Four stars has become the industry standard for excellence, but like John Leguizamo—the inventive one-man unstoppable force of entertaining truths—I break those stupid rules and I offer the canopy of the stars above to rate his most recent one-man show, “Latin History for Morons.”
Leguizamo is brave. He’s proved that many times, but with his newest work he’s placed himself in the center of the proverbial bull’s-eye and educated himself in the history of Latinos in this country, and the result is nothing short of specular.
In “Latin History for Morons,” Leguizamo pokes fun at class, culture and parenting and at 52 years young, the mature Leguizamo shows his caring side, dare I say his “dad side,” as he drops the bomb on the true and painful history of a group of people now bundled into the words Hispanic or Latino.
The show’s story is highly personal. Leguizamo is a normal American parent, deeply affected when his sensitive teenage son is faced with a bully who belittles his Latino heritage. In fact, this unnamed bully offers that Hispanics/Latinos have contributed nothing to America, not then and not now. Leguizamo’s son is at a loss to defend such a claim because U.S. history has methodically dismissed, buried and lied about the history of the Latinos, i.e., native people, who lived on this stretch of the world for thousands of years before being conquered, massacred to the point of genocide and then removed from oral and recorded history. Shame on America.
Leguizamo wants to help his son, who he calls “Buddy,” defend their heritage, but he has to admit to himself that he’s bone-ignorant of our history and then he asks himself why? Why? Why?
When young Buddy Leguizamo has to prepare a middle school research assignment to write about his hero, his comical and motivated father, the elder Leguizamo, his dad, offers to help,
with comedic mixed results.
The truth will set us free and in Leguizamo’s case, it began a personal journey to confront his own ignorance of Latin history that for him begins with some vague information on the mighty
Mayan culture but stops short, jumping to his acknowledgement of the popular rapper Pitbull.
So daddy Leguizamo begins his research to find the history that has been hidden from Americans and never taught in schools since—well, since there have been schools.
Leguizamo senior is a stickler for details. God Bless his Latino soul. And with his new-found
obsession, he shares these true and fascinating revelations with his Buddy—and thankfully us— using accurate information that he, naturally, colors with his own comic observations. Ovations now, please!
Leguizamo is close to becoming a hero of mine because he and I are related. (Wait for it.) One of the most startling facts in his research is the realization that his DNA, like most Latinos, is jam packed with Native-American DNA. I am an African Native American. Many African-American people also have that DNA mix. There was an entire world here before the Europeans arrived to royally mess everything up and by everything, I mean everything.
But when Leguizamo shares the truth about the genocide, cover-up and character assassination of an entire race of people, it’s not depressing, it’s entertaining. That is because Leguizamo is a charismatic storyteller, and he’s never been afraid to offer himself and his own family to make a point. The way he delivers the truth could wake up a sleeping world!
Leguizamo is smart, and today he seems comfortable showing us that he is also warm and able to love himself and others so much better. Maybe marriage, fatherhood and looking so good in middle age has mellowed him. He is still a whirlwind of energy, quick-witted and downright charming, but he is more likable and approachable, and that’s why four stars to describe “Latin History for Morons” are not enough.
“Latin History for Morons” is written and performed by John Leguizamo and directed by Tony Taccone. The show runs through April 28 at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., New York, N.Y. For information, visit publictheater.org or call 212-539-8605.