Cultures National Conference
Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence M. Small
Thank you, Francisco, for the introduction and for the fine
job you're doing as acting director of the Smithsonian Center
for Latino Initiatives.
A warm Smithsonian welcome to you all. Déjenme decir que
me da enorme placer poder darles la más cordial bienvenida
a la Smithsonian. Espero que lo pasen muy bien durante el
par de dias que van a estar con nosotros.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules
to attend this national conference on "The Interpretation
and Representation of Latino Cultures." I want to thank
our partner, the Inter-University Program for Latino Research,
under the leadership of Gilberto Cardenas. Special thanks
go to the Rockefeller Foundation, and the University of Notre
Dame for their financial support.
I want to thank the vice-chair of the Smithsonian National
Board, and member of the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Board,
Henry Muñoz, for all his support.
And special thanks go to Magdalena Mieri, conference coordinator,
and the staff at the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives,
for all their hard work in putting the conference together.
And, to many of you I say, "welcome back" because
many here have participated in our graduate Latino training
seminar. Others have done important research here on Smithsonian
The Smithsonian mission, unchanged since the founding of
the Institution in 1846, is "the increase and diffusion
of knowledge." Today, we are more determined than ever
to make sure that all Americans, wherever they may live, have
access to the historic, artistic, and scientific treasures
at the Smithsonian.
Today, I want to stress our commitment to Latino Initiatives
at the Smithsonian and discuss the progress we're making.
We know we're not done, but major efforts are underway-with
exhibitions, public programs, Web sites, personnel, education
and outreach. Much has been accomplished, and we fully intend
to do more-both within the Smithsonian and across the country.
You saw part of that effort last night at the reception at
our Arts and Industries Building, which now features three
Latin Jazz: La Combinación Perfecta, which was created by
the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)-now
celebrating 50 years of serving the public. After Latin Jazz
leaves the Mall, it will travel to 12 cities across the nation
over the next three years.
You saw two exhibitions of Chicano works: Chicano Now: American
Expressions; and Chicano Visions: American Painters on the
Verge. We have Cheech Marin to thank for the exhibitions.
Taken together, there is much to see, hear, and do in these
exhibitions. The reviews have been great and the crowds large.
You also saw our online work, one of the Center's important
projects, the Latino Virtual Gallery, and the online version
of "Lowriding: An American Cultural Tradition."
I mentioned the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition
Service (SITES). It's the largest of its kind in the world,
reaching more than 5 million people across the country. Since
1992, SITES has circulated 12 multi-year Latino tours nationwide,
for example: Dos Aguilas: A Natural History of the U.S. Borderlands;
Contrastes: Forty Years of Change and Continuity in Puerto
Rico; Semillas de Cambio; Americanos: Latino Life in the United
States; Africa's Legacy in Mexico; and the exhibition you
just saw, Latin Jazz: La Combinación Perfecta.
This summer, the SITES exhibition Corridos sin Fronteras:
A New World Ballad Tradition opened to great enthusiasm at
the Mexican Heritage Plaza, a Smithsonian affiliate in San
Jose, California, one of the largest Latino cultural centers
in the country. On the opening day, Los Tigres del Norte,
the Grammy Award-winning corrido musical group that got its
start in San Jose, conducted a hands-on musical workshop for
350 local students. During the 12-week showing, which attracted
209,400 visitors, the Mexican Heritage Plaza ran continuous
school tour programs and corridos music programs. And, the
educational, award-winning, interactive Web site has been
tremendously successful and is being used in the curricula
of schools across California.
Our Smithsonian Affiliations Program lends some of our 142
million objects to museums large and small across the nation.
The initiative has 118 affiliate museums in 34 states, D.C.,
Panama, and Puerto Rico-many serving Latino communities. This
summer, the Affiliations Program launched its Cultural Alliance
Initiative to promote various cultural heritages across the
country-African American, Native American, Asian American,
Latino, and more. The Cultural Alliance meets in January in
San Antonio to explore opportunities for shared programming,
shared objects, and shared scholarship. We're very optimistic
about the working together on this because we've seen what
can happen when our own organizations work with the affiliates.
Our Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies and
Smithsonian Affiliations opened a museum studies certificate
program at the Universidad del Turabo in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.
The four-week program included: introduction to museum management;
care of collections; exhibition design; and public programming.
Our exhibition SANTOS: Substance & Soul / Sustancia y
Alma was a first-of-its-kind collaboration, produced by our
Center for Materials Research and Education and showcasing
the collection of the National Museum of American History.
We assembled a truly remarkable collection of painted woodcarvings
of saints, called santos-some created more than four centuries
ago, some created only two years ago. The exhibition traveled
to the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New
Mexico, and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.
