them like an insolent rabble whom he had to put in their place.

The exhibit would emphasize only the suffering of the colonial subjects, “without centering explorers, conquistadores, and missionaries,” wrote Zamanillo in the language of the woke art-history world.

The exhibit, said the letter (a copy of which I possess), intentionally showed only “historical injustices” such as slavery, “the creation of social hierarchies” and “U.S. Manifest Destiny.”

“The indefensible outcome of European colonization was the usurpation of indigenous lands, willful and unintentional human genocide, intentional cultural erasure and replacement,” he added. The stories of “Latina and Latino ancestors who endured colonization . . . take center stage.”

In other words, there is to be no full picture that explores all of history and its artifacts.

It will be oppressor vs. oppressed in black and white — Rousseau’s “Noble Savage” redux.

The Latino Museum, whose official name is the National Museum of the American Latino, is a political project.

Its aim is to teach the young and future generations to see themselves as victims of America, so they can destroy it from within.

The museum’s exhibition does not cast a favorable light on colonizers. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hispanics are now 60 million strong, fully one-fifth of the American population, so that would make for a lot of aggrieved people.

The bill that approved its construction — along with a women’s museum — was tucked into the gargantuan 2020 omnibus bill that President Trump saw no option but to sign.

The legislation can, and must, be repealed.

Keep the thing defunded, until it is possible to do so.

Otherwise, the Mall will have to be renamed Grievances Row.

Mike Gonzalez is the Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. His last book was “BLM, The Making of a New Marxist Revolution.”

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