By Madison Martinez
Latin Americans have been getting the short end of the stick in the United States. In his Netflix special “Latin History for Morons,” John Leguizamo brings this to light as he narrates to his audience his quest to find a Latin American hero for his son’s middle school project.
Through his research, Leguizamo discovered the Latin Americans’ ancestors of the gentle Tainos, the mighty Aztecs, and the noble Native Americans, tribes full of culture and technology all wiped out by the Europeans.
Their gold was melted down to make coins for the European’s wealth, their land was stolen to increase the empires, and worst of all, all of this was erased from the modern education curriculum.
Leguizamo made a very powerful statement with his special. He’s looked through his son’s history book, searching for any Latin influence or notable heroes.
“I’m looking for Latin heroes and Latin contributions, and I’m looking from cover to cover and there’s nothing about us…not one chapter, not a mention, not a single goddamned name — like we were absent all these centuries,” Leguizamo said.
This Netflix special was touching, educational, and hilarious; any Latin American or person interested in this dilemma should definitely take the time to watch it.
However, the issue still stands when the curtains close. Latin American culture takes a backseat in American education. With the current climate towards Hispanics in America, awareness on the positive traits of Latin culture should be taken more seriously.
As a multicultural campus, FDU has many organizations dedicated to inciting interest in different cultures. For Latin culture, we have the Organization of Latin Americans (OLA). This organization is dedicated to bringing awareness to Latin culture and are passionate about their mission. President and sophomore biology major Surina Chock raises concern about the lack of education of Latin History.
“I think the exposure of not only Latin history, but the history of other cultures too in American education is important because American history is mostly taught from the perspectives of Americans,” Chock said. “Other cultures are what make up this country, so I think that it is important to include them in American education to see what they went through in the past.”
This opinion is shared with OLA’s Treasurer Puja Sengupta.
“Personally, I feel that all ethnic history should be taught in American education. America is considered a ‘melting pot’ but only European or Native American’s history is taught in schools,” Sengupta said.
There seems to be a want for Latin education, and the OLA tries to fill in this gap with their many events.
“We host many events ranging from different dance styles [like] salsa, bachata, merengue to throwing a quinceañera party and to have an information session on Latina Empowerment,” Sengupta said. “In addition, we try to cosponsor in other organization’s events, so more groups of people can know about our organization.”
There are many positive traits in Latin culture that these events can shed light on.
“I think great features of the Hispanic culture that should get more attention is our determination to succeed despite negative stereotypes,” Chock said. “Now with immigration being such a big issue, it has shown light on the hard-working parents, grandparents, or adults that came to the United States with nothing or at an early age and have succeeded in life through hardships to achieve the American dream.”
Hispanics have always proved to be hardworking and loyal people; John Leguizamo takes note of this in his Netflix special, explaining that Latinos were the only ethnic group to fight in every single American War. Hispanics have fought and died for this country and their freedom, and today harmful stereotypes are all they have in the common thought.
Chock states that instead of these positive traits shining through, Hispanics are seen as a negative force.
“We are often seen as uneducated and undisciplined and that is why we are often overlooked when it comes to jobs and similar areas,” Chock said.
Sengupta added that certain media coverage is inaccurate and depicts Latinos in a negative way.
“Currently on the news and based on our current president, Latinos are illegal, uneducated, foreigners who are taking jobs from Americans/American citizens,” Sengupta said.
Valuing the culture of Latinos will weaken these stereotypes because people would learn that Latinos aren’t just awful people stealing America’s resources, but instead people are seeking the opportunities they have lost throughout their history.
If you are interested in joining the OLA, join them on social media, @olafdumetro, or ask to be added to their email list. Any number of people can help bring awareness to Latin culture by learning and sharing. Latin history is full of color and it never hurts to learn about the people around them and appreciating the things that make them unique.