Latinxs have been a major part of American history, yet we aren’t taught enough in school about our history or contributions. This further empowers the false narrative surrounding Latinx identities and the lies we’re told that we’re “not really Americans” or that we “don’t belong here.”
Thankfully, we have folks in the Latinx community who are doing the work and the research to help us find our truth. For example, Colombian and Puerto Rican actor and filmmaker John Leguizamo is one of the individuals putting in the work to help the rest of us make better sense of our complicated histories and identities.
By now, you may have heard of his play, Latin History for Morons, streaming now on Netflix — but did you know of all the newfound knowledge you’ll walk away with after watching his one-man Broadway show? It’s A LOT. So while we encourage you to press play on Latin History for Morons the next time you decide to Netflix and chill, read up on some of the things you’ll learn by watching it.
We Have Been Here for 500 Years, Yet We’re Left Out of the History Books
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Latinos' contributions to U.S. history remain largely absent from high school history books, and John Leguizamo is doing something about it. That's part of the reason why we are being targeted by this administration their lack of knowledge of our history fuels their racism… Stand up and be proud, be proactive because we are here to stay wether they fucking like it or no #johnleguizamo #fucktrump #fuckracism #latinhistoryformorons #latinos #proud
Latin History for Morons covers 500 years of Latin History spanning the Aztec and Incan empires to World War II. 500 years that are suspiciously missing from most of our history books in grade school and all the way through high school, probably even beyond.
One of the important focuses of Latin History for Morons is our indigenous history. There are so many amazing things Indigenous communities helped pioneer (that are still relevant in modern-day America), including math, writing, agriculture, genetics, and engineering. They’re essential to our everyday lives but we aren’t really taught about their origins in school.
Thousands of Unarmed Aztecs Were Killed by the Spanish
Another fact you’ll learn when watching this Broadway show is the fact that in 1520, the Spanish conquistadors massacred thousands of unarmed Aztecs while they were celebrating the Feast of Toxcatl, in Tenochtitlan. In Latin history, the Spanish are treated as genius explorers, and horrific incidents like these are often glossed over or not mentioned at all.
We Were Robbed of Our Gold
The Spanish colonizers stole gold and silver from the Indigenous people. In fact, they stole 500,000 tons of gold from the Incas and 1.5 million tons of silver. American Indian riches were taken away and then perpetrated to be European riches in what Leguizamo calls the biggest theft in history.
Chocolate Comes from Latin America
A lot of people don’t know that the things we enjoy on a regular basis are thanks to folks from Latin America, and more importantly, thanks to Indigenous cultures. One example is cacao, which is used to make chocolate. The internationally-loved sweet has ties to Mexico, South America, and Central America.
Columbus Didn’t Discover Anything and That’s That!
Hopefully, you learned this truth before John Leguizamo dropped the knowledge, but Christopher Columbus didn’t discover ish. How can you discover land that already has inhabitants on it? Yet in school, we were always taught to revere Christopher Columbus and to celebrate him every year for “discovering” America. Yeah, okay. Nope, not anymore.
In Fact, There Were 73 Million American Indians Already Living in the Americas
To drive the point home of Christopher Columbus not having discovered anything, there were a whopping 73 million American Indians already in the Americas: 3 million Tainos, 33 million Incans, 30 million Aztecs, and 7 million Apaches, Comanches, and Navajos. In fact, 95% of these people were killed in what Leguizamo calls The Great Extermination.
We Make Up 18% of the U.S. but Less Than 5% of Hollywood Roles
Hollywood should represent the movie-going population, but unfortunately, we know this to not be the case. John Leguizamo drops some concerning stats: Latinxs make up 18% of the population in the United States. However, we are only represented in 5% of roles in Hollywood.
Mexicans Created the Whole Cowboy Thing
John Leguizamo took to his Latin History for Morons Instagram account to remind everyone where cowboys actually came from. “John Wayne who? Over half of American cowboys were Latin American, black, or Native American. Even the word “cowboy” comes from the Spanish vaquero. Just a bit of un-white washing for today’s #WednesdayWisdom,” he wrote.
Latinx Fought in Every Single American War
The next time you hear anyone question Latino-American patriotism, make sure to school that person the way John Leguizamo schooled us. Latinos fought in every single American war, a fact that we definitely weren’t taught in history class. This is important information to know and share with others, especially on holidays such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
Latinos Are the Second Oldest Ethnic Group in America
We are in a time where racists are making it look like Latinxs are “invading” the country, and don’t belong here. Not only is a large portion of the United States originally part of Mexico, but Latinos are the second oldest ethnic group in America, after American Indians. This is just another empowering fact that John drops in his Latin History for Morons.
Required Reading for All Latinxs
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Read to lead my Latinx generation! This will make you feel seen! An antidote to all the micro aggressions and exclusion. The constant battle to have a seat at the table and denial! Undo all the colonization and conquest in education and literature hangover! You need not feel 2nd class in a country u built and fought for and owned since the 1500s!
A great takeaway from Latin History for Morons are essential reads that John Leguizamo recommends so that we can decolonize our education and learn the truth about Latinx and Indigenous history in the Americas. Two of these must-read books he suggests are Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, and Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
Other Books Part of the Show’s Syllabi
For those who want to extend their reading, and see where Leguizamo got some of his history points from, you can check out this syllabus (which includes a part 2 on Instagram) listing the books he referenced and recommends.