Molina Family Latino Gallery and “¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States” will debut at the National Museum of American History
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino will open the Molina Family Latino Gallery on June 18 with its first exhibition, “¡Presente!” A Latin History of the United States. The Latino Museum will open the gallery of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian and will offer exhibits and programs during the 10 years leading up to the opening of the museum building.
“The Molina Family Latino Gallery is the first iteration of the National Museum of the American Latino,” said Jorge Zamanillo, director of the National Museum of the American Latino. “It will take 10 to 12 years to open a museum building, but the gallery gives the public a glimpse of the museum’s potential.”
As Molina Family Latino Gallery’s first exhibition, “¡Presente!” introduces visitors to key concepts, moments, and biographies that illuminate the historical and cultural legacy of Latino Americans. The exhibit also tells the stories of Latinas and Latinos who shaped the United States. Indigenous freedom fighter Toypurina, Mexican American labor leader César Chávez, Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, Guatemalan labor organizer Luisa Moreno, Colombian American drag queen José Sarria and Cuban American singer Celia Cruz are just a few. historical and contemporary figures presented in the exhibition.
A companion website highlights a selection of oral histories, 3D objects, historical biographies and artifacts in the “¡Presente! ” exposure.
The 4,500 square foot gallery is designed as a space where multi-generational and cross-cultural visitors can celebrate and learn about Latin American history and culture year-round. The Molina Family Latino Gallery is rooted in universal principles of inclusive design to create a personally engaging and stimulating visitor experience for visitors with varying physical, sensory and cognitive conditions. Additionally, all content is available in English and Spanish. Audiences can experience how Latinos and Latinas have helped shape the United States and its national culture through historical artifacts, multimedia interactives, sensory experiences, and a learning space.
Ceiling-high display cases organized into four main themes line the perimeter of the gallery and display relevant historical artifacts, revealing documents, personal stories and interpretive graphics. Historical themes cover ‘Colonial Legacies’, ‘War and US Expansion’, ‘Immigration Stories’ and ‘Shaping the Nation’.
Eight-foot-tall interactive digital screens form El Foro (The Forum) at the center of the gallery where visitors can engage with 12 first-person oral histories of contemporary characters. Visitors can select stories via the touchscreen or an adjacent accessibility keyboard.
The Somos Theater offers visitors a contemplative space to watch the multimedia project “Somos” (“We Are”). The video installation was made by writer and filmmaker Alberto Ferreras. “Somos” is the first play commissioned for the theater and features a diverse group of Latinas and Latinos discussing identity, family histories and first-hand experiences.
MUSLE, or Mapping the US Latino Experience, provides visual representations of national demographics to tell the stories of the Latino experience in the United States. Visitors can activate one of four touchscreens to explore the 16 stories about income inequality, education, diversity and more. Graphs and other images illustrate important data points and convey stories of community organizations.
The General Motors Learning Lounge, a multifunctional studio within the Molina Gallery, will host presentations and hands-on activities. If necessary, the living room can be converted into a gathering place conducive to storytelling, podcasts and conferences. The General Motors Learning Lounge is part of the Latino Museum’s strategy to enhance lifelong learning and increase access to collections and resources spanning the arts, sciences, and humanities that are available through the Smithsonian, the Latino Museum and affiliated museums.
The Molina Family Latino Gallery was made possible through support from individuals, foundations and corporations, including a $10 million principal gift from the family of C. David and Mary Molina. C. David Molina was a California healthcare leader who founded Molina Healthcare Inc.
“This is a special year for the opening of the Molina Family Latino Gallery,” said Eduardo Díaz, acting deputy director of the National Museum of the American Latino. “25 years ago, the Smithsonian founded the Latino Center to increase Latino representation throughout the institution, which also helped pave the way for the Latino Museum. I am proud to have played a role in the development of the gallery and to have contributed to the inauguration of the new Latino Museum.
To complete the celebration of the opening of the gallery and to commemorate 25 years of Latinity (Latino culture) at the Smithsonian, two days of public events will kick off Hispanic Heritage Month in September, including:
Friday September 16: dance party
An evening event with live music, dance and interactive cultural experiences. The event will include pop culture activations and special docent-led tours in the Molina Family Latino Gallery. The event will include live musical performances and dance workshops. Culturally curated Latin cuisine and specialty beverages will be available for purchase. This is a free and paid event for ages 21 and older.
Saturday, September 17: Latin Heritage Family Day
An intergenerational festival with enriching educational offerings will feature hands-on activities and performances to celebrate 25 years of Latinity at the Smithsonian. The event will showcase Latino history, art and culture, showcasing various Smithsonian museums and cultural centers through activities and collections, as well as partner organizations in the Latino community. Family-friendly activities will include puppet theater and cooking demonstrations as well as pop culture and adult programs. The day will also spotlight Latinos in sports. It will conclude with an evening concert comprised of musical performances that capture the diversity of Latinityincluding urban musical traditions and salsa.
About the National Museum of Latin American
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the Latin American advances the representation, understanding, and appreciation of Latin American history and culture in the United States. The museum provides financial resources and collaborates with other museums to develop scholarly research, public programs, digital content, collections and more. The museum’s Molina Family Latino Gallery is the Smithsonian’s first gallery dedicated to the Latino experience. Legislation establishing the National Museum of the Latino American at the Smithsonian was passed on December 27, 2020. A museum site search is underway and is expected to be announced by December 2022. latino.si.eduand follow @USLatinoMuseum on Facebook, instagram and Twitter.