The Smithsonian Associates, or TSA, has been offering Latino-focused
educational programming for nearly 25 years. The Smithsonian
Associates participates every year in the Smithsonian's Hispanic
Heritage Month, offering several Discovery Theater for Children
performances and adult educational classes, courses and performing
arts. Four years ago, TSA created its popular Latino music
series, Música de las Américas, bringing in such noted Latino
musicians as Celia Cruz, Jose Feliciano and Chucho Valdés.
And there's more music…
Last week we held a three-day festival and conference, Boleros:
Romantic Songs of the Americas. We hosted Olga Guillot, Ruth
Fernandez, Los Tri-O and Rafael Basurto Lara, the only living
voice of the legendary trio Los Panchos.
Currently, in New York, at the National Museum of the American
Indian, we offer two relevant exhibitions: Ancient Mexican
Art from the Collection of the National Museum of the American
Indian and Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.
We just concluded another very successful Hispanic Heritage
month with a wide range of public programs, including concerts,
exhibitions, films, lectures, and activities for children
We're working on exciting new exhibitions, public programs,
and research. We can do this because we have excellent collections
and skilled curators and scholars.
For example, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has a preeminent
collection of Latino art. Just over 20 years ago, the museum
launched a commitment to Latino art with the acquisition of
one of the icons of contemporary sculpture-Man on Fire by
El Paso native Luís Jiménez. Since then, with the help of
artists from all over the country-including Ruben Trejo, Angel
Rodríguez-Díaz, Carmen Lomas Garza, Pepón Osorio and many
others, and the support of collectors Tomás Ybarra Frausto,
Teodoro Vidal of Puerto Rico, and Frank Ribelin of Dallas,
the collection has grown to more than 400 pieces from as far
back as the 17th century and as recent as 1999.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is closed for a major
renovation, but the artwork is moving across America. We're
honored that First Lady Laura Bush is serving as Honorary
Patron of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Arte Latino,
part of the traveling Treasures to Go exhibition. At the Terra
Museum of American Art in Chicago, she hosted a tour of the
show and a luncheon for the First Lady of Mexico, Mrs. Vicente
Fox. Arte Latino is an expansive exhibition expressing the
richness of the Latino experience, and it has broken attendance
records in every place it has been. It is now showing at the
Oakland Museum of California.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring
Center has significant collections of Puerto Rican artifacts,
including the Teodoro Vidal collection. The museum showcases
the work of Latin designers, including Oscar de la Renta,
Carolina Herrera, and Manolo Blahnik. The museum has started
a Latin music oral history program, headed by curator Marvette
Perez, and the collection, which includes instruments and
costumes, is being widely used by scholars from all over the
And there's much more in the offing.
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery is preparing
a comprehensive traveling show on Latino Portraiture. We are
collaborating with four other museums. The works will be drawn
from public and private collections in the United States,
South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Spain.
A comprehensive show of this size and magnitude has never
been mounted before; it will be the first of its kind in the
And the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has major plans
also. Olga Viso, a rising star on the American contemporary
art curatorial scene, is working on a major exhibition on
the life and art of Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta, in addition
to a show on Argentinean Guillermo Kuitca. The Hirshhorn also
holds key works by Ernesto Neto (we just had a show of his
work this spring and held a Brazilian Family Day in conjunction
with the exhibition); Joaquin Torres-García; Roberto Matta;
Wifredo Lam; Doris Salcedo; and Carlos Alfonzo. And please
come back next summer for our free summer series of Latin
Jazz concerts during Art Night on the Mall, a very popular
program. And if you can't get back to the Mall, please visit
The average monthly visitation of the Smithsonian Center for
Latino Initiatives website for fiscal year 2002 stands at
120,000, a 33% increase from last year. Roughly the same amount
visits the Latino Virtual Gallery where students explore Latino
contributions to the arts, culture, history and the humanities.
The gallery was developed with educators and scholars to enhance
traditional classroom learning-and it's doing just that.
The Latino Initiatives Pool sparks many of our popular programs.
It is a successful means of maximizing federal funds to advance
Latino activities across the whole Smithsonian-for local and
national programs such as exhibitions, collections, acquisitions,
publications, education and outreach efforts, fellowship and
internship programs, and much more. Since its inception in
1995, the pool has provided nearly $8 million in support for
213 projects, including, for example: Archivos Virtuales:
The Papers of Latino Artists Online from our Archives of American
Art; the El Rio Traveling Exhibition from our Folklife Center;
and the Olmec Legacy Project from our National Museum of Natural
History. You will have the opportunity to learn more about
the projects during our poster session on Friday evening.
