MAS - The Smithsonian in San Antonio

Written by Randy Watson

Someone flipped the switch and the cube, showing off its modernistic latticework, bust into colorful light with several thousand people cheering and throwing confetti. . .and with that, a dream came true, and a 10 year project came to completion.  The Museo Alameda del Smithsonian, a 40,000 sq. foot museum exploring and educating about the Latino influence, history, and heritage, was inaugurated Friday at a huge celebration.  People braved the rain to witness the opening of the San Antonio\'s newest, and perhaps most architecturally brash, museum.


The Museo Alameda del Smithsonian’s (MAS) mission is to educate, preserve, and spark conversation about the Latino experience in, and contribution to--not only Texas--but the United States and the world, as well.  It will also serve as a place to celebrate Latino artists from San Antonio and Texas.

Henry R. Munoz III, the chairman of the Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture, and the man responsible for financing and construction of the building, started on the plans 10 years ago.  His thinking that it would be a 3 year project proved to be overly optimistic, but in this case, the ends justify the means.  Costing $12 million, and hoping to draw over 400,000 guests a year, the project was a labor of love, and judging from reactions at the opening, the love is spreading.  And Market Square is transforming…

Located next to Alameda Theater, MAS will be the cornerstone for what city planners hope to make a Latino cultural zone.  The theatre opened in 1949 as a cultural center in itself, showing Spanish language movies, hosting live Latino entertainment, as well as other arts and cultural gatherings.

Where does the Smithsonian fit in to all this?  Finding out that Latinos were underrepresented in its museums, the Smithsonian had been looking to sponsor and promote more Latino projects, and in 1996, announced that by joining with MAS, the Smithsonian would forever be linked with San Antonio.  Since then, the Smithsonian has gone on to add 152 such affiliates in other cities across the United States.

The museum, which will be a showcase for all Latino artists in the area, is off to a wonderful beginning.  The opening exhibits are “The Smithsonian in San Antonio,” featuring objects on loan from the museum in D.C.; “Conjunto,” photos of musicians by the photographer, John Dyer; and a multimedia installation by San Antonio’s own Victoria Suescum entitled, “Tremendo Manicure.”