Click to expand image Color photograph of the Shaping the Nation Case with objects and photographs.
© Tony Powell. National Museum of the American Latino. June 13, 2022

Case 4 Orientation

You have opened the eleventh of thirteen QR codes located throughout the gallery.

The fourth section of ¡Presente! is “Shaping the Nation.” This case is located on the right side of the gallery. It examines stories about Latinos and Latinas as community builders who have shaped the United States. To the left of the case is a nook. Behind you is a Foro, or plaza, in the middle of the gallery. 

Case 4 Themes

The “Shaping the Nation” case explores three main themes. On the left side of the case: Latinos and Latinas building community; in the middle of the case: Latinos and Latinas fighting for justice; on the right is Latinos and Latinas breaking boundaries. 

Panel 1: Bulding Community:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

Latino communities have been built by local leaders. 

Grandmothers, teachers, doctors, business owners, activists, artists, and many others have worked together to make a difference. The diverse stories of Cuban priest Félix Varela, the Black Dominican activist Carlos Cooks, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are all rooted in the needs of their communities.   


 For many Latinas and Latinos, the concept of community goes beyond ethnicity or nationality. It finds purpose in bringing people together to build a just society for all. The objects and stories here come from California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C.   

Object Group 1 Description:

California physician C. David Molina’s medical bag with two short handles and name “C.D. Molina” embossed on the surface in gold letters. Mouse and cockroach hand puppets dressed in fancy suit and dress, from Teatro SEA, a New York City community theater. A round, flat, wooden Yoruba divination tray with geometric engraving along the border and silver chain extended on it, made by Adrian Castro, a Cuban American Chinese medicine doctor.

Click to expand image Dr. C. David Molina’s black medical bag.
Loan from the collection of Dr. Martha Molina Bernadett, daughter of C. David Molina, MD
Click to expand image Cockroach hand puppet
Teatro SEA, 3D printed reproduction of the original made in 2021, costume by Ingrid Harris, paint by Keith Saari. Loan from Collection of the Society of the Educational Arts/Teatro SEA, 
Click to expand image Mouse hand puppet
Teatro SEA, 3D printed reproductions of the originals made in 2021, costumes by Ingrid Harris, paint by Keith Saari. Loan from Collection of the Society of the Educational Arts/Teatro SEA, 
Click to expand image Yoruba Divination Tray
Opon Ifá divination tray. Adrian Castro, 1999. Loan from Adrian Castro Silver Opele divination chain. Adrian Castro, 1998. Loan from Adrian Castro 

Panel 2: Fighting for Justice:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

The history of Latinas and Latinos has been shaped by the struggle for justice. 

At first these struggles involved specific Latino communities. In the 1800s, Mexican Americans fought early legal battles for their civil rights. Later, Latinas and Latinos began to mobilize in response to issues that affect multiple U.S. communities. Latino groups have fought for fair labor practices, education access, safe housing, immigration and criminal justice system reform, and LGBT rights, among other issues. Historically, many Latinas and Latinos have been disenfranchised. This led to a tradition of coalition building with diverse U.S. communities. Latinas and Latinos continue to work alongside others to make a more just and inclusive society.  

Object Group 2 Description:

1960s bilingual political campaign buttons reading, “¡Viva Reagan!” and “Boycott Chiquita”. 1983 multicultural organization button reads, “National Rainbow Coalition.” Graphic reproduction of black and white photo of an unidentified man wearing a trench coat, tie, fedora hat. Man holds a protest sign reading, “Jim Crow Doesn’t Teach,” in Spanish. Photo shot by Puerto Rican photographer Frank Espada at a 1964 boycott against racial segregation in New York City schools.

Click to expand image “¡Viva Reagan!” Campaign Button
Campaign Button. National Museum of American History
Click to expand image “Jim Crow No Enseñar.”
Frank Espada, New York, 1964. Courtesy of Frank Espada Photographs, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Panel 3: Breaking Boundaries:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

Latina and Latino boundary breakers have shaped U.S. history. They set new standards for excellence, creativity, and civic participation.

They are activists, artists, athletes, military veterans, small business owners, and many others. Some, like Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, have entered spaces where no Latina and Latino have been before. Many have left their creative mark on struggles for justice. They fought racial segregation in schools and demanded LGBT rights. Their distinct experiences defy any single representation of the U.S. Latino experience. The stories displayed here show how Latinas and Latinos have energized U.S. culture and democracy.  


Object Group 3 Description:

Mexican American street skating pioneer Mark “Gonz” Gonzales’ scratched-up skateboard, with hand-painted drawings on its surface. Graphic reproduction of a photo of first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, shown in a three-quarter profile wearing a black suit jacket.

Click to expand image Color photo of the underside of a skateboard deck.
Custom hand-painted Krooked skateboard. 2018. Loan from Mark Gonzales
Click to expand image Color photo of Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor.
Sonia Sotomayor. Timothy Greenfield- Sanders, 2010. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © 2011 Timothy Greenfield-Sanders [NPG.2015.27] 

Signature Object: NASA Helmet:
Object Label Text and Description

In 1993, Mexican American research engineer Ellen Ochoa was the first Latina to go to space. There, she researched the earth’s ozone layer. Ochoa, who grew up in Mesa, California, wore this helmet while flying NASA T-38 jets during training.  


Round, gray aviator helmet with the NASA logo adhered above the black face shield. A mask and hose on the helmet’s right side attach to the oxygen supply in the aircraft.

Click to expand image NASA Helmet
NASA, used between 1990–2007. Loan from Ellen Ochoa 

Directions to Next QR Code

QR code 12 is across the aisle on your right, on the side of the digital interactive table about 6 feet away. QR Code 13 is across the aisle on your left.