Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Latino Art Museum: Still a Bad Idea!

Eight years ago, when the story first surfaced in the Washington Post about a Latino Museum on the National Mall, I opposed it.

Back then, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) introduced the bill to set up a commission to study the idea’s feasibility. The museum would be based in Washington, around the National Mall and “might be under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution.”

According to the 2003 article by Jacqueline Trescott, “This is one issue that unites our community,” said Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the National Council of La Raza.

In 2008, the Washington Post updated the issue and reported that “President Bush

... signed legislation yesterday establishing a commission to study the feasibility of a National Museum of the American Latino.

The measure, part of a larger legislative package, creates a 23-member bipartisan panel that will give the president and Congress recommendations about the scope of the project.

Over a two-year period, it will consider the location, the cost of construction and maintenance, and the presentation of art, history, politics, business and entertainment in American Latino life.
Since we're still arguing about it, let me once again disagree and state for the record that this is one of the worst, most divisive artsy ideas to have come out of creative Congressional & Hollywood minds in years.

Why have a separate, segregated museum for Latinos? Why not get more Latinos into the national museums, period.

I note once again, the use of the word “Latino” as opposed to the now almost not PC term- “Hispanic.” Otherwise we may have to take all the Picassos, and Dalis, and Miros, and Goyas and Velazquezs out of the mainstream museums and put them in a “Hispanic” museum…. gracias a Dios for that.

As it is now, we may have to take all the Wifredo Lams, Roberto Mattas, Frida Kahlos, etc. out of the “other museums” and put them in the “Latino Museum.”

But ooops! the Frida Kahlo in the nation’s capital is already in a segregated museum - in this case segregated by sex.

The misguided semantic/ethnic/racial debate about Latino or Hispanic is a good, if somewhat silly bucket of ignorant fun.

Anyway… Latino is (I think) now associated with people of Latin American ancestry… it apparently includes the millions of Central and South Americans of pure Native American blood (many of who do not even speak Spanish), and the millions of South Americans of Italian, German, Jewish, Middle Eastern and Japanese ancestry. It also includes the millions of Latin Americans of African ancestry.

It doesn’t include Spaniards, Portuguese, French or Italians…. you Europeans Latins are out!

According to the Post, “Felix Sanchez, the chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, said, “The museum is really a long-overdue concept. There is a void of presenting in one location a more in-depth representation of the culture and its presence in the mainstream of American consciousness.”

Mr. Sanchez: There is no such thing as a single “Latino culture.” In fact, I submit that there are twenty-something different “Latino” cultures in Latin America - none of which is the same as the various Latino mini-cultures in the US.

We "Latinos", no matter how hard you politicians and label-makers try to assemble and push us and label us into one monolithic group, are not such a group; we are as different from each other as the English-speaking peoples of the world are different from each other.

Call a Scotsman "English" and see what will happen to your face.

As an example, anyone who thinks that Mexico’s gorgeously rich and sometimes proud native heritage is similar to Argentina’s cultural heritage is simply ignorant at best. In fact Argentina purposefully nearly wiped out its own indigenous population in an effort (according to the war rallies of the times) “not to become another Mexico.”

And the cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic is as different from that of Bolivia and Peru as two/three countries that technically share a same language can be.

And for example, Mexican-Americans’ tastes in food, music, and politics, etc. are wildly different from Cuban-Americans and Dominican-Americans, etc.

Would anyone ever group Swedes, Danes, Germans and Norwegians and create a “Nordic-American Museum”? Ahhh… they have; silly ideas are not restricted to Congress, are they?

Or how about French, Spaniards, Rumanians and Italians for a “Latin-European-American Museum” - hang on - that doesn’t fit or does it? Makes my head hurt.

For the record, as I did in 2003 when I first learned about this issue, I still don’t believe in segregating artists according to ethnicity, race or religion. How about letting the art itself decide inclusion in a museum. And if not enough African American, or Native American, or Latino/Hispanic or “fill-in-the-blank”-American artists are in the mainstream American museums, then let’s fight that good fight and not just take the easy/hard route of having “our own” museum.

Comemierdas... What does Little Junes think about this issue?


Rogerrr said...

I agree 10000000%

having zillions of different museums for all the kinds of americans kind of negates the idea that we're a "melting pot"

Anonymous said...

Well said; I agree as well. Enough with the labels and separation.