The art of storytelling is difficult to master. However, John Leguizamo, who stars in the recent
Netflix mini-series When They See Us, has mastered that art and more. His 90-minute one-man
play “Latin History for Morons,” tells the story of Leguizamo’s journey of rediscovering his Latino
identity through the troubles his son faces in school.
As Leguizamo covers 3,000 years of Latino history, he does more than recount the story of
Latinos in the Americas; he weaves from past and present to show how our ancestors’ past molds
us into who we are today. We are more than what American school systems teach children of
color. We have this colorful untold history filled with glorious ancestors from the kind Taínos to
the epic Mayans, Aztecs and the socialist Incas.
His recounting of indigenous war with conquistadores gives the audience understanding
that, although Latinos come from various countries and differing walks of life, Latinos are one
people, and our issues are similar to those the black community have faced and continue to face.
Leguizamo alludes to this throughout the play but brings it to light the moment he talks about
heroes standing up – or taking a knee – for what they believe in. “Unity” is a great message to tell
people of color, especially Latinos who at times, perhaps because of the white washing of their
history, take part in colorism and racism. Throughout the play, he shows that most people of color
are fighting the same fight: to be seen and heard in a society that has tried to erase our identity
through the old practice of forbidding children from speaking their native tongue in classrooms
and have tried to dehumanize the Latinx community through laws and lynching.
His play does a wonderful job of reeling the audience in with a comedic take on a historical
event and then hits the audience with golden nuggets of truth and wisdom. While ‘history’ is in
the name of the play, it is not just a historical account of events. Leguizamo contextualizes ideas for
the audience and shows how history is beginning to repeat itself. At one point, he mentions how
indigenous peoples were taken to Europe and placed in cages to show their “savagery,’ and he then
comes back into the present to remind the audience that the current presidential administration
attempts to justify their caging of children with the term “illegal aliens.”
Leguizamo’s work plays an important role in the shift of societal norms, especially in a deep red
state like Texas. It is ultimately a political act of defiance because the education given through the
play is the first steps in progressively transforming our society.
If you’re interested in his play, you can watch it on Netflix. If that isn’t enough to satisfy your
craving for Latino history, then head over to latinohistoryforbroadway.com and check out Latino
History for Moron’s required reading list.