‘Too Bad You’re Latin’

Roundup
tags: discrimination, Latino history in America



John Leguizamo is an actor, writer and producer.

... Latinos have been dying for America since before we were a nation. Why have our children not heard that thousands of Latino patriots fought for America in the Revolutionary War? Bernardo de Gálvez, a Spanish general, recruited Mexicans, Cubans, Native Americans and free African-Americans to fight against the British in the South, while Cuban women donated their jewelry and money to help the patriots. Where is the Ken Burns documentary about that?

Why don’t they know about the many Latinos in the War of 1812? Or anything of the 20,000 Latinos who fought valiantly in the Civil War? Or of those who earned Purple Hearts or the Croix de Guerre in World War I? Or of the up to 500,000 who served in the military in World War II?

It’s as if our heroism and sacrifice somehow counted less, as if we didn’t exist in history at all. Without a past to glorify and uplift you, how do you propel yourself into an unknown, tenuous future?

I’m only an amateur historian. But I am an expert on my own life and career. So to bring it around to more contemporary slights: Hispanics are the most underrepresented ethnic group in film and television. “Saturday Night Live” has only just hired its first Latina comic. Are we really to believe there are so few funny Latinos? We are similarly marginalized in business and corporate life.

This exclusion sends a painful message to every Latino child about how he is seen and judged. Latino people face a double challenge: to create our own positive self-image while battling against the way the broader society portrays us. Without textbooks in schools that do justice to our contributions to the making of America, and without media representation expanding to include more Latin faces and voices, we are vulnerable to a demagogue like Mr. Trump claiming that we are all “drug dealers,” “rapists” and “criminals.” ...




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