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Sundial

John Leguizamo To 'Light Fire Under People's Butts' With Historical Comedy Coming To South Florida

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Adrienne Arsht Center
Leguizamo dresses as a professor in 'Latin History for Morons.'

Colombian-American actor and comedian John Leguizamo will soon gives South Florida a history lesson that might, in his words, "light fire under people's butts." 

After his son was bullied in 8th grade, Leguizamo felt it was necesssary to give his son the tools to defend himself. In his one-man show, "Latin History for Morons," Leguizamo mixes humor and political rhetoric as he traces thousands of years of history. He calls it "weaponizing his son with information."

The show, which played an extended Broadway run last season and was released on Netflix, will be at the Adrienne Arsht Center July 12-14 as part of its U.S. tour. Leguizamo joined Sundial and talked with host Luis Hernandez about the importance of Latin American history education in schools and his recent directorial debut.

This has been edited for clarity. 

WLRN: How would you describe the show, what would people expect when they go and see it?

LEGUIZAMO: I hope to educate people in a funny way and lead them to read the literature and the books that I read. Guide people to go change curriculums and change textbooks to include our [Latino] contributions. I mean, cause the stuff that I found was so incredible. The fact that I found out that Latin people are the second oldest ethnic group in America after Native Americans, that we have fought in every single war this country's ever had and are the most awarded minority in each and every war this country's ever had. I'm talking about the American Revolutionary War where 10,000 unrecognized Latino patriots fought. General Bernardo Galvez was like the George Washington of the South. He donated $70,000 worth of weapons to George Washington. Also, 20,000 of us fought in the civil war in the north and the south.

Was it hard to find concrete research?

The difficulty, which is crazy, it is not in textbooks, not in my kids', not in my textbooks growing up in America and not in any kids textbooks right now. That's what's crazy. The difficulty was gathering the right pieces of information that would pique people's interest, that would make them hungry to research and to read and that was my struggle. What are the pieces of history that would most light fire under people's butts to make them go out and buy these books?

We helped make this country. We grew up and made this country and sacrificed for this country. We are part of the history. - John Leguizamo

Do you think there's a pushback against wanting to expand and understand all of the cultures that live in this country?

Well what's crazy is, why is our culture separate from American culture? We discovered this country, built it. I mean, most of it is named by us: California, [warm] land. Nevada, snowy land. Colorado, red land. Florida, flowery land. I mean they're all named by us. We helped make this country. We grew up and made this country and sacrificed for this country. We are part of the history. It's not another culture. That's what's crazy.

Do you think that if there was more in the history books that people would stop seeing Latinos as 'the other'?

Yes and that's my push. My son would not have been bullied if this information were in textbooks. If Americans knew that 500,000 Latin people served in World War II, if they knew how much we sacrificed to the making of this country, then I think the president would be hard pressed to have this sort of zero-tolerance to our immigrants and the way he doesn't appoint anyone to his cabinet that's of Latin origin. It just wouldn't happen. Americans wouldn't allow it.