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KPBS Midday Edition

Why John Leguizamo Thinks Trump Is ‘Doing A Great Thing’ For Latinos

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Why John Leguizamo Thinks Trump Is ‘Doing A Great Thing’ For Latinos
John Leguizamo Presents 'Latin History For Morons' At La Jolla Playhouse
John Leguizamo Presents 'Latin History For Morons' At La Jolla Playhouse GUEST: John Leguizamo, performer and creator, "Latin History for Morons"

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Through the years we have learned a lot about the life of John Leguizamo. He told us about his Colombian background and told funny stories about his childhood growing up in Queens, New York. He has paid his personal life up front in comedy acts and one-man shows. Tonight he educates us on another topic as he unveiled his latest show at the La Jolla Playhouse it is called "Latin History for Morons". I'm pleased to welcome John Leguizamo. Enqueue for having me. In the US I think for are pretty much morons it comes to Latin history. Whitey think that is? I have my own conspiracy theories. But I think it's a little bit of a power grab. Because if you don't celebrate People's heroes and they don't have heroes, how can they feel empowered? How can they demand rights? I basically -- the moron part was me. My son asked me, what heroes have we had in this country? And I was like, well Bitbull. I started doing research. I find these incredible heroes. Latin people were participated big time in the Revolutionary war. We had soldiers and Cuban woman in the South who sold all of their jewelry and household goods to feed the troops. In the Civil War there were 10,000 Latinos who fought on both sides. We'll go wherever they pay us. Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans fire and the Civil War. But you never hear about it. Never seen a movie -- This is forgotten history. It is more than forgotten, I think it is kept out. Huddy keep 10,000 people -- how do not record that and celebrate that? Is the show aimed at helping Latinos reclaim their history or educating other Americans about Latino history? I think it is both. It's a wake-up call. I read the statistic that 45% of Latin kids drop out of high school and I understand. He never read in the textbook about a Latin hero or a patriot. A Latin soldier -- I mean, for the people who fought in World War II, band of Brothers, there was not one man person there. From here to eternity was written by Mexican guy but he was played by a white guy. Are Lancaster. Exactly. That was allowed back in the day. Just teaching history of course is not going to be the kind of showstopping show -- how do you bring these things to life? Make it funny. It's been a long journey. I've been working on it for 2 1/2 years. At first I had way too much history and it was too dense and I was losing the crowd. Now I have the right mix of, I poke fun at stuff and try to find humor in all those decades and errors. And also my own fallibility and not knowing in my ignorance. I take full responsibility for my moronic this --'s If that's There are a lot of things you are talking about. People's lives in the lines in making that entertaining and funny. It's tricky. With these type of shows, it's trial and error. Sometimes I win and sometimes I fail. That you keep doing it. At about 300 performances before I go to Broadway. It takes me that long to find the right balance of, where can I push the envelope and where do I have to pull back. Because people might be seeing some signs for show that says Latin history for dummies, now it's "Latin History for Morons" -- that kind of tweaking goes on all the time. Constantly. Tonight have a lot of notes from the director in the dress rehearsal. Tried to figure out how to make it really tight and make things really shine. Every moment has to be a gem. And that is hopefully -- by the time I get to Broadway, it is a work of art. Will this be a real physical show for you? Not as physical as my other ones. Is a less physical but I still do a lot of characters. There is still a lot of -- is a love dancing -- dancing I don't get those up easily. Can you give us an example of something you learned about you said, hey -- I have to put this in the show. Threat of Alaska -- this Cuban woman who was sent to live in New Orleans. She fought for the Confederate side. She was a misguided soul. I'm sorry. Celebrating her a little bit who is a Latin woman who would wish Rosa Parks off the bus. She fought several times on the content -- the Confederate side. She kept getting busted as she moved up in the ranks. She believed she wanted to fight for her side and she did what she could. So that is one of the characters I do. It is one of the characters you do? Yeah. When there are Latino history or women's history -- or the kind of history departments that are in colleges -- there sometimes marginalized in the larger culture. Why do we have to learn that? We learned history X XY we have to go into all these things? Compartmentalizing. What you think about that? I mean -- it's good to be specific and to go and dig out these heroes. This is a bigger thing. It's not such a marginalized bit of history. These were really important people who participate and contribute to the democracy in this country. And to strike them out and not be present in history books, is really -- we are doing ourselves a disservice. Talk about democracy -- this election season has been pretty harsh in his campaign rhetoric about immigration in general. How much comes out of ignorance of history? I think that is part of my journey with this play. You know, if these Latin patriots and the people who fought in the war of 1812, we participated in every single war and contributed large numbers -- if you start celebrating these heroes and they start existing in textbooks, movies and TV -- it will be much harder for you to hurt a Latin kid with the kinds of comments that Trump is making. We will definitely feel more empowered and you will have to deal with that as well. I know some groups in the South are probably afraid of that, then you have a fair country. Of a bigger pool of resources to pull from. That's what I'm hoping. That these kinds of things are emboldening and strengthening. I have another political question for you. I just want to get your take -- what you think is going on in the country during this presidential race? It seems like white voters are road -- boating one way and voters of color are voting another. I thought we were past that. You always think you are past it and then you hit the speed bumps and you ask what is going on? I have great faith in America. I think it's a much more liberal country that it's made out to be. I think people are a lot more rational than you think. Which were all over the country and sometimes I'm scared of going to certain cities, and then I get in there and I see all of these dutiful and liberal an all-inclusive type of people. And you think the country is a lot cooler than I thought. I think we'll see that at the end of the election. I think things -- Trump is definitely doing a great thing for Latin people. He has galvanized as. Cubans, Central Americans, people are fighting very hard to be registered and they will make a huge difference. John Lego -- John Leguizamo , Latin history for morons runs at the La Jolla Playhouse. John thank you so much.

Latin History For Morons

When: April 5-17

Where: La Jolla Playhouse

Cost: $29-$59

Ticket Info

From his Colombian background to his tough New York childhood, John Leguizamo has shared his personal life through comedy. But in a new solo act titled “Latin History for Morons,” which premieres Tuesday night at the La Jolla Playhouse, the comic takes on five centuries of Latin history.

His goal: put a spotlight on the Latino figures missing in textbooks, movies and TV.

It all started when his son asked him about heroes in the Latino culture.

“[I thought] well, Pitbull, Sofia Vergara are pretty cool,” Leguizamo told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “I know there had to be more.”

The comic said “Latin History for Morons” covers important figures from America’s past, including the Cuban women in the South who sold their jewelry and household goods to feed the troops that fought in the Civil War.

Leguizamo hopes that the act can help empower Latinos, especially with this year’s political climate.

“Trump is definitely doing a great thing for Latin people,” Leguizamo said. “He's galvanized us — Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans. We are united. And people are fighting really hard to be registered [to vote], and they're going to make a huge difference.”