Thanks to Greg Pulte for sharing.
His previous one-man shows showcased Leguizamo’s wide range of characters and caricatures, most culled from his own childhood growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens. Here, he’s on a search for anyone in the annals who might serve as a true Latino hero for his middle-school son to admire.
His journey takes him back to his own eighth-grade history class, where Mr. Flynn told young Johnny “Gizmo” that the only contributions Hispanics had made to American culture were “drugs and violence.” Visits with his therapist in present-day only reinforce the failed relationship between Leguizamo and his own father, putting more pressure on him to deliver for his son now.
While history textbooks don’t provide much encouragement, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States at least allowed Leguizamo to take pride in his ancestor’s connections to the origin of tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, tobacco and more, including all of our sexiest dances.
John Leguizamo had a long history with HBO.
Not quite as long as the timeline from the Mayans of 1000 B.C. to “the age of Pitbull.” But still. You get that it’s a big deal for Leguizamo would choose to broadcast his sixth one-man show on Netflix, because the televised adaptation of his Tony-nominated Latin History for Moronsshould reach as many Latinos (and morons) as possible.
As the saying goes, ”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And that saying was first said by a Spaniard, philosopher George Santayana. You may not have remembered that. Leguizamo goes on to explain over the course of 90 minutes covering 3,000 years, there’s a lot more about the natives of the Americas that our history books have neglected to mention.
In a three-piece suit with a chalkboard at the ready, the celebrated comic actor has to exert his professorial authority from the get-go, admonishing the audience’s cheers: “No, no. Settle down, settle down…We got a lotta work here to do tonight.” He continues: “I gotta undo your whole education and the entire way you think, and it’s not gonna be easy because that shit’s in there deep.”
But Leguizamo’s lesson plan serves up as much of a condemnation of Christopher Columbus and the conquistadors who followed, as it does for Donald J. Trump. He even links the two: “Columbus was the Donald Trump of the New World.” And finds that throughout the five centuries from 1518-2018, time and again the white Europeans have wiped out the ancient Americans; from Spanish conquistadors exterminating the Taino, Aztecs and Incas, to Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830, to Herbert Hoover’s repatriation of Mexican-Americans, deporting them in 1930, to Trump’s current and ongoing anti-immigration and threats to rescind birthright citizenship once more.
“How dare he, when we’re so American it hurts!” Leguizamo asks.
Question is whether we’ll learn from this history, or be condemned to repeat it once more.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.