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John Leguízamo, Lin Manuel Miranda and George López are our “early Historians” piecing together  the suppressed chapter of the Great American History. They, of course, need help from the rest of us. Gettyimages
John Leguízamo, Lin Manuel Miranda and George López are our “early Historians” piecing together the suppressed chapter of the Great American History. They, of course, need help from the rest of us. (Getty images/ AL DIA)

Latino History is No Joke | OP-ED

Comedians started the job of telling the story of the journey of 62 million Americans of Hispanic descent who live today in the U.S. Now it is for all of us to…

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Note from Editor: These are fragments of the speech by our Editor and Publisher, Hernán Guaracao, during last Friday’s Hispanic Heritage Gala hosted by AL DIA News Media  in the Union League of Philadelphia.
 

 

Comedians take first as their job the very subject that is gathering us here tonight.

They are the palace jesters, the wickedly funny writers, the performers who confront us with the tragedy but also the comedy of the human condition.

The writing of History, especially the one that is not yet crafted, and can be fictionalized to make people laugh, is the ideal material for those theater troublemakers.

Take comedian, writer and actor John Leguízamo, for example, who jumped headfirst and wrote his recent Broadway play “Latino History for Morons”.

Or George Lopez, screaming on top of his lungs, exactly as John Leguízamo does, on the stage, and he does on the screen, on his show “We Will Do It For Half", also conveniently available on Netflix if you want to celebrate privately Hispanic Heritage Month binge watching.

You will find Lopez and Leguízamo funny, but screaming that bitter, dark humor about their personal trauma of growing up Latino in North America... 

You will find Lopez and Leguízamo funny, but screaming that bitter, dark humor about their personal trauma of growing up Latino in North America... 

Leguizamo, raised in New York by Colombian immigrant parents; Lopez in California, an orphan child raised by his grandmother he made a famous character of his tirades. East Coast or West Coast, it is the same for a Latino kid growing up in the U.S.

I am sorry to say Leguízamo and López stories sound to me predictable and rather the result of an unreported form of child abuse— both at home and in school.

Now they are vengeful venting out their frustrations, doing their own therapeutic screaming to fix through histrionic arts their childhood traumas, which are just the result of passive abuse by adults following the curricula of a public education system for which the Hispanic culture didn’t exist.

A system that indirectly told the young John and George they were inferior because their last name was Leguízamo or López.

Growing up ashamed of their own culture, ashamed of the native language they barely spoke with a shameful English accent, or ashamed outside of their home of their own last name they had to spell out every time… 

Ashamed of their own parents because their heavy accent in their English sounded like the very evidence of their family and their culture's inadequacies...

John Leguízamo's and George López's families must have been what therapists call "dysfunctional", which, by the way, made them the brilliant humorists they have finally become.

Lin Manuel Miranda, turn into art his own personal dramas and joys of growing up in the 'hood to his play and also movie “In the Heights” and now in Hamilton”.

Take Lin Manuel Miranda, another great American comedian, writer, and actor of Puerto Rican descent turning into art his own personal dramas and joys of growing up in the 'hood, pouring it all in his play and movie “In the Heights,” and now in “Hamilton”, also soon to be a movie.

So much a comedian himself Miranda is, he wickedly attempted to make Alexander Hamilton, and the rest of the Founding Fathers, look and sound African American and Puerto Rican.

I see Leguizamo’s, Lopez’s, and Miranda’s art as the classic witty comedian expression of what is yet to be written, the reality still undocumented that we first can try as a joke.

They are in reality the current manifestations of our community’s desperate struggle to articulate our Hispanic story to the rest of America, still indifferent to, or ignorant of, this flip side of American History's coin.

What I call the yet to be documented side of History, the Latino History of the United States, the missing chapter of the Great American History of the past 250 years.

Leguizamo, Lopez, and Miranda make America laugh today when they tell their individual stories or recast the history of the U.S., the comedian’s way, each of them in their own masterful way.

“Serious as I know to do good humor is, their version of history few take seriously…”

Serious as I know to do good humor is, their version of history few take seriously.

After all, it is just “comedy” and Leguízamo, López, and Miranda are, after all, just comedians.

Great comedians, but just comedians, nonetheless. 

Not Ken Burns’ credible PBS History’s long documentaries version, like his Word War II History, which outrageously excluded Latinos, but were added after protest from community leaders who reminded Kerns that the most decorated soldiers in the U.S. Army are Latinos, absent initially from his film.

Or Sir David Frost’s BBC Historic Interview Series, which never touched on stories from England's adversary, Spain.

Or the History Channel yet to be produced series on Latinos in the USA, from the Alamo to 9/11. It is basically 250 years of a History void left by the official chroniclers of it.

While History is entertaining, it cannot be just “Entertainment”.

While History is entertaining, it cannot be just “Entertainment”.

The job of restoring this part of the American history book —the suppressed Latino chapter— can’t be anymore the responsibility of comedians alone.

“As a nation, we can’t afford to wait any longer to shift the narrative around Latinos,” said TIME Magazine in 2019 in a piece written by Eva Longoria, an actress herself, but also an entrepreneur and an advocate.

