John Leguízamo, American comedian of Colombian descent, teaches about forgotten heroes through laughter
Concerned with the lack of Latino history taught in his son’s school, Leguizamo decided to write and perform a one-man show to teach us about “the buried and forgotten history of Latinos in the Americas”, as stated in the play’s official press release, which describes the play as follows: “Inspired by the near total absence of Latinos in his son’s American history class, Leguizamo embarks on a frenzied search to find a Latin hero for his son’s school project. From a mad recap of the Aztec empire to stories of unknown Latin patriots of the Revolutionary War and beyond, Leguizamo breaks down the 3,000 years between the Mayans and Ricky Ricardo into 95 irreverent and uncensored minutes in his trademark style”.
Hamilton: a similar message?
Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of Broadway’s superstars, particularly for his hit musical Hamilton, which is based on the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton, one of the U.S.’s founding fathers who was an immigrant from the Caribbean. In multiple interviews to different media outlets, Miranda has explained that he had noticed few people knew Hamilton’s story, despite his importance in forming the United States as the country that it is today.
Although Leguízamo’s show is different in genre, production level, and story, and it does not focus in a single historical character but rather in multiple, the message could be a similar one. Latinos make part of the history of the world and of the United States, and often they do not get the credit or the representation they should.
It is common to read in popular online news outlets about representation, and on why a diversified media matters, particularly for children of diverse backgrounds growing up in today’s society. Why is it important?
In an article on why representation in Hollywood matters, particularly for racially diverse groups, Glenn Kissela of Critical Hit explains: “Representation challenges the status quo and by doing that, brings fresh ideas to the table. Hollywood is a fanatic of formula. You only need to look at the superhero phase that we’re currently in to see its love of routine and safe approaches. Representation in media helps to break these formulaic approaches because it’s usually so rare for minorities to be given the spotlight”.
This same logic could be translated to Broadway. “Latin history for morons” takes a traditional form of theatre, the one-man comedy show, and uses it as a way to transmit a message of representation to more people. Is comedy necessarily the best genre to get such a message across? Perhaps some people will find that the comedic aspect of the show challenges its very purpose. Can people take Latin history seriously by laughing at it? On the other hand, people tend to remember the plays they see if they have fun, and usually they do not go to the theatre to be lectured.
The show is currently running in Studio 54, in Manhattan, and it will be open until February 4th, 2018.
Latin American Post | Laura Rocha Rueda