The Smithsonian’s Latino exhibit is a disgrace
A new Latino exhibit at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) offers an unabashedly Marxist portrayal of history, religion and economics. It is, quite frankly, disgraceful. Its only redeeming quality is that it makes clear why the forthcoming National Museum of the American Latino must not be funded.
It was a mistake for Republicans to have gone along with passage, in late 2020, of the National Museum of the American Latino Act. They were misled by liberal proponents who told them the museum would be fair.
Some of us who joined a letter in support of the bill, after being asked to sign by promoters, now feel badly let down that the museum is being used to advance an ideologically biased narrative about the Hispanic experience in America. Some of us foresaw what would happen and warned for years that this museum would become a hothouse to curate grievances against the United States. This is exactly what this exhibit is.
Congress must now correct that error by refusing to fund the museum — of which the current exhibit is an explicit preview. The exhibit, and the museum it previews, are profoundly disconnected from the actual Latino experience and cultures in the United States. It elevates only leftist ideologues, celebrates transexual activists, denigrates Christianity, denounces capitalism, condemns the West, portrays the United States as iniquitous and oppressive and badly distorts history. It advances the classic oppressor-oppressed agenda of textbook Marxism.
Among the tendentious or downright false assertions in the Latino exhibit at NMAH are that:
· The United States stole one-third of Mexico in 1848.
· Cubans came here seeking economic opportunity, not escaping communist barbarism.
· The Texas Revolution was a defense of slavery against an abolitionist Mexico.
Leftwing and Marxist dictators, including Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Plutarco Elias Calles and Daniel Ortega are not named even once. Rightwing autocrats such as Fulgencio Batista and Rafael Trujillo, who left office more than half a century ago, are mentioned, and for the purpose of accusing the United States of supporting regional oppression in the fight against communism.
Leftist guerrilla and terroristic movements, including the Shining Path, the FMLN, the FARC and beyond, are absent — but the Nicaraguan Contras, who fought against a communist regime to liberalize their country, are called out for “terror.”
Nowhere to be found are the Hispanic contributions to the American founding, most notably in the campaigns of the Spanish commander Bernardo de Gálvez against British forces in Louisiana and Florida. Similarly, the half-Spanish commander of the Union fleet at Mobile Bay, Admiral David Farragut of “damn the torpedoes” fame, is absent. Jose de la Luz Saenz, a Tejano who volunteered for service in World War I and returned to found the League of United Latin American Citizens, is missing. So too are modern-day Hispanic heroes of American wars like Medal of Honor recipients (and proud south-Texas Mexican-Americans) Roy P. Benavidez and Freddy Gonzalez.
The Latino exhibit simply erases the existence of the Hispanic who loves, contributes to, benefits from and exemplifies the promise of American liberty. That is to say, it erases the Hispanic majority. As this demographic cohort moves to the right in American politics and civil society, the people running the Smithsonian’s Latino work offer no insight or awareness as to why. Instead, they offer an ideological fantasy world dominated by a grim and falsified narrative of oppression.
The Latino exhibit, by its own admission, reduces the identity and history of Hispanics in the U.S. to a “struggle for justice,” mostly centered on advancing a leftist agenda “on labor, education access, fair housing, and more recently, immigration and justice reform, LGBT rights…” This, of course, is nothing else but the classic culturally Marxist narrative of social confrontation.
This blatant instrumentalization of Hispanics to promote a particular ideology undermines the great diversity of ideas and political points of view that exist in the Hispanic community, while totally disregarding and denigrating the Spanish heritage and Christian roots that arguably define it.
Congress – and especially the growing number of Hispanic Republicans in Congress – should refuse to spend taxpayer dollars on this phony narrative. Because the National Museum of the American Latino is already authorized, Congress would have to explicitly specify in the appropriations law that none of the funds could be used for the museum.
America has suffered enough from concocted narratives of racial and ethnic division and oppression. The price we pay is real and paid too often in blood.
American Hispanics have a rich history, sometimes of oppression, frequently of struggle and often of triumph — just like every other people who ever came to American shores and chased the American dream. We should refuse to allow our history and our stories to be subordinated and falsified on behalf of a radical-left agenda like the one the Smithsonian is pushing.
After all, what defines us is not what America has done to us — but what America has done for us.
Alfonso Aguilar is president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Joshua Trevino is chief of intelligence and research and the director for Texas Identity at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas.