- 13 Dec 2016
- Posted in: News
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The Latino Experience in Museums
This September, LA Plaza not only held a commemorative celebration for Mexican Independence Day, also known as Fiestas Patrias, but was invited to participate in the 2016 American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Annual Meeting in Detroit, MI. LA Plaza Education and Admissions Assistant Mónica S. Moncada led a session about the Latino experience in museums.
The session titled, “Latinos in Museums: Conversations about Representation and Interpretation,” was a panel discussion led by Latino museum professionals representing different Latino experiences and different parts of the country. The panelists had an opportunity to voice their thoughts on the broad topic of Latino representation and the role of public history institutions. The session largely focused on the lack of Latino presence in the field—whether it be hiring Latino interns or including Latino perspectives in exhibitions—and the panelists’ experiences addressing the issue. This session was not only the first session in a conference LA Plaza has chaired, but was also one of the first Latino-specific sessions for AASLH.
LA Plaza is a space for great opportunity that comes with both exciting and unique challenges. We are one of six or seven Latino-specific museums in the country and one of two that deals with interpreting Latino history. As the chair and moderator for this session, I framed this conversation as a beginning to a larger conversation of “righting” American history. The speakers of my panel where as follows, Curator & Registrar at LA Plaza, Erendina A. Delgadillo; Associate Professor at University of Texas at El Paso, Co-Founder of Museo Urbano and Director of the Institute of Oral History, Dr. Yolanda Leyva; and the Interns & Fellows Program Manager at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) and chair of several committees, including NMAH’s Diversity Advisory Council, Omar Eaton-Martinez. All speakers openly shared their experiences being Latino and serving Latino communities and/or audiences, explained the vast diversity among Latino communities, and offered suggestions on what is next for the field. Attendees left with an understanding that they can’t treat Latino audiences as a monolithic group and must actively engage with Latino audiences to best meet their needs as a community, as well as, the undeniable importance of hiring Latino professionals as part of their respective institution’s larger efforts in pushing for equity and equality.
Latino history is American history and history institutions should provide an accurate history by sharing the largely untold histories of fellow Americans. Working to tell a more accurate history can be a painful, uncomfortable process, but we cannot heal from what we do not acknowledge. Many Latino museum professionals across the country have been working to incorporate Latino history into their work, and if your institution is ready for this move or if you would like to include your voice, AASLH is a great place to learn and cultivate these conversations.
I would like to thank all who participated in this session, including speakers and mentors who contributed their spirit and time to furthering this conversation and change in our communities.