John Leguizamo published an op-ed for the New York Times on Friday, offering a quick – but needed – U.S. Latinx history lesson, discussing the underrepresentation of our people in the media, showing how Donald Trump has united our community and urging us to head to the polls this November to keep him out of the White House.
“Donald J. Trump has done one good thing,” the Colombian-American funny guy said. “He has galvanized a conflicted and diverse community. For years, activists and politicians have struggled to get Latinos to vote and show their power. But not until Mr. Trump’s racist rhetoric shone a light on anti-Latino sentiment did we feel the need to make our voices heard on the issues that matter to us.”
According to Leguizamo, Latinxs haven’t demanded power or equal opportunity in a mighty, unified manner because we have not seen ourselves as part of the U.S. fabric in ways other Americans do. For him, that’s because we haven’t been told of our long and valuable history in this country.
“Latinos have been dying for America since before we were a nation. Why have our children not heard that thousands of Latino patriots fought for America in the Revolutionary War? Bernardo de Gálvez, a Spanish general, recruited Mexicans, Cubans, Native Americans and free African-Americans to fight against the British in the South, while Cuban women donated their jewelry and money to help the patriots. Where is the Ken Burns documentary about that,” the 52-year-old actor-comedian said.
He continued: “It’s as if our heroism and sacrifice somehow counted less, as if we didn’t exist in history at all. Without a past to glorify and uplift you, how do you propel yourself into an unknown, tenuous future?”
Another problem for Leguizamo is that we don’t often see ourselves represented in mainstream media, and, when we do, they are likely portrayals written and produced by white professionals who perpetuate stereotypes about our gente.
“Hispanics are the most underrepresented ethnic group in film and television … This exclusion sends a painful message to every Latino child about how he is seen and judged,” he said. “Latino people face a double challenge: to create our own positive self-image while battling against the way the broader society portrays us.”
The dearth of classroom discussions or media depictions of Latinxs doesn’t just negatively impact our community. Leguizamo believes that this absence has made it easier for the Republican nominee to spew hateful fallacies about us and have large swaths of the country believe and support it.
“Without textbooks in schools that do justice to our contributions to the making of America, and without media representation expanding to include more Latin faces and voices, we are vulnerable to a demagogue like Mr. Trump claiming that we are all ‘drug dealers,’ ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals.’”
Hoping for a “Latino Spring,” Leguizamo is urging our comunidad to head to the polls in November.
“Latinos need to demand our place in American history, and in corporate, political and social fields. We must demand an equal share of the American dream, and not accept a downgraded version of it. We need to stop accepting exclusion over persecution. In this critical election, and in the future, I urge you all to register and vote, to be counted and heard,” he said.
Read Leguizamo’s full op-ed over at the New York Times.