MR. CARDENAS: That's a hard act to follow.
Thank you very much for the wonderful introduction and also
for giving us a great rundown about what's happened here at
the Smithsonian. Secretary Small has really done a tremendous
job in putting together a staff and leadership and a vision
for this institution that would change this institution in
very important ways, organizationally, structurally, and programmatically.
It's difficult to make change and you've weathered through
tremendous storms here, especially under the financial situation
we find ourselves in the nation as well as in the nonprofit
sector and other areas.
I'm very pleased to welcome you
to this conference. This has been a culmination, if you will,
of a long project for many people that really started with
a Latino working group internally to the Smithsonian that
preceded me and other people who have since been working here
and this is the staff at the Smithsonian who in their respective
ways have tried to make change and tried to argue for a better
presence for Latinos and tried to get the message across to
the institution that in order to tell the story of the American
people it has to be more inclusive and more knowledgeable
about the history of the American people and they can't do
that without having the curatorial staff, without having the
intellectual presence, without having the resources and the
collections. And I think the institution now has that message
and, as you saw, has not only gotten the message but actually
has worked to implement a tremendous amount of programs and
activities that have elevated, if you will, the presence of
We're hopeful that in the end this
will lead to a museum down the road on the Mall but it's a
hope. It was a recommendation of the Willful Neglect Task
Force headed by Raul Yzaguirre, and we're interested in a
museum. We're interested in the meanwhile in terms of a long-term
sustainable physical presence here. We want people to know
when they come from Europe and Africa and other places in
the world and throughout the United States that an integral
part of the US population and US culture and American culture
is Latino culture.
There is a long history to that
but we want people to know that on a sustained basis. The
activities are tremendous and that is leading to that presence.
What's really needed, however, is on a sustained basis to
have a physical presence so that there is year-round programming,
there's a curatorial staff, and activities that everyone can
learn with and be part of.
I'm real pleased that John Huerta
is here, the position that he's in. I'm really pleased to
see the curatorial staff that's here. We'd like to see more
curators at the institution. I'm sure Larry agrees with that.
We have a national board that oversees the Center for Latino
Initiatives and this board is very concerned and very interested
in working with the institution and, as Larry has mentioned,
in the past I have been in the area where I've been very critical
because I was asked to come here to help do that. I'm not
looking for a job so I have the luxury of doing that but at
the same time we've put a lot of hours in and we've also been
very constructive, I think, in helping to build programs here.
The one that I'm most pleased with,
obviously, is the Latino graduate training program which you're
here and part of. This has been a program that started in
1994 here at the Smithsonian but that we actually created
in previous years, 1988, I believe, taking this program around
the country to various institutions for the Inter-University
Program for Latino Research.
And in 1994 James Early invited
us to come to the institution. It was co-sponsored by the
Center for Museum Studies at that time and the Smithsonian
not only endorsed it but put resources behind it. We brought
money in from Carnegie and Lilly Foundation to jump start
the program here. Since that time our funding ended. We've
made some modest contribution but really it's been a Smithsonian
initiative, and we've been co-partners but we're taking the
backseat on that, which we're happy to do, and to see this
program institutionalized has been something that's been remarkable.
So we've had over 110 participants
thus far, and Magdalena Mieri has been a tremendous force
behind this. We've had support from Miguel Bretos during
his days as counsel to the Secretary and others who have been
very active in making this program a success.
An outgrowth of the program has
been fellowship programs and support from the Rockefeller
Foundation for the residency program. We see some of the
folks who have participated in that are senior scholars and
some junior scholars.
So it's with that background that
I am here, pleased to be here, and wanting to encourage you
to continue the work that was started by the Latino working
group and all the various other task forces and things of
that sort to continue it more in the intellectual realm, the
area of critical scholarship, of really an analysis of who
we are as a country, where Latinos fit in the country, where
our culture intersects with American culture so it's not understood
as foreign culture.
It's an integral part of the formation
of the United States. This is a culture that is not necessarily
an exported culture from abroad but it's a vital part, an
integral part, of American culture since the day that preceded
the formation of the United States of America. That's a real
important distinction. This is not transplanted culture from
So Spanish is as much an American
language as English is. Those are the kinds of things but
in the past some of these kinds of considerations have been
swept to the side and we have been relegated to something
that is less than American in that sense so we have to make
a reclaim on America from my standpoint.
So this is part of that project.
What better place to do that than the Smithsonian? This is
the central part of the Smithsonian's mission and so as we
think about the various topics that we're going to cover,
as we talk about issues of interpretation and the representation,
these are central topics that allow us to explore broader
questions, that allow us to explore the role of national institutions
and national museums, regional museums, and other places by
which expression and cultural activity play out.
We have to talk about the politics
of culture. We have to talk about the politics of the expressive
issues. So these are the kinds of things that I'm hopeful
you'll have a chance to advance and continue the work. So
this intellectual, scholarly conversation, if you will, is
one that is starting today. We really haven't engaged visitors
in that manner in the past. We have an opportunity to start
that conversation today and move forward so that the way I
look at this, this is the beginning for that part of the discussion.
We've had, as I mentioned, external
pressure. We've had internal issues. We've had programs.
Now the scholarship and the scholarly engagement, if you will,
with issues is something that we all look forward to and hope
to see happen these next few days.
So again I want to thank the institution
for being so generous in putting this together, Magdalena
Mieri and her staff, Francisco for supporting this program,
and all of you who are here today to present. Thank you very
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