John Leguizamo Calls Out Hollywood: You’re Failing Us Latinos
It’s not that we Latin people are silent, it’s that we are muted mostly because there are not enough Latinx journalists to amplify what is happening in our communities. Look at New York City. We are equal to whites in population but you barely see any Latino names on mastheads or the bylines of stories. And it’s not just The New York Times — it’s also Saturday Night Live, the New York Post, The New Yorker, New York Magazine. It’s our city and we are invisible. That’s cultural apartheid.
In Los Angeles, where Hollywood is, we are the most excluded minority in a city that’s almost 50% Latino and has always been a dominant culture. How do execs walk out of their all-white boardrooms and offices into a sea of Latin faces and not feel the disparity and reality with the work they are putting out? They may say that movies are escapist fantasies, but whose fantasy? Not mine. Not any Latinxers I’ve ever met. Maybe a few white Latinos or a few self-hating Latinos. But Plato said it best: “Those who tell the stories rule society.” And that’s why I fight. That’s why I get loud and make noise. Because there is too much Latinx talent and genius that gets squandered. Too many Latinx dreams that are never realized because we are not invited into the room where it happens.
If we are almost 20% of the U.S. population, 25% of total box office sales in the U.S., and add $2.8 trillion to the American economy, how come we’re not getting bang for our buck? We are 5.2% of film leads, 3.1% of TV leads, and less than 1% of the stories or execs. In baseball, we dominate because you can measure our success in stats. We kill in music because you can measure scans. But in Hollywood, when execs don’t look like us and rely on their opinion or taste, we lose. And don’t tell me it’s a pipeline problem. Then go create outreach programs and actually make an effort to represent the people that are funding your industry — just like you have scouting white talent across America.
Many thought the term “POC” (standing for people of color) was going to galvanize us and bring us together, but corporations are using it to exclude us Latinxers even more. We are about half of all people of color, but I’m not seeing that representation in corporations, banks, executives, CEOs. Terms like “POC” and “brown folks” also do a disservice because we are all very different. It otherizes us further, especially when we have such rich cultures we come from. Also, it’s not “POC” that are in the poorest cities in America, it’s Latinos and Black folks. It’s not “POC” that are the second largest ethnic group in prisons, it’s Latinos. It’s not “POC” that are the 2nd most brutalized ethnic group in America, it’s Latinos. It’s not “POC” that are the largest ethnic group in the worst public schools in America, it’s Latinos. It’s not women of color but Latinas who are the lowest-paid American women in the country. And when you call corporations demanding more Latin inclusion they say, “Our numbers on ‘POC’ are up so and so percentage but none of those are Latinos.” Huh? Makes you wonder what the hell is going on.
That’s why I created my show Leguizamo Does America. Just like Debbie Does Dallas, I’m gonna fuck with America. I want America to feel Latin envy. I want them to regret not being born Latino. And I want Latinos to feel like, “Fuck, I’m so glad I was born Latino.” Because I love our culture. So hopefully, this travel-show recipe can allow me to smuggle facts and Latin excellence all over America, blended in with food, dance, and laughter — the perfect formula to start the necessary conversations about our culture. It’s one of the first shows of its kind, which is great but also pathetic. Because we are one of the oldest and largest ethnic groups in America.
It took me six years to get Leguizamo Does America on the air. And it only happened because a Latinx executive and a Black executive gave me the green light: Cesar Conde and Rashida Jones. Because they got it. I’m only given 20 minutes to pitch to a network or streamer, and how do I distill 500 years of Latinos in America in that amount of time? That we were some of the first people to be enslaved in the Americas? That thousands of us were lynched on U.S. soil? That Jim Crow laws forbade Blacks and Mexicans all over the Southwest from using parks, restaurants, and places whites congregated? We were segregated, kept from schools with whites, sterilized, experimented on, and deported by the millions. Like our Black brothers and sisters, all our land, wealth, and political power was stolen from us. We are the only people on earth whose religion, language, and culture has been destroyed. Yet we are still here and thriving. That proves that being Latin is a superpower.
That’s why this show, as well as my documentary series airing this fall on PBS, American Historia,, are so necessary. We must undo the psychic/social erasure perpetrated on us that continues to this day. We Latin people are resilient as fuck. We have ingenuity built into our DNA. We have the stories. We have the history. We have the talent. We have the skill. Just put us on. It’s not just J.Lo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Pedro Pascal that are talented. There are millions of us. Put us on. Put us in your boardrooms, in your offices. Invite us to your table, because you will be rewarded. And if you refuse, it’s time for us Latinxers to get loud, vocal, and assertive. We need to call, write letters, complain, protest, picket, boycott, do sit-ins and hunger strikes until we get 20% representation everywhere. But until we do I will not stay quiet.
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