John Leguizamo Spotlights "Dire" Latinx Representation in U.S. History Books

John Leguizamo unveils his Frida Kahlo-Inspired Broadway Marquee - Getty-H 2019
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In his one-man show 'Latin History for Morons,' now streaming on Netflix, the actor and stand-up comedian offers a glimpse at the stories he believes are overlooked in textbooks.

Fresh off of its run on Broadway, Latin History for Morons made its Los Angeles debut at the Center Theatre Group last night. The one-man show, written and performed by John Leguizamo and directed by Tony Taccone, can be streamed on Netflix.

Leguizamo credits his son's history homework as the genesis of this play. After being assigned to profile his hero, Leguizamo's son hesitantly resorted to his father for help. To his surprise, Leguizamo couldn't name his Latin hero. After a full school year of research, Leguizamo compiled the Latin history that he believed is left out of U.S. textbooks.

Roy Choi, host of Netflix's The Chef Show, came to support Leguizamo. When asked about Latinx representation in Hollywood, Choi said, "There's more than Asian, I could tell you that. It comes from not only getting people in, but we are at a stage where we have to get behind the scenes and write our own stories. It's one thing to be a token or a placement in the larger scheme of things, but I think entertainment should reflect the real world."

Melinna Bobadilla, who can be seen playing Santos Chaj in the newest season of Orange Is the New Black, was excited to see a person from the Latinx community grace the stage. In terms of Hollywood’s representation of Latinx people, she said, “It is dire; it is not at the levels it needs to be." She added, “Latinx people are 23 percent of the movie audience, which means we buy 23 percent of the tickets out there. In contrast, our numbers of representation onscreen are very sad. When you think of leads in films it’s even more sad. I think we need to crack open this conversation. Maybe it gets uncomfortable, maybe it gets honest, maybe it gets real.”

According to the latest National Association of Latino Independent Producers and Wise Entertainment report, Latinos in Film: Erasure on Screen & Behind the Camera Across 1,200 Popular Movies, Latinx people make up only 4.3 percent of speaking roles in the top 1,200 movies.

In the play, Leguizamo covers lesser-told stories of Latinos in American history, including those of the Mayans and Pitbull, all while describing the relentless bullying that his son experiences.

Latin History for Morons is playing at the Center Theatre Group until Oct. 20.