On Nov. 14, President Trump announced that he no longer wants to provide funding to Puerto Rico for support after Hurricane Maria devastated the nation over one year ago. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 16, 2017, and the damage is still affecting Puerto Ricans today. It seems the country has been left in the shadows while the rest of the world moves on. Thankfully, others have not forgotten Puerto Rico in their time of need. Lin-Manuel Miranda, known for his Broadway hit “In the Heights” as well as being the voice actor in the beloved Disney movie “Moana,” is helping the country with his musical “Hamilton.”
Miranda’s efforts to help the nation began soon after the hurricane hit. He began writing and released a charity single called “Almost Like Praying” on Oct. 6, 2017, which included the vocals of singers like Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Rita Moreno, Camila Cabello and Gloria Esteban. The actor and playwright has also created an arts foundation, called Flamboyan Arts Fund, in order to rebuild the island’s art institutions, such as its theaters and galleries.
Now, Miranda has a new project on his radar. He will perform “Hamilton” for a limited time and will reprise his role as the title character of Alexander Hamilton. Puerto Ricans will have opportunities to get the tickets at a low price of $10, like Miranda’s #Ham4Ham initiative offers fortunate theatergoers. The show will play Jan. 8 – 27 at the Teatro UPR in San Juan.
“Hamilton” is a musical that tells the story of one man at the center of America’s beginnings. Alexander Hamilton, the United States treasurer, statesman, soldier and, as Burr sings in the musical’s opening lines, “the bastard, orphan, son of a whore,” was born in the Caribbean.
While he was on his honeymoon with his high school sweetheart and now wife, Vanessa Nadal, Miranda gave the ill-fated Hamilton a voice. Miranda read a biography penned by Ron Chernow, which sparked inspiration for the musical. In an interview with CNBC, he said, “I knew about as much as anyone did about Alexander Hamilton, before I picked up Ron Chernow’s incredible biography. I knew that he was on our $10 bill in the States and I knew that he died in a duel. You know you learn that in high school and that was about it.”
Now, Miranda’s “Hamilton” boasts a Pulitzer Prize and 11 Tony Awards. It has been performed on New York City’s Broadway, London’s West End, as well as in Los Angeles, Chicago, North Carolina, Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland and Portland. The show is currently on tour throughout the United States.
Most importantly, it is capable of fostering hope for people who most need it. The musical offers a message of hope for anyone who has the drive to progress, just as Hamilton did. For Puerto Ricans, though, such a message comes with a literal meaning. Ten thousand tickets will be sold at $10 for island residents, and 1,000 of those tickets will go to college students with a valid ID.
In an interview with Playbill, Miranda said, “In the aftermath of Maria we decided to expedite the announcement of the project to send a bold message that Puerto Rico will recover and be back in business, stronger than ever.”
FEMA called the response to Hurricane Maria “the largest and longest to a domestic disaster in U.S. history.” Communities in Humacao are still running on generators. In an interview with CNN, a Humacao man named Angel St. Kitts compared the progress of Puerto Ricans from when the hurricane first struck to today. St. Kitts showed reporters the structure he once called his home, which is now in shambles. He explained that he and his wife now rent a house in another town, Verde Mar. “It’s not back to normal for a lot of people, not for me and for a lot of people that I know,” he said, referring to the conditions of his house since it was repaired. “I’m still struggling to do better. They charged me $2,000 to do the roof, the little bit of roof on top of the bathroom. But everything is the same way.”
Clearly, Puerto Rico is undergoing a dire situation that will still require efforts from outside sources. Children are losing the opportunity to get an education; men and women cannot earn money for their families. Aside from losing the opportunity to get and education and a job, people are simply losing the chance to have a good quality of life.
The plan to perform “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico was on Miranda’s mind even prior to Hurricane Maria. “Bringing ‘Hamilton’ to Puerto Rico is a dream that I’ve had since we first opened at The Public Theater in 2015,” Miranda said at the time of the initial announcement. “When I last visited the island, a few weeks before Hurricane Maria, I had made a commitment to not only bring the show to Puerto Rico, but also return again to the title role.”
The opportunity for Puerto Ricans to see “Hamilton” may very well lift morale, but the playwright has another goal on his agenda: Miranda created a special contest for people who donated at least $10 to his Flamboyan Arts Fund on the Prizeo website. The winner would receive the chance to win a trip to Puerto Rico to see “Hamilton” on its opening night and to meet Miranda and the cast at an after-party.
Miranda’s efforts will benefit the long-suffering United States territory for years ahead, in more ways than one. As the song “My Shot,” a number in “Hamilton,” says, “When you’re living on your knees, you rise up / Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up / Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up.” His attempts and his musical serve as a reminder that it is important to join together and fight for a common cause.