“There are people out there trying to rewrite our history. These are dangerous people.”
Short, effective, and incredibly true. That’s how John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” begins. Johnny Legs, (as he’s referred to on many movie sets) starts out declaring two small things, tiny things really. One, that there is a lot of work to do in the next 90 minutes. And two, he has to undo your entire education. Small, right? Told ya.
LHFM is the latest brainchild and obvious labor of love for Leguizamo. Having toured the country with this as a stand-up act as far back as his days shooting “The Infiltrator” with Bryan Cranston in a hot and steamy Florida – a proverbial Latin heaven – back in 2016, perhaps even further.
He’s not kidding about having a lot to do in the course of the Netflix special. But, before we can even get into that, let’s not forget all that LHFM has already done. Leguizamo has taken “Latin History for Morons” to Broadway. The show was even nominated for a Tony in 2018. John would go on to win a Special Emmy, not for LHFM, but for his Lifetime Achievement to date. By his own admission, he took the show to Broadway on a character and story he created. Not one readily available to him or any other Latino. He would go on to say that Latinos are the least represented group in the media.
Now, back to the Netflix special. Leguizamo starts his righting of Latin History back in the days of the Mayans, back to 1000 BC. The Tony- and Emmy-winning actor begins by giving his quest for the truth through the story of his son Lucas. Leguizamo is many things and chief among them is a storyteller. Another of his trademarks is dancing. And yes, LHFM has plenty of moves in that area too.
So, armed with a chalkboard, an engaging story, and lest we forget incredible humor, Leguizamo is off and running. First, some stats – and some frankly astonishing numbers – Latinos numbered in the 73 million in the 1500’s. After an extermination, (which will not be spoiled here) Latinos are left with fewer than four million of their brothers and sisters. Four million made the rest of us.
Leguizamo takes us through century after century. Each one with its own trials and tribulations Latinos faced. Trials that would be lost – and lost in enormously heartbreaking and spectacular ways. Terms like ‘ethnic cleansing’ are used. But they are used accurately and not for dramatic reasons. LHFM takes on the wars, all of them. Not as a matter of ‘look at what we lost, but, ‘look at what Latinos did.’
More than ten thousand Latinos fought in the American Revolution, one single Latino even helped to finance it. All the while facing lynching, diseases, rape. He even talks of having Latino mantra stolen and used to write the U.S. Constitution. Pretty heavy stuff, but also pretty freaking important information that isn’t commonly known. And that’s his point. Latin history has been rewritten, ignored, and falsified.
LHFM will make any American rethink celebrating Columbus Day. And, in the big scheme of things will make you vote (nice synergy on the release date, Netflix). This is not a special of political propaganda. Though, there are moments filled with poignancy and anger at our current sitting President. “How dare he?” he questions. How dare he forget about Puerto Rico? How dare he betray a group of people who are more American than most? How dare he, Leguizamo asks on the verge of tears.
LHFM does not deliver on undoing our entire education from a historical point of view. How could it in so short of time? But, what it does do is start pulling at the thread. It will make you wonder what else Latinos have been kept in the dark about. It will make you want to order “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn (when you see the special you will know why). After all, Leguizamo says, how America sees us is important. But how we see ourselves is more important. So, let’s start seeing each other in a truer, more accurate light.
“Latin History for Morons” is now available on Netflix.