Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Isabel M. Benemelis
For Immediate Release:September 24, 2003


Secretary Encourages Increased Visitation and Volunteerism on Public Lands at Hispanic Foundation for the Arts Annual Gala


(WASHINGTON) - Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton addressed the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) seventh annual Gala on Tuesday evening. The event, hosted by NHFA co-founders Jimmy Smits, Sonia Braga and Esai Morales, was held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Secretary Norton encouraged more Hispanic Americans to visit the Department of the Interior's many cultural, natural and historic sites and thanked NHFA for being one of the first charter partners of Interior's Take Pride in America program. The NHFA promotes a more modern portrayal of Latinos and provides scholarships to students to achieve careers in the entertainment, telecommunications and media industries.

"Whether filmed in one of Interior's picturesque national parks, lush refuges or other sites, the Department and the entertainment industry share a long history of cooperation," Secretary Norton said. "Hollywood's most modern and high-tech studio lots could not begin to emulate the majesty and the ruggedness or the beauty of America's natural vistas, and that scores of cinematic classics would not have enjoyed the same impact if not for the drama of their setting."

The Secretary cited the scene in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, filmed at Mount Rushmore National Park, and the chilling setting for the UFO landing in Steven Speilberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, shot at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, as examples.

"Although it has been taken for granted and is often overlooked, popular culture has always showcased America's natural backdrop - the public lands that are so diligently preserved by the Department of Interior," NHFA chairman and Co-Founder Felix Sanchez said.

NHFA joined Interior's Take Pride in America program this spring. Take Pride is a public lands volunteer initiative that empowers volunteers from every corner of America to improve parks, refuges, recreation areas and cultural and historical sites. "The NHFA inspires young people to do great things - the same goal as Take Pride in America Program," Secretary Norton said. "We can better the nation's public lands and inspire a new generation to have pride in our country."

Secretary Norton emphasized the importance of increasing Hispanic visitation to National Parks and historical sites. "Many Interior Department sites magnify the cultural history of Hispanics and commemorate some of the most incredible achievements and contributions by the nation's most prominent Hispanic citizens. The Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico, Castillo de San Marco in Florida and the Palo Alto Battlefield in Brownsville, TX, are just a few of these treasures."
"America's public treasures provide so much more than a background to a movie," said Secretary Norton. "They record our stories and remember our struggles and victories. People make their living off the land, they recreate and take solace, and learn from its history and its wildlife. We must continue to protect and improve those lands so they are never just a memory in a movie."

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