Known primarily as an actor and stand-up comedian, John Leguizamo tackles 3,000 years of Latin history in his new Netflix special, “Latin History for Morons.” Originally a one-man Broadway show, it’s centered around Leguizamo’s story of self-reflection and self-education as he tries to help his bullied son.
Leguizamo dresses himself up as a college professor and teaches the audience “Latin History for Morons,” because Latin history is a widely ignored topic in modern American curriculum. The stage is littered with various desks, cabinets, a chalkboard, books and props to resemble a traditional classroom setting.
“Latin History for Morons” is structured around Leguizamo’s conversations with his son as he tries to help him with bullying and completing a project about personal heroes in order to pass the eighth grade. To his surprise, Leguizamo finds out his son has little to no knowledge on the history of Latinx civilization or its important figures. As a result Leguizamo tasks himself with teaching his son, and the audience, about “heroes” of Latin history.
Throughout the show, the audience sees Leguizamo struggle to come to terms with his own shortcomings as a father and try to tackle bigger issues that he and his son face, such as discrimination and self-identification.
Through a series of impressions, quips and allusions to the political present, Leguizamo educates the audience on powerful and advanced Latin civilizations such as the Mayans, Aztecs, Tainos, Incas and what they’ve contributed to modern civilization. He explains their ingenuity and culture were wiped out by European settlers. Leguizamo battles the Eurocentric narrative by explaining that famous settlers, like Hernan Cortes, were unable to defeat these indigenous groups in battle despite their advanced weaponry and equipment. In fact, these settlers were only able to eliminate these indigenous groups when the germs they carried wiped out most of the native population.
Leguizamo has the audience laughing throughout the show with his absurd impressions, but this only brings the characters to life and establishes a sense of a vulnerable reality. With this, he makes the point that widely renowned figures, such as Cortes and Christopher Columbus, are not deserving of any respect or praise for their gruesome actions that eliminated millions of people to fulfill their own greedy, self-serving goals.
Many modern issues, like bigotry and ignorance, are discussed throughout the show as Leguizamo emphasizes that Latinx culture has been tormented by these problems for centuries. He shifts his focus to the discussion of the oppression of Latin Americans throughout history. Leguizamo explains how many of the deeds of Latin Americans, such as the participation in every one of the United States’ wars, have been written out of textbooks and gone largely unnoticed.
Although he provides a lot of information and references to books that support his arguments to convince his son that Latin history has heroes worth writing about, Leguizamo’s son still finds himself struggling in school. It isn’t until the end of the show that Leguizamo finds out his son doesn’t believe in violence as a form of communication and thus tackles his project on his own. By the end of the show, Leguizamo’s son is able to do the project by himself after some introspection.
Overall, “Latin History for Morons” touches upon some important and overlooked topics in today’s political environment. Leguizamo sparks conversations as he weaves together humor and sorrow into a narrative that makes for a refreshing Netflix special.
Brandon Barzola is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.