Episode 014: “Coño, We Belong!” Actor Luis Guzmán Opens Up About Growing Up Puerto Rican
This weeks episode features Puerto Rican born, Lower East Side raised, character actor Luis Guzman. Known for landing remarkable character roles in remarkable films. We met Luis this spring in Miami at the sixth annual Hispanicize event, where he received a Latinovator Award for both his excellence in show business for 30-plus years as a character actor, as well as his lifetime commitment to supporting Latinos and youth. Luis speaks powerfully and candidly about identity. When his parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the 50s, “if your were Boricua, you were Boricua”. There was no mixing. But, since then we have evolved. So now, when there is a lot that makes someone who they are, that IS their identity. It is a mosaic, and we no longer need to ask for permission to belong, because Coño we do.
Luis currently lives in Vermont with his family including five children, four of whom are adopted.
Luis: Everybody looks at the actor because that’s ‘ lo que esta ahi en la pantalla’ but it’s so much more than that. I’ve done Cuban, I’ve done Mexicans, I’ve done Dominicans, know, that’s up to us. That’s not up to Hollywood. >> You wanna be in a movie, I’ll see what I can do.
Luis: It is not about looking for acceptance any longer. It’s the realization that Coño we belong, you know, we belong. We’ve got stories just like anybody else but I don’t think- it’s no longer about looking for an acceptance. Say, ‘hey, can you let us in the door? You know what, we know how to open the door now and walk in. My name is Luis Guzman. I am an actor, Boricua, member of the universe. Luis Guzman. People do belong. People do have a place. When my parents came here in the fifties if you are Boricua, you are Boricua there was no mixing. I grew up in Lower East Side New York city. I grew up in Lower East Side when it looked like East Berlin. It was hard man, it was hard. Drug dealers were people that we grew up with. I got into the acting game as an accident and at the time I spoke to my wife and I said , “ hey, is it okay that I do this?’ and she said, “ yeah man, follow your heart, go for it”. It was really hard because my family means everything to me. I have five children and I adopted four of them. One of my daughters kind of struggle with , like,”Am I black enough, Am I white enough?’ “ Where am I?”
Denise: Personally I never felt like I was Puerto Rican enough or American enough.
Luis: That situation for many people really does exist. I mean, I don’t know what the true answer is outside of just saying you do have an identity, you really do. There is many different answers and you bring it all together and it’s a huge answer and it’s like this is who we are.
Denise: It’s a mosaic of stories and now you are gonna be a part of it.
Luis: Well, you know, we live in a very diverse society nowadays. A black man has been elected president, there is a Puerto Rican chick in the Supreme Court, We have evolved, this 2015. It’s a different world. Look at this room, this room is not a room that is just full of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans or Mexicans or people from Peru, Columbia. This room in here encompasses the whole universe of Latinos. We can make a difference together. We belong. You were formed into a new kind of a seed and it’s like no matter what you are still gonna blossom.