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New Texas Museum Celebrates Hispanic Culture

In collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute, the Museo Alameda, which opened in San Antonio, Texas, in April, showcases Hispanic influence in American art and music. Jeffrey Brown reports on the museum's latest exhibitions.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Santiago Jimenez Jr. was taught to play the accordion by his father, Santiago Sr., who'd grown up watching German immigrant musicians in south Texas perform polkas and waltzes.

  • SANTIAGO JIMENEZ JR., Conjunto Musician:

    This is the way the Germans played.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    From the mix of Europe and Tex-Mex, oom-pah-pah and Latin rhythms, came something new, called conjunto music.

  • SANTIAGO JIMENEZ JR.:

    The conjunto style, it's more powerful. To me, it's powerful.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The celebration of a uniquely American Latino culture is the idea behind a new museum in San Antonio, Texas, the Museo Alameda. Instruments and photographs of conjunto musicians, including Santiago Jimenez, make up one of the opening exhibitions.

    With its pink walls and punched tin exterior, the museum sits in the historic Market Square district of San Antonio, a city that today is 60 percent Hispanic. The museum is a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, which will lend works from its huge collections.

    The initial loans are an eclectic mix: a Mayan limestone carving, and a modern sculpture by Luis Jimenez called "Man on Fire," but also a Tiffany's necklace by Paloma Picasso, and Laura Bush's inaugural purse. Among the other initial exhibits is a video installation called "Somos" — "We Are" — a montage of family photographs.

    Henry Munoz, head of a local architectural firm and chairman of the nonprofit organization behind the creation of the new $15 million facility, sees the museum as a piece of cultural activism.

    HENRY MUNOZ, Founder and Chair, Museo Alameda: It is activism in the sense that, to create a museum at the front door to one of the most important Latino landscapes in the country, so that future generations of Latinos can see themselves in that setting, I think is incredibly important. If you walked into a Smithsonian museum in the early 1990s and your last name was Munoz, or Sanchez, or Mendez, you didn't see yourself anywhere in those museums, and so there was no question that an important part of the American story was not being told.

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