Actor, playwright, and stand-up comic John Leguizamo kicked off his nationwide tour of his award-winning one-man show Latin History for Morons just last week in Durham, North Carolina. Latin History for Morons runs through November, with single or multi-day stops through Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Seattle, Dallas, and San Antonio.
This isn’t the premiere of Leguizamo’s critically acclaimed show; Latin History for Morons was nominated for a Tony award in 2018, and was off- and on-Broadway in 2017 through early 2018. (P.S. If you can’t catch it live, the show is available on Netflix, too.) But, halfway through Trump’s term in the Oval Office and only days after the President’s racist tweets aimed at congresswomen of color, Leguizamo’s show reminds us with a simmering sense of anger and frustration that we will be stuck at an impasse until we acknowledge a complete history of the Americas.
In his show, he shares the timeline of Latin American history that was passed down to him by his uncle, beginning in the vaunted Mayan age up through the modern era of Pitbull. “But yo, what happened in the three thousand years between our great indigenous civilizations and us,” he considers. “How did we become so goddamn nonexistent — because if you don’t see yourself represented outside of yourself, you just feel f*cking invisible.” He cites the statistic that 73 million indigenous people in Central America, North America, and the Caribbean islands were exterminated by European colonizers, leaving only a few million survivors to tell the history of pre-colonial America.
This, he suggests, is why he created the show, a direct response to his son not having access to the breadth of Latin American history, the indigenous and pan-American influence that has been left out of history books and been overshadowed by Eurocentric progress. Leguizamo himself was humbled by his own ignorance. “I was the one who started to learn all this information,” Leguizamo said to NBC News, identifying himself as the original moron of his show. “And I will never feel like a second-class citizen in this country ever again.”
Shortly before his shows last week in Miami, he told the Miami Herald that he hopes to reach a young Latinx audience with this tour, a production that he had honed to be informative, personal, and dynamic, a balancing act of indispensable education and engagement. The final product contradicts what the gatekeepers of the entertainment industry have conditioned him to expect. “I’ve been told by studio heads that Latin people don’t want to see Latin people,” he said in an interview with the Herald, “There’s all this crazy Hollywood ‘wisdom’ that is really microaggressions that I gotta deal with on a daily basis. You go, ‘Why is there no Latin content?’ Well, they’re killing it at the root, at the creation of it.”