When John Leguizamo wrote an op-ed for Billboard condemning the exclusion of Luis Fonsi’s mega-hit “Despacito” from the MTV Video Music Awards, he received a thank you message from the Puerto Rican singer himself.
“I appreciated it so much,” Fonsi says to the Emmy Award-winning actor. “When there’s a reason to complain, we need to complain.”
Brought together in New York City by TIME, the entertainers discuss that and more, including the Trump administration’s lethargic response to Puerto Rican need following Hurricane Maria.
“Despacito,” which this summer became the most-viewed video in YouTube’s history, was filmed in La Perla, San Juan, an area since devastated by the storm. Fonsi and Leguizamo, who is Colombian, both call for greater representation and recognition of Latin Americans and advocate passing cultural pride along to the next generation.
“To give Latin kids a sense of pride about themselves and their language is so needed and so important,” Leguizamo says, nodding to the success of “Despacito.” “All these little moments create a pride in our culture.”
Leguizamo, whose one-man play Latin History for Morons begins previews this week on Broadway, wrote the show for his son, who endured two years of racist bullying at school. As the actor gathered facts and figures to empower his son, he tells Fonsi, he realized he was also helping himself to heal from the racism he has suffered.
“It’s so important for your son and my kids to be able to hit back with knowledge, with facts and with peace,” Fonsi says. Leguizamo concurs: “Communication is the strongest and most powerful antidote.”