Colombian-American actor, playwright, and all-around wonderful guy John Leguizamo is changing the composition of Broadway one play at a time. Before his latest show, Latin History for Morons is made available to the masses thanks to Netflix, Leguizamo was honored at the Tony Awards on Sunday night, receiving a special award for bringing Latino stories to Broadway. And while Leguizamo will be the first to say awards are fantastic, what most will remember is his impassioned acceptance speech that honored everything from the theater, to his mother, to the on-going issues in America regarding immigration. Unfortunately, it wasn’t part of the awards telecast but the video was posted online.
The nearly four-minute speech started off with Leguizamo’s patented brand of humor, citing Bruce Springsteen, who was also the recipient of a special Tony award for his show, Springsteen on Broadway. He mentioned Springsteen’s classic song “Born to Run,” replying “I grew up in Queens, so I had to run, and I ran all the way to Broadway.” Leguizamo referred to the theater as “my sanctuary” that offered him opportunities to “be much more” than the roles that were traditionally offered to Latinos – gangsters and drug dealers. He mentions that “in order to make it in theater, I had to create my own parts,” a statement Leguizamo has vocally championed over the years in his discussions about Latino representation and the lack of roles available for Latinos. He offered a clarion call to producers everywhere, reminding them “if you write it for Latin people they will come” due to being “the least represented minority across all media.” In fact, Leguizamo thanked the audiences who paid large prices to see Latin History for Morons because “they can feel someone was talking about them to them.” Things became personal as Leguizamo thanked his mother who “armed me with a secret shield against the invisible glass ceiling.” He finally closed the speech by reminding the audience of the “1500 missing Latin immigrant babies in detention and [the] 4,645 dead in Puerto Rico.”
With a short amount of time Leguizamo accomplished so much. He reminded audiences why the Tony awards honored him in the first place: he’s a phenomenal speechgiver able to move an audience with his blend of the personal and the political. His emotional plea to never forget the people who lost their lives in Puerto Rico, as well as the ongoing crisis regarding immigrant children in our country was impassioned as it should be. There’s no doubt that more Latino stories needs to be tell because so many are happening right now, and Leguizamo sought to remind us of that.