We want to build on the success of the Latino Pool to find
ways to make long-lasting programs. Accordingly, we have asked
the Office of Management and Budget for an increase of $250,000
for the Latino Initiatives Pool for fiscal year 2004.
The programs and the funding are crucial components of our
efforts, but the key to our success is the people we attract
to work in the Smithsonian-and those outside the Smithsonian
whom we can recognize for their contributions.
We do this with our James Smithson Bicentennial Medal; it
was presented most recently to Olga Guillot, known as the
Queen of Boleros. Previous Smithson medals have gone to Doctor
Antonia Novello, the first woman Surgeon General of the United
States; Celia Cruz; Dolores Huerta; Alberto Rex-Gonzalez;
Ricardo Alegría; and Tito Puente.
We're actively seeking to increase the number of Latino employees
at the Smithsonian. Obviously, all institutions are operating
in difficult economic times; the Smithsonian is no exception,
so this is a challenging task. As of September 2002, we have
227 Latino employees at the Smithsonian, 3.6% of the total
workforce. That number is growing…as it should be. We know
we have more to do.
Our Office of Human Resources and our Office of Equal Employment
and Minority Affairs have developed a Latino recruitment plan;
it's in place and we're moving on it. We have relationships
with the largest local Latino agencies dealing with employment
in our area, the Spanish Catholic Center in D.C. and Maryland,
and the Hispanic Committee of Virginia. We've sent a list
of Latino organizations and conferences to all Smithsonian
offices to get the word out about Smithsonian job openings
and recruit Latino candidates. Last year, 6% of our hires
were Hispanic. We just hired a new Latina recruiter, Raquel
Manso, to increase that percentage. Right now, she is in Puerto
Rico with Lieutenant Teresita Marcanio of our Office of Protective
Services interviewing candidates. We need bilingual officers;
we created a new job classification for them, and now we are
We are fortunate to have the help of prominent Latinos on
our boards and commissions. Manuel Ibáñez, former President
of Texas A&M University - Kingsville, serves on our Board
of Regents. I mentioned Henry Muñoz, he's also the founding
chairman of Centro Alameda, National Center for Latino Arts
and Culture in San Antonio, the first formal affiliate of
the Smithsonian. (I have visited there twice, most recently
for Cinco de Mayo; it is a thriving center.) Artist Jesús
Moroles is on the board of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
And scientist Francisco Ayala has played a major role on the
Smithsonian Science Commission.
Within the Smithsonian, we are blessed with many talented
individuals. You know Francisco Dallmeier, Magdalena Mieri
and the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives staff. There
are many others: John Huerta is the Smithsonian's general
counsel; Don Lopez is deputy director of the Smithsonian's
National Air and Space Museum; Miguel Bretos is a senior scholar
at the National Portrait Gallery; Marvette Perez is a curator,
and Melinda Machado heads up public affairs at the Smithsonian's
National Museum of American History; Manuel Melendez is in
our office of government relations; Olivia Cadaval and Cynthia
Vidaurri are with our Center for Folklife and Cultural Studies;
Cristian Samper is the deputy director of the Smithsonian's
Tropical Research Institute in Panama; I mentioned curator
Olga Viso, at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum …the list
goes on and on. And our efforts will go on and on-with exhibitions,
public programs, Web sites, personnel, education and outreach.
This afternoon, you can learn more about our efforts at the
Smithsonian Opportunities Fair. You'll be able to talk to
representatives from our Office of Human Resources, Office
of Fellowships and Grants, the Smithsonian Press, Smithsonian
Affiliations, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition
Service, and the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives.
We're very serious about our commitment to seeing that the
Smithsonian represents the cultural mosaic that has made the
United States so vibrantly unique. Yes, we face major challenges
in the near future, as do so many educational and cultural
institutions in a time of economic uncertainty and international
unrest, but we have made significant progress and we will
continue to serve Latino Americans, and all Americans, wherever
they may live. We want to reach out to every American with
the story of all Americans. With your support, we'll do just
that. We're here to learn from each other.
Thank you for coming. Gracias por haber venido.
In pursuit of goals, over the years, the Smithsonian has
been aided by the intellect, candor, and integrity of Gilberto
Cardenas. He has offered blunt criticism and insightful ideas.
We are grateful for both. He is assistant provost and director
of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre
Dame, and executive director of the Inter-University Program
for Latino Research. He is a member of the President's Commission
on White House Fellowships; the Advisory Council of the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation's Millennium Scholars Program,
and many other boards. Please welcome an author, scholar,
art collector, and very generous man, Gilberto Cardenas.
Copyright © 2003