Opinion | Politics

John Leguizamo: Who was 'mistreating indigenous people' first?






John Leguizamo. Photo by Montclair Film Festival

With his heated comments about immigrants, Republican nominee Donald Trump has done one good thing in the 2016 presidential election cycle, John Leguizamo observes. But the actor, writer and producer believes Latinos are so marginalized in America that their even their bad deeds -- like their historical mistreatment of indigenous peoples -- go unrecognized:
Donald J. Trump has done one good thing. He has galvanized a conflicted and diverse community. For years, activists and politicians have struggled to get Latinos to vote and show their power. But not until Mr. Trump’s racist rhetoric shone a light on anti-Latino sentiment did we feel the need to make our voices heard on the issues that matter to us: from proper funding for our schools, better infrastructure in our communities and financial aid, to health care that doesn’t consider poverty a pre-existing condition.

There are around 56 million of us. We are the largest ethnic minority in the United States, at almost 18 percent of the country’s population. And yet Latino students drop out of high school at a higher rate than members of any other minority. We are victims of neglect, discrimination and ignorance. We have grown up amid an entrenched disrespect for Latin culture, and we have often internalized that disrespect.

The dominant narrative is that we have just “illegally” crossed the border or are “fresh off the boat.” In fact the Spanish are evidence of America’s first original sin: We were mistreating indigenous people here long before the British brought slaves to the colonies. People forget that Latinos founded some of America’s first cities.

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?

Read More:
John Leguizamo: ‘Too Bad You’re Latin’ (The New York Times 10/21)

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