LATINO VOICES
08/12/2015 05:54 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2015

John Leguizamo Says High School History Makes Latino Students Feel 'Invisible'

"We’re not taught anything that we contributed to this country and we’ve been around for 500 years.”

Latino contributions to U.S. history remain largely absent from high school history books, and John Leguizamo is doing something about it.

The 51-year-old actor and comedian sat down with HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski Tuesday to discuss his upcoming film “American Ultra” and his upcoming comedy project “Latin History for Dummies.”

Over the years, Leguizamo has had success with autobiographical one-man shows like “Freak” and “Ghetto Klown,” in which he details his life experiences as a Latino growing up in the U.S. These projects, he told HuffPost Live, arose partly because he felt Latinos were underrepresented in the media.

“It was like, I’m watching TV and I’m watching movies and listening to radio and we’re invisible,” Leguizamo said. “I was like, where are all the Latin people that I hang out with and goof with all day and talk about politics and talk about art?... So I started writing my own stuff, I wanted to see my people the way I saw them.”

On the topic of Latino visibility, the comedian showed particular concern for the absence of Latinos in U.S. history education -- despite research that shows Latino students exposed to ethnic studies perform better in school. 

“Just imagine, you’re a white kid and all of a sudden everybody’s Latin and everything they’re teaching you is Latin and you don’t hear anything about yourself or about your contributions,” Leguizamo said. “You don’t know hear about George Washington, you don’t hear about Thomas Jefferson and you feel like you haven’t contributed anything. How would you feel? How would you think of your future? How would you think of your participation in American culture?”

“You feel like an invisible person screaming in the woods and nobody hears you,” he added. “And it’s really weird and unfair because we had huge contributions.”

Watch Leguizamo discuss Latino contributions to U.S. history above. And watch the full segment below to hear the actor's thought on who is to blame for the lack of Latinos in film. 

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