Home Accountant Smithsonian Delivers Delays with Molina Family Latino Gallery

Smithsonian Delivers Delays with Molina Family Latino Gallery


The long and arduous journey to fuller Latino representation within the Smithsonian Institution became more real over the weekend.

While a space on the National Mall for the National Museum of the American Latino is not yet a reality and its construction is at least 10 years away, the new Molina Family Latino Gallery has opened its doors.

Over the next decade, viewers will get a glimpse of what the National Museum could look like in this space.

The Molina opened on Saturday on the first floor of the National Museum of American History, and two “locals” were among them.

One was sculptor Verónica Castillo, whose magnificent ‘Arbol de la Vida’, or Tree of Life, debuted as part of Molina’s inaugural exhibition, ‘¡Presente! The History of Latinos in the United States.

Castillo is the owner of Galería EVA on South Flores Street.

The other was Eduardo Díaz, whose long career in cultural and artistic administration included stints at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and the cultural affairs office of the city of San Antonio.

Díaz, 71, currently acting deputy director of the National Museum of the American Latino, was most recently director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, which was merged into the museum.

By creating the Molina Gallery, the center exceeded its fundraising goals, raising about $45 million in private funds, Díaz said. This included $28 million for the new gallery and an additional $17 million for the National Museum Fund.

The latter represents only a tiny part of what the national museum will cost. For reference, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture cost about $540 million.

” Here ! is described as a “101” on American Latinos. It highlights Latin American history as the history of the United States and how Latinos are not new to that history but fundamental.

It’s come a long way since 1994, when a national report on the Smithsonian accused it of a “pattern of willful neglect” of Latin American history and culture.

Díaz described Thursday’s private opening as “a preaching to the choir.” Saturday’s public opening was for “the congregation”.

He credited several Texans for their pivotal role, including Roel Campos, former chairman of the Smithsonian National Latino Board, who identified the Molina family of Long Beach, Calif., as a potential donor.

Molina family members donated $10 million in honor of their parents, whose ancestry spanned Arizona, Sonora and a Fortune 500 healthcare company.

Díaz noted that Campos, a native of the Rio Grande Valley, sits on the board with two San Antonians, Christine Ortega of Southwest Airlines and Henry R. Munoz, chairman emeritus of architectural firm Munoz & Co.

Castillo’s job, however, was the San Antonio star of the show. “Arbol” appears in the final section of “¡Presente!”

“It’s a spectacle,” Díaz said of the three-dimensional clay work measuring four feet in diameter. It recreates some of the historical moments and characters from the section.

From the moment the gallery opened, “people were obsessed” with Castillo’s work, Díaz said.

Castillo, a member of the fourth generation of clay artisans working in Izúcar de Matamoros, Puebla, told me about his work several weeks ago in his studio.

His perspective alluded to his roles as a trained accountant, activist and artist.

Selected as a National Heritage Fellow in 2013 by the National Endowment of the Arts, Castillo opened the gallery in 2020 with such promise, then shutting down the world.

She went into survival mode. To make ends meet, she planted a vegetable patch and herb garden and went to work with her husband – in construction.

The gallery’s giant patio, stage and outdoor kitchen served as the venue and was where Castillo, the caterer, created dinner parties serving Mexican and Latin American dishes. It also helped pay the bills.

Castillo described Arbol as a godsend. The commission came after a difficult first year.

But a commission isn’t entirely the work of the artist, and this one was informed by Smithsonian staff.

The accountant may not have been bothered by such a contribution – the artist, not so much. But the activist saw the bigger picture and how it fits into the journey to a national museum.

” Here ! is qualified as emotional. It is filled with interactive digital displays, video installations, personal items of historical figures and artifacts.

The latter includes a raft used by two Cuban men to reach American shores.

For those of us watching from afar, that’s a broken promise.

The Molina responds to a long injustice, a delay that has left a huge void in the history of the United States – not just on the National Mall but in the national narrative.

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