Saturday, April 14, 2007

Essay 1996

From The New York Times…


Museum Honors Hispanic Culture


SAN ANTONIO — With a hot pink carpet on the sidewalk and a 600-piece mariachi band in the wings, this city has swung into fiesta mode to welcome the nation’s largest Latino museum, a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.

Few American cities are more exuberantly tied to life south of the border than San Antonio, where tourists flock to shop its Mexican markets, meander its River Walk and sip margaritas. But despite the persistent efforts of residents, no museum here showcased Hispanic arts. The new museum — the Museo Alameda affiliated with the Smithsonian, or MAS — “more,” in Spanish — changes that.

“It’s making history,” said Rosa Rosales, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a rights group with 150,000 members, who came home to San Antonio from Washington for the opening. “Words cannot express the need. Our history has been ignored.”

To many here, it goes beyond the art. “This is a piece of activism,” said Henry R. Muñoz III, 47, an architectural executive and son of a legendary Mexican-American labor organizer, the shrewd and combative Henry Muñoz, who was known as the Fox.

The younger Muñoz began badgering the Smithsonian for help a dozen years ago and raised much of the $12 million construction cost from corporate donors.

More than half of San Antonio’s 1.2 million residents are Hispanic, compared to about 14 percent nationwide, and the growth shows few signs of slowing. Indeed, San Antonio, now the nation’s seventh-largest city (after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix) grew nearly 10 percent from 2000 to 2005, with some of the influx coming from immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

“It’s la cuna — the crib, where the consciousness of the Mexican-American movement was born,” said Henry G. Cisneros, a former mayor and federal housing official.

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