For his latest one-man show, Latin History for Morons, Emmy Award-winner John Leguizamo takes on the role of a professor as he presents the buried and forgotten history of Hispanics in the Americas, while helping his son find a Latin hero for his son’s school project. In 95 minutes, Leguizamo rips through 3,000 years of history from the Mayans to Pitbull while pointing out that, “You read all these history books as a kid, see all these movies about the Civil War and the American Revolution, and Latin people are never, ever mentioned.”
The following are three of the main books the Queens native used during the decade of historical research he’d done leading up to this show.
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn (1980)
“It’s one of the most comprehensive, detailed and researched of all these [history] books. You can tell he did massive research to come up with these details. And just all the numbers and facts about what happened to the Tainos and the Arawaks and the abuses that I just didn’t read anywhere else.”
Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Eduardo Galeano (1973)
“He obviously read the same texts [as Zinn], but he did more and traveled all across Latin America and talked to people. His point of view starts with the basics of our history, but there are a lot of details that I didn’t know at all. Facts like the amount of gold that was taken from us, which was 500,000 pounds and twice as much silver was taken. Although Spain was funding all the empires through our gold, they were going bankrupt for some weird reason. So they wanted more gold but at the same time, they needed to crush us so they didn’t have to pay us; they could just take our gold. It was a really exploitative and abusive relationship that put Latin America in a hole.”
The Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain by Bernadinho de Sahagún (1576)
“I love reading Father Sahagún and Bartolomé de las Casas and the other friars in the 1500s and 1600s. Nobody was reading those books because they annotated how [the Spaniards] tortured the Native American people like the Aztecs, the remaining Mayans, Incas and all the other tribes.
“I love [Sahagún’s] seventh book, which is all the sayings, mythology and aphorisms of the Aztec people. So he wrote it all down. I love that one because it all comes from the literature. I don’t have it in front of me but it’s either the sixth or seventh book. It’s the one that has all the sayings.”
John Leguizamo is currently appearing in Latin History for Morons through April 28 at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. Visit www.publictheater.org or call 212-539-8605 for more information.