Kelly Learned A LOT from Latin History for Morons: John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway (2018)!

Leguizamo 003Rating: A-

Summary: John Leguizamo unburies the history of Latin America in an attempt to give his son a proper hero.

I like a good stand up but it’s sometimes hard to find ones that go far and beyond just the belly laughs. Now, some of them do leave you wondering or thinking about the current state of affairs and such, but John Leguizamo’s special on Netflix is something that makes you laugh, cry, feel well informed, and widens your perspective.

It doesn’t feel like a stand-up comedy session as it does a one-man show, as it hits notes of both comedy and drama. It’s absolutely political but on a much smaller and more personal scale than straight up attacking government figures. Leguizamo weaves what he’s learned about Latin American history (or lack thereof) while trying to present his son with a Latino figure for a school project. He talks about what it’s like to grow up as LatinX, integrating to White American culture, the contributions to society from Latin America that often go ignores, as well as the injustice served to those under colonization and what’s considered the “founding” of a great nation.

I’m not Latina or Hispanic- I am second generation Asian American. Never until this have I heard someone express so accurately what it’s like to grow up in a predominantly White neighborhood and grow up primarily White while feeling completely out of place. I haven’t seen anything that so sincerely describes to a T a kid’s desperate need not just fit in but assimilate by shunning crucial parts of who they are just to feel accepted by their peers. I don’t know to what extent others (who haven’t grown up in this way) understand what this kind of identity crisis is- to be one way at home and another at school, to have two seemingly split personalities, to sometimes go by two different names, and to never know how to balance them, even in adulthood.

I don’t know to what extent others understand how mentally traumatizing the childhood of a minority growing up in a predominantly White neighborhood can be. How those experiences can carry on later in life, how they mold behavior, how they make you disconnected and uninterested, and how they can beat down pride.

So to hear Leguizamo not only put that experience into words, but then find inspiration, humor- and even triumph- in this murky kind of water was something I really enjoyed watching. And I won’t lie, some of this made me tear up because it made me reflect on my own childhood and think about some of the things I learned or felt I should bury at a young age. It’s incredible- I’d say brilliant- how Leguizamo is able to find the connective tissue between different histories, cultures, and identities and touch upon exactly what minoritized people all over the country are feeling or have felt at some point or another. And it’s not just certain demographics that would enjoy this- but Leguizamo offers an incredible amount of perspective and insight into what it’s like to grow up on the American side of thing. Both sides of the fence, if you will.

I think everything could stand to learn a little something from him, whether it’s a reflection of their own actions or acknowledging the way their friend is feeling in the moment or recognizing small acts as personal achievements. This isn’t, by any means, going to change the world- but it can change how people think, view each other, and themselves. I’m glad that this kind of special exists. It needs to so that others can feel heard and validated. It’s small but it makes a difference.

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