2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Smithsonian Latino Center! The Center's aim is to advance the knowledge and understanding of Latino contributions to U. S. history and culture, especially through Latino representation within the Smithsonian and its exhibitions, studies, programs, and research. On their anniversary, here's a look back at the history of the Center.
In May 1993 the Task Force on Latino Issues was established by Secretary Robert McCormick Adams and Under Secretary Constance Ernestine Berry Newman because of the recognition of the inadequacy of Latino representation at the Smithsonian Institution. The Task Force was composted of fifteen Latino professionals from outside the Smithsonian and whose chair was Raul Yzaguirre and vice chair was Mari Carmen Aponte.
The Task Force issued a report, "Willful Neglect: The Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Latinos" in May 1994. The report looked into Latino presence at the Smithsonian and made recommendations for the implementation and oversight of improvements. As a result of the report, a new Counselor to the Secretary position was created as well as a smaller body of Latinos was organized to continue the work of the Task Force. The Counselor would convene and serve on this group, called the Latino Oversight Committee, a fifteen-member body with a two-year life span (1995-1995).
Miguel A. Bretos became Counselor to the Secretary for Latino Affairs in May 1994 and worked with the Latino Oversight Committee to produce the report, "Toward a Shared Vision: U.S. Latinos and the Smithsonian Insitution" in October 1997. The report built upon the general recommendations of the Task Force and created a more detailed vision and roadmap for inclusion and accountability.
Just a few months before the release of the report, the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives (SCLI) was established by the Smithsonian Board of Regents on May 5, 1997 and opened in 1998. With the creation of the SCLI, the Counselor position ceased to exit as such and Bretos became Senior Scholar at the Center, serving from 1998-2001. Refugio I. Rochin was the founding Director of the Center, serving 1998-2003; Anna E. Cabral succeeded him as Director, 2003-2004; Luben Montoya, Acting Director, 2004-2005; Pilar O'Leary, Director, 2005-2008; Daniel Edward Sheehy, Acting Director, 2008; and Eduardo Díaz, Director, 2008- . In February of 2006 SCLI changed its name to the Smithsonian Latino Center.