Colombian actor John Leguizamo is a magician creating Latino characters. Still, the one he embodies and makes you fall in love with the minute she walks on stage with her tight lycra leggings, cropped top, and a big wig is Gladys, the soul of his one-man-show Spic-O-Rama. 

Gladys is one of Leguizamo`s most memorable portraits. Through her, the actor spells out the truth of the Latino community in the United States with a humanity that breaks your heart. 

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“Ay Nenita, people don’t like their women strong, especially Spanish women; forget about it,” Gladys says in her monologue. 

“We’re just ornaments, Nena, female eunuchs. And God forbid that we should go for what we want because then you are a bitch.” 

That is precisely what Leguizamo does in his new MSNBC series “Leguizamo Does America” — he goes for what he wants and doesn’t care who calls him a bitch.

An actor and a host

In the series, Leguizamo asks Latino creatives what they want regarding representation in Hollywood and the media. 

However, in a recent Op-Ed for Rolling Stone about the show, Leguizamo dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

The actor said Hollywood and the media are failing Latinos. He argues they don’t provide a seat at the table where decisions are made.  

“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,” he said.

“That’s why I created my show Leguizamo Does America,” he says. 

“Just like Debbie Does Dallas, I’m gonna f**k 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, “F**k,  I’m so glad I was born Latino.” 

Leguizamo’s argument is in the numbers

According to 2020 Census data, 62.1 million Hispanics live in the United States, accounting for 18.5% of the total U.S. population.

Few groups are more critical to the US economy than Latinos, and, as consumers, represent more than a $1 trillion market and rising. 

According to a 2021 report by Latino Donor Collaborative, the total economic output of United States Latinos was $2.7 trillion in 2019. 

So, if US Latinos were an independent country, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be the same as France’s — the seventh-largest GDP in the world.

“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,” Leguizamo said. 

“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,” he said. 

Leguizamo said that the series would probably have never seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for a Latino in a position of power in Hollywood, where only 4% of executives are of Hispanic origin.

It took Leguizamo six years to finally get the series approved by Cesar Conde  

“A Latin man who looks like me, who understands my culture, greenlit this show,” Leguizamo said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times

And this doesn’t stop at Hollywood. It’s in the media, also — both traditional and social.

“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,” he wrote. 

“It’s our city, and we are invisible. That’s cultural apartheid.”

Even white Latinos, or white-passing Latinos, don’t get a break. Just read what Mexican actress Karla Souza said in an interview with El Pais. 

“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,” Leguizamo added.

Plato said it best, as Leguizamo quoted: “Those who tell the stories rule society.” Gladys would approve.