How about the rest of us, the news media, the journalists, the writers, the TV Anchors, the Academicians?

The professors in the credible History Departments of U. Penn, Temple, or Drexel Universities?

Or the curators of the Museum of Latino History in Washington DC—  yet to be hired because the idea of this national Museum, next to the African American Museum, and the Jewish History Museum, has been waiting for decades to be fully funded.

We are here together today to accomplish one thing, a very simple thing:

To remind ourselves that our great American history is INCOMPLETE.

When I say our history, I don’t mean exclusively Latino History.

Rather, the American History that no one wrote, mainly because we lacked the able writers to write it and the publisher to publish it.

I honestly believe no one was out there going around suppressing it.

After all, who would have had the time to do such a complete job...

In this honest confrontation with our past we are doing during this Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

In this honest confrontation with our past we are doing during this Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, some facts we know we should face.

Please don’t be offended by them because I certainly didn’t make them up.

  • History, first of all, is written by the victors.

  • FACT 1: Spain lost the war to the U.S. —and Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands, in the process— in 1898, as ratified by the Treaty of Paris.

  • FACT 2: Mexico lost the war to the U.S. —and half their territory, in the process— 50 years earlier, in 1848, as ratified by the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty.

  • FACT 3: Spain’s “Armada Invencible” was defeated by the British and the Elements, 2 centuries and a half earlier, in the year 1588.

  • FACT 4: The Spanish Empire was finally wiped out in 1898— with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders charging up the San Juan Hill, in Puerto Rico.

This cultural war, which is the direct result of our ignorance of each other’s history, rages on...These are other more recent facts:

  • Last night a poor Puerto Rican boy was shot to death by a poor White boy in Philadelphia’s poor Kensington section.

  • Maybe... Maybe not… God forbid, but we all know it can happen any minute...

  • This cultural war, which is the direct result of our ignorance of each other’s history, rages on in the streets of North and South Philadelphia, and in every large urban center across the country.

This cultural war, which is the direct result of our ignorance of each other’s history, rages on in the streets of North and South Philadelphia

What can we all do about it?

At AL DÍA News Media we believe doing nothing is not an option. We all have the duty to do something before it is too late.

Before the windows get smashed again, like this past Summer in Walnut street, here in downtown Philadelphia, not far from this prestigious clubhouse, when we saw blocks boarded up after the George Floyd riots. Center City looked for a moment like North Philly, scaring some neighbors away.

These are 3 simple questions we can ask about it.

  • Was it the result of secular rage resulting from our racial differences?

  • Or anger as a byproduct of our ignorance of each other’s history?

  • Or lack of respect as a result of our lack of knowledge of each other’s own rich heritage? 

#ALDIArchetypes is AL DIAs modest contribution to what must be a common endeavor in the new century.

#ALDIArchetypes is AL DIAs modest contribution to what must be a common endeavor in the new century.

To write out the chapters of American History yet to be added to our great Enciclopedia Americana.

Perhaps the one which didn’t “fit news to print” of the New York Times, our nation’s paper of record.

The one that remains in the Darkness, despite the Washington Post credible Journalism.

Journalism, remember, has been called the "first draft of history," but the media has failed to do a full job, as far as Latinos is concerned.

Today we are introducing to you the life story of an exceptional man who lived in Philadelphia 200 years ago.

A newspaperman NO newspaper in America knows about, except AL DÍA, which began to write about the wondrous life of this early Latino resident of Philadelphia.

He was an exile in Philadelphia for 26 years, a journalist, a pamphleteer, an entrepreneur, a columnist for a well-known local newspaper called “Aurora”— founded in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin’s son, Benjamin Franklin Bache.

Today we will present a new national award we decided to name after him —on purpose— to bring this memorable man back to life.

Ambassador Manuel Torres is the more serious part of American History that needs to be documented.

Ambassador Manuel Torres is the more serious part of American History, played by leaders of Hispanic descent, that needs to be documented.

We Americans of Hispanic descent in North America can’t continue to be the “undocumented”, the unaccounted for, not when we are headed to become one-third of the total population of the United States.

So my final question to you all of today is this:

Why do you think Latino History is told only by comedians today, and we, Latinos in the U.S., are more often a laughing stock told by the jesters in society?

How about the creativity, the entrepreneurship, and the work ethics of so many other American Leaders of Hispanic descent that are NO laughing stock (U.S. Latino GDP grew up to almost $2.6 Trillion dollars in 2018), but can certainly impact the U.S. stock market and help maintain the American economy’s predominance in the world in the 21st century.

I am grateful to the comedians that have started the job:

López, Miranda, Leguízamo, being the most notorious.

The smat and beautiful Eva Longoria is next with her own movie enterprises,  now taking on stories of people like Richard Montañez's.

To me all of this is great news!

It means the urgent work of telling the serious story of the American of Hispanic Heritage has already started.

It means we are on our way to do many more movies and publish many more books!

In other words, we are in our way to do the serious part that remains largely undone.

Thank you so very much for coming tonight!

May God Bless you, May God Bless Philadelphia and this Great Nation of ours!

¡GRACIAS!

 

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