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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” comes to Puerto Rico

Lin Manuel Miranda, in the center, raises the Puerto Rican flag after the opening performance of the closing night of the award-winning Broadway musical "Hamilton" in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / For the Washington Post)

With Lin-Manuel Miranda once again as his star, the famous Broadway hit "Hamilton" opened for business in Puerto Rico this weekend – the business is strengthening the hopes and finