I had the opportunity to attend a performance of John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons last Thursday at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago. Familiar with some of John Leguizamo’s films and comedy, I was looking forward to the show and wondered how much I would learn from this history lesson.
The stage was set up to look like a classroom, equipped with a chalkboard, a file cabinet and books scattered all throughout the stage. Leguizamo appeared on stage dressed as though he was a professor. Telling the audience about what started his quest and what inspired this show; it began with his son being bullied at school and his son’s “hero project” assignment. Determined to help his son find a Latinx hero to use in his assignment, John realized that history books did not have a great deal written about Latin civilizations or heroes, and so began Leguizamo’s quest to find those missing heroes.
He talks about his research, comically breaking down 3,000 years of history taking on the roles of some of these figures in history, such as Cortez the Conquistador. In a comedic way, depicting what and how events may have happened.
For two hours with no intermission, he works his way through Latin America and the United States. Explaining and giving footnotes about accomplishments and contributions to humanity made by the Aztec Empire, Mayans, and Incas. He explains how all the gold was stolen from the Aztecs, which was melted down and used for coins by the King of Spain. How these great empires met their demise ultimately wasn’t just with weapons or betrayal but with diseases the Europeans brought with them. “Germs!” as John told the audience.
Weaving his personal story of trying to help his son into the show, John Leguizamo also played his son, the school bully’s father, son’s teacher , his wife and his therapist, who points out that he might have “ghetto rage” stemming from his childhood, and also, Sigmund Freud.
Near the end of the show that was met with whoops and cheers throughout, Leguizamo sums up several Latin patriots who fought in several wars, actually, fought in every American war, illustrating how much is left out of history books. Contributions are several. Those noted? Not many. Leguizamo wrapped up his history lesson with what’s happening to Latinos today who, under the current administration, are being just as oppressed as they were before.
With the combination of comedy and history, I believe John Leguizamo accomplished what he set out to do with this inspiring and funny one-man show. With his performance on point, you will laugh and learn about the contributions of Latinx people. Leguizamno gave us as much as he could in two hours, and heightened my interest in this topic. And honestly, I left with the motivation to do further exploration on my own.
If you missed Latin American History for Morons in Chicago, there are more dates and cities where you can catch this highly recommended engagement. Visit the website for more information and visit Broadway in Chicago for more shows.
Writer-performer: John Leguizamo
Director: Tony Taccone
Scenic Design: Rachel Hauck
Costume Design: Luke McDonough
Lighting Design: Alexander V. Nichols
Original Music & Sound Design: Bray Poor