National Hispanic Heritage Month officially ends on a Tuesday (Oct. 15), but that doesn’t mean the party has to end for you. John Leguizamo’s Tony nominated show “Latin History for Morons” continues its run at the Ahmanson until Oct. 20 (Sunday) before it heads on to Seattle, Washington, Oakland and Chicago. On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Latino Heritage Parade and Festival will take to Los Robles (from West Prescott Street) and end at Villa Parke Community Center.
The parade begins at 11 a.m. The first Latina woman elected as president for the 131st Tournament of Roses, Laura Farber, is this year’s grand marshal. Dr. Cynthia Olivo is the community grand marshal. Farber is a partner in the Pasadena law firm of Hahn & Hahn, where she practices civil litigation, emphasizing employment disputes. She is a member of the American Bar Association, serving as the State Delegate for California in the House of Delegates, Chair of the Latin America and Caribbean Initiative Council, a member of the Rule of Law Initiative Board and a member of the Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee. She has also served as President of the Barristers, the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s young lawyers division.
Olivo is the Vice President of Student Services at Pasadena City College. The granddaughter of migrant farmworkers, Olivo earned her doctorate from Claremont Graduate University and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, San Bernardino.
Expect folklórico groups, equestrians, La Reina de las Fiestas Patria and court, the PUSD marching band and other community organizations. The cost is free. The festival will have food, music, art and dance.
John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” is also available on Netflix, but while I might have preferred a more intimate experience, the Ahmanson production of this one-man show provides the mass group experience. Laughing alone is fun, but the group giggles and guffaws envelopes one in uplifting euphoria. The woman I sat next to had a wonderful boisterous laugh and there’s something truly wonderful about sharing hilarity and walking out into the night with a smile and a determination to learn more about history.
Although this show is about Leguizama attempting to encourage his bullied son to stand for himself and embrace his Latino heritage as Leguizamo immerses himself in books and uncovers 3,000 years of Latin history, the show does include sexual references and many four-lettered words. This might not be suited for younger children particularly if you’re uncomfortable with explaining a fleeting anal sex reference. Leguizamo’s son is now 19 and his daughter 20. They survived growing up in a Jewish-Catholic household with a father who was voted “Most Talkative” during his own high school years. The show was well-received on Broadway, garnering Leguizamo a special Tony Award.
The show’s premise is that his son, called Buddy in the play, had an important history project, but looking at the textbook, Leguizamo noted a complete absence of Latino names: “Not one chapter, not a mention, not a single goddamned name — like we were absent all these centuries.” If you’re like me, born and raised in California, that should be impossible. Possibly, Manhattan private schools are different.
Columbian-born New York-raised Leguizamo looks at the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs and gives his analysis of their fall to the conquistadors, reminding us of the need for representation and a willingness to assess both sides of the stories. Much of the passion and humor are fueled by the PTSD that Leguizamo calls “Latin ghetto rage.” If you’re a person of color, you might recognize your own version of the anger issue.
If you live in a county or city with a Spanish name and can’t think of living without salsa (either the dance or the sauce) and would welcome a taco stand on every corner, this 95-minute show (no intermission) is worth seeking out. Leguizama was given a Special Tony Award after the show’s Broadway run.
“Latin History for Morons” runs through Oct. 20, 2019 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets are $35 to $145. Call (213) 972-4400 or visit centertheatregroup.org or LatinHistoryOnTour.com.