Smithsonian suspends Latino exhibit after critics call previous version ‘disgraceful’, ‘Marxist’


The Smithsonian Institution has suspended an upcoming Latin American exhibit after members of Congress and prominent Latin American conservatives criticized a similar one last year.

An opinion piece for The Hill, written by Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles President Alfonso Aguilar, Texas Public Policy Foundation Director Joshua Treviño, and Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Mike Gonzales, unleashed a wave of criticism for multiple exhibits meant to preview the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino.

The op-ed, which was written in August and criticized an exhibit for its “Marxist” portrayal of Latin American history, inspired complaints from current and former members of Congress and other prominent figures, leading to the suspension of an upcoming exhibit this month.


It argued that the earlier exhibit, titled, “¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States,” provided “an unabashedly Marxist portrayal of history, religion and economics. Its only redeeming quality is that it makes clear why the forthcoming National Museum of the American Latino must not be funded.”

The exhibit was first unveiled at the National Museum of American History in D.C. in 2022. It has been billed as the “first iteration” of the American Latino museum by the upcoming museum’s director Jorge Zamanillo.

The op-ed also criticized GOP lawmakers for signing off on the bill leading to the exhibit and larger museum’s creation. “It was a mistake for Republicans to have gone along with passage, in late 2020, of the National Museum of the American Latino Act. They were misled by liberal proponents who told them the museum would be fair,” it declared.

The three conservative authors said that the “museum is being used to advance an ideologically biased narrative about the Hispanic experience in America,” and pointed to several “false assertions” found in the exhibit pushing this narrative. 

They included the claim that “The United States stole one-third of Mexico in 1848,” that “Cubans came here seeking economic opportunity, not escaping communist barbarism,” and that “The Texas Revolution was a defense of slavery against an abolitionist Mexico.”

Additionally, the three authors claimed that the exhibit omits discussion of “Leftwing and Marxist dictators, including Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Plutarco Elias Calles and Daniel Ortega,” whereas as “Rightwing autocrats are mentioned “for the purpose of accusing the United States of supporting regional oppression in the fight against communism.”

They also alleged that the exhibit left out “leftist guerrilla and terroristic movements,” but mentioned “the Nicaraguan Contras, who fought against a communist regime to liberalize their country.”


Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The op-ed asserted, “The Latino exhibit, by its own admission, reduces the identity and history of Hispanics in the U.S. to a ‘struggle for justice,’ mostly centered on advancing a leftist agenda ‘on labor, education access, fair housing, and more recently, immigration and justice reform, LGBT rights…’” reported that “After the Hill op-ed came out, Zamanillo started fielding angry calls from members of Congress and former members of Congress, according to a Smithsonian employee who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the controversy.”.

That criticism snowballed and led to the suspension of the other exhibition this month that was meant to follow “¡Presente!”

Time described this newer exhibit as “the largest federally funded Smithsonian exhibit on Latino civil rights history.” It added that the subsequent exhibit “drew input from the nation’s top Latino historians and veterans of the movement.”

“It was set to feature student walkouts, efforts to integrate schools, and environmental and immigration activism,” the outlet noted.

The Smithsonian confirmed to Time on Friday that the exhibit was put “on hold” after “pushback from conservative Latinos in the private sector and the halls of Congress.”

The institute also confirmed that “A new [exhibit] on salsa and Latin music is being developed in its place.” Zamanillo told the outlet they were opting for a Latino music exhibit because of its “broader appeal.”

Conservative talk show host Jorge Bonilla dismissed it as a “Latinx Museum” no one wanted. 

“Many of us foresaw that, despite the best of intentions, the Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino was an activist enterprise devoted to the memorialization Hispanics as victims and a permanent other forever alienated from the American mainstream,” he told Fox News Digital. “Despite these prescient warnings, Republicans voted to fund this monstrosity. Time has proven us right. It is time for conservatives to find their spine and defund this altar to identity politics. We neither need nor want the Smithsonian Latinx Museum.”

The Smithsonian did not respond to a request for comment.

Fox News’ Kyle Drennen contributed to this report.

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