Jorge Zamanillo Appointed Founding Director of Smithsonian’s Latino Museum

February 8th, 2022

The Smithsonian has named Jorge Zamanillo as the founding director of Washington, DC’s National Museum of the American Latino. Zamanillo will leave the HistoryMiami Museum, where he has served as executive director and CEOs since 2017, to take up his new role. Congress established the new museum in 2020 “to illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions to the art, history, and culture of the nation since its early history.”

“It is an honor to be chosen to lead the development of this museum as the founding director,” said Zamanillo. “The Latino experience is American history, and I want to make sure our story will be preserved for future generations. This museum will celebrate Latino accomplishments and resiliency through powerful stories that capture the adversity faced over centuries by Latinos in the U.S. and their perseverance to move forward and create a legacy.”

The New York–born Zamanillo grew up in Miami, earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Florida State University, Tallahassee, and his master’s in museum studies at the University of Leicester in the UK. On returning to Miami, he worked as an archaeologist for the nonprofit cultural resource management firm Archaeological and Historical Conservancy. In 2000, he joined HistoryMiami as curator of object collections. He rose through the ranks there, serving variously as deputy director, vice president of expansion projects, and senior curator before assuming his current role there.

“Jorge’s accomplishments at HistoryMiami Museum highlight his commitment to exploring the full sweep of the American story by bringing to life the complex and profound narratives of Latinos in the United States,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian. “His transformational leadership will be invaluable as we build this necessary museum from the ground up, helping us create a robust, dynamic, responsive museum that exemplifies what a 21st-century cultural institution should be.”

Zamanillo will step into his new role at the National Museum of the American Latino on May 2. A board of directors appointed by the Smithsonian is currently in the process of selecting a site for the new museum, which is expected to be located on or near the National Mall.