You may know actor Joaquin Phoenix, 49, from his scene-stealing performances in “Her,” “Walk the Line,” and his most recent Ridley Scott-directed film, “Napoleon.” Winning the 2020 Academy Award for Best Actor for his epic performance in “Joker,” some critics hail Phoenix as one of the greatest actors of our generation.

But did you know his life got started in Puerto Rico, traveling through Latin America as part of a cult?

While Phoenix’s mother is from a Jewish family rooted in New York, and his father is from California, the 49-year-old actor was born in the Río Piedras district of San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1974. The third of five children, Phoenix was born during his parents’ stint in the late 1960s-founded “Children of God” cult.

Through his parents’ involvement in the cult, the “Joker” actor spent his early life bouncing from Puerto Rico to Venezuela. The cult, which was founded by a man named David Brandt Berg spoke about “free love” and an upcoming “apocalypse,” was a safe haven for Phoenix’s family.

Speaking about his parents finding a “community” in Children of God, Phoenix once explained to Playboy, “I think my parents thought they’d found a community that shared their ideals.”

And while his parents left the cult in 1977, the actor never quite forgot about his birthplace. And yes — he does speak Spanish.

Phoenix was born into a cult that traveled through Latin America — and he still speaks Spanish today

According to Phoenix’s interview with Vanity Fair, his family was part of the Children of God cult until around his third birthday.

His parents, who met while hitchhiking and married a year later, spent their early relationship on a VW microbus across California. Some time later, though, they joined Children of God as missionaries, taking their children River, Rain, Joaquin, and Liberty along the way (Phoenix’s youngest sister, Summer, was born later).

According to the outlet, Phoenix’s older siblings would busk in the streets of Venezuela and Puerto Rico. In fact, the cult’s members did not work and children did not attend school. The actor’s late brother River Phoenix once recalled to Chicago Tribune, “I would sing at jails with my sister and stand on street corners passing out literature containing uplifting messages about Jesus.”

As per Vanity Fair, the cult even named Phoenix’s parents “the archbishops” of Venezuela and Trinidad, until they left for good in 1977. Their exit allegedly followed allegations that the cult engaged in “religious prostitution” and some members sexually abused children.

Still, speaking about that period, Phoenix firmly believes his parents had no idea about the cult’s dark side. “When people bring up Children of God, there’s always something vaguely accusatory about it,” he told Playboy. “It’s guilt by association. I think it was really innocent on my parents’ part.”

“They really believed, but I don’t think most people see it that way. I’ve always thought that was strange and unfair,” he added.

“Cults rarely advertise themselves as such. It’s usually someone saying, ‘We’re like-minded people. This is a community,'” he explained. “But I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out.” And at that point — the entire family boarded a cargo ship to Miami. This eventually led to Phoenix and his siblings making it big in Hollywood.

Speaking about his early upbringing in Puerto Rico, Joaquin Phoenix once recalled to America Reads Spanish: “What I do remember the most about my childhood is my family always having fun.”

“I love Puerto Rico, Miami, Costa Rica, where my father lives,” he continued. “I like to practice my Spanish every time I can. Either in the shoots when I am working with any actor who speaks Spanish or with members of the crew.”

And he wasn’t kidding — watch this heartwarming video of Phoenix speaking Spanish to uplift a group of students:

Even more, Phoenix told the outlet that he loves reading in Spanish, too. “My favorite is Lorca, but also Miguel Piñero,” he described. “I read the book ‘El Olvido Que Seremos,’ written by Héctor Abad Faciolince, that I think is phenomenal.”

Upon finding out Phoenix’s birthplace, some X users say they’re claiming him as an “honorary Puerto Rican” now: