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Despite father's claim, Leguizamo asserts Puerto Rico ties

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Comedian and actor John Leguizamo says he's "Colombian-Puerto Rican"
  • Report: "It hurts me that John is lying to the Puerto Ricans," his father says
  • Some Latino New Yorkers say the newspaper report caught them by surprise
  • Leguizamo marched Sunday in New York's National Puerto Rican Day Parade

New York (CNN) -- John Leguizamo often peppers his acts with stories about his Puerto Rican roots. But the comedian's father told a newspaper last week that he was Colombian -- and that his son was misleading fans about their family's heritage.

Speaking to reporters as he marched in New York's National Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday, Leguizamo fired back.

"I am Colombian-Puerto Rican. I don't know why he's saying that. I say that I love him, and why is he saying that?" he said.

His father, Alberto Leguizamo, could not be reached by CNN for comment. But according to a report in New York's Spanish-language El Diario newspaper, the elder Leguizamo showed documentation that he was born in Colombia, said he wanted "to clarify the situation" and claimed he had no Puerto Rican family members.

"It hurts me that John is lying to the Puerto Ricans and not backing up his Colombian roots," he told the newspaper.

El Diario's report was published two days before Leguizamo appeared in New York's National Puerto Rican Day Parade as an invited ambassador for the arts.

In an interview at Sunday's parade posted on YouTube, Leguizamo said his father was born in Colombia, "but his father was Puerto Rican."

A statement from parade organizers announcing his participation in May said Leguizamo's parents "are Puerto Rican and Colombian."

But parade organizers said Monday that Leguizamo's participation in the annual event did not have to do with his origin but with his work as an actor and environmental activist.

"The National Puerto Rican Day Parade has one of the strongest records of diversity and inclusion. It is a parade in which the whole world can march," parade spokesman Javier Gomez said. "Every year, this parade honors people that are not Puerto Rican. We were very proud to have John Leguizamo."

In his 2006 autobiography, Leguizamo describes his parents' thick Colombian accents and says he was born in the South American nation. He calls himself a "Puerto Rican-Colombian homeboy from Queens" in one chapter but refers to himself as a Puerto Rican in another.

And in a monologue at the Tony Awards on Sunday night, Leguizamo -- who is performing in his show "Ghetto Klown" on Broadway -- said both of his parents had immigrated to the United States from Colombia.

Still, some Latino New Yorkers said the newspaper report caught them by surprise.

"It's a real identity crisis. You know what I mean?" Jesus Suncar said.

Housewife Fabiola Guerrero said the comedian probably "feels more Puerto Rican at heart."

"We, the Colombians and Puerto Ricans, should feel proud to have someone like him, a very professional and dedicated actor," said Dan Guerrero, a Colombian baker who lives in New York.

Yaritza de la Cruz, who works in a watch store, said it wasn't up to others to weigh in.

"It's his opinion," she said. "Everyone has their point of view, and if he does not feel a certain way, no one can make him."

CNN's Adriana Hauser contributed to this report.