In an impassioned letter posted to Billboard, Colombian-American actor John Leguizamo went off on the state of Latino affairs in Hollywood. The 53-year-old can’t believe that the MTV VMAs snubbed “Despacito” (in the best video of the year category), a video which Leguizamo reminds us has over 3 billion views (the most views of any video on YouTube ever). It fired up Leguizamo, who sees it as the most obvious example of an attempt to exclude Latinos from the limelight.
John Leguizamo broke down his frustrations with the ever-increasing disparity he sees with Latinos in the entertainment industry.
“‘Despacito’ is the name of a Spanish-language music video by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi with a historic record-breaking 3 billion views on YouTube. The song, not the video, was a late, perfunctory inclusion as the song of the summer at the MTV Video Music Awards. We must ask ourselves, is this a blatant omission? A proactive and decisive stand against the Spanish language? With 3 billion views, this historic song and video triumphs over the likes of, with all due respect, Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, but this is only one example of exclusion.”
Leguizamo really wasn’t feeling that snub, yo.
Leguizamo has been outspoken on issues of underrepresentation in the past, but this seems to have been enough for him.
“It was OK in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s because we’d tell ourselves, ‘They don’t know better,’ as a justification to ease our alienation. It wasn’t fair, but it was status quo. Not knowing better is a symptom of ignorance, not evil. We assumed people over time just needed to become educated, and in turn would empower Latino equality in the arts. We were wrong… I was wrong.
In his letter, he talks about how waiting for the world to change feels antiquated at this point. With the world as connected as it has ever been through social media, the 24/7 news cycle and the collective knowledge of the planet only a keyboard stroke away, the fact that we’re still fighting for our place in the media with a population Leguizamo says is near 70 million, seems ridiculous to him.
He’s asking the real questions here.
“There are almost 70 million Latinos in America, and why do we remain so absent and invisible when we are the second-largest ethnic group after whites?”
Ultimately, he says, it’s up to us to make a stand, make good art and inspire the next generation to stop waiting for the approval of the mainstream.
“‘They don’t know better’ once quelled all delusion of grandeur. We quietly went back to our corner and waited for our turn in line… but not anymore. It’s time we stand up. It’s time we educated and enabled the Latin people to better the world through brilliant art. We have a lot to offer the world… and I’ve come to feel sorry for those who have yet to know it.”
Leguizamo’s show “Latin History for Morons” comes to Broadway this fall.
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He’ll be bringing the lessons he learned from his own research into Latino history to the stage, educating and creating art all at the same time.
Check out the full letter here: Billboard