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Local professor joins a national call to guide the first museum of the American Latino

Local UConn professor joins a national committee to guide the first National Museum of the American Latino in D.C.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
UConn professor Charles Venator-Santiago is part of an advisory committee that will guide the first National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, D.C.

University of Connecticut professor Charles Venator-Santiago has been invited to join the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, D.C., for a special role.

Venator-Santiago, a political science professor who serves at El Instituto at UConn, is one of 18 scholars named to the advisory committee that will guide the museum’s content about U.S. Latino history and culture.

“This is a really interesting and complicated advisory position,” Venator-Santiago said. “The goal is to describe, or figure out how to represent Latinos as part of American history, which is a really complicated task.”

While the museum does not yet have a physical structure, Venator-Santiago said many exhibits dedicated to the stories and achievements of Latinos have been housed in museums throughout the country.

Having a museum that represents Latinos as part of American history in a single place is also an opportunity to reimagine how we think of the experiences of Latinos throughout U.S. history, he said.

The Latino Center currently housed in the Smithsonian addresses the issues that impact a diverse community, entwined by nationalities, ethnicities, race and gender.

For Venator-Santiago, situating such diverse experiences within U.S. history is a compelling challenge that can draw from Latinos in civil rights movements to waves of immigration.

“It’s up for debate, to find what are the common threads that are going to share the sense [of] Latino identity that includes questions of language and diversity,” Venator-Santiago said.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.