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Latino lite or Latino life: The Smithsonian Museo Alameda in San Antonio opens

Henry Munoz, a vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Smithsonian and San Antonio native, is the driving force behind the Smithsonian-affiliated Museo Alameda, opening with fireworks on April 13th, and a free concert by Linda Ronstadt. The Alameda itself is a historic theatre in downtown San Antonio, a resplendant building that once hosted a milieu of Mexican stars and the films from the golden age of Mexican cinema.

Now, it's a national museum. Here in San Antonio, where the Guadalupe Cultural Center is imploding from its corporate ambitions and wannabe-boardmembers, there is debate about the influence of corporate interests on the depiction of latino culture that the Museo Alameda represents. It is our story, yours and mine, after all, that has the power to change hearts. With this musuem, will we tell it, or will we ask permission from our corporate sponsor? You tell me.

Below is a comment from Pablo Miguel Martinez, noted poet and cultural activist. He's from San Anto, and lived in New York City for many years. This is what he told the San Antonio Express-News, thanking them for their coverage, and asking some tough questions:

"The museum indicates that it will "ensure that the story of the Latino experience in America is told." I am not convinced there is such a thing as "the Latino experience." Do we really believe the experience of a South Texas Chicana is also the experience of a Cuban exile in Miami, or the same lived experience of a puertorriqueña in the Bronx? The museum's attempt at cultural cohesiveness negates the very thing that makes Latino cultures so rich -- our diversity.
If Museo Alameda can ensure that our stories are told, why is its architectural iconography so decidedly, almost singularly Mexican? (The hojalata entrance, beautiful though it is, incorporates the Virgin of Guadalupe's aura, Quetzalcoatl's feathers, etc. Mexican, yes. Chicano, perhaps. Latino, definitely not.) If the focus of the museum is Chicano/mexicano-based art and culture, say so, unashamedly, unapologetically, proudly. If the development of pan-Latino culture, identity, and sensibility is your goal, please diversify your programming, your Board, your Staff, and your mindset. If the museum's reach is hemispheric ("America," its mission states), include Afro-Peruvian, Dominican, Chilean, Bolivian and other artistic expressions in your offerings from the start, not as an afterthought that follows a Chicano-centric outlook."


mona said…
Having recently attended the Museo I was deeply saddened by what I saw. The art represented is beautiful, but where is there any representation of our roots? Prominent figures that represent of people! Cesar Chavez, Che Guervera, Cantiflas, Maria Felix, Frida Kahlo, Where are the artifacts? Donations could easily be made. I went in with excitement, I was anticipating my culture represented in a true form, some truth where was the mexican pottery, Our Virgen de Guadalupe, our beloved saints? I was not only shocked by how little there was to show, but by the obvious lack of effort that went into the Museo, The hispanic culture is so much more than what was represented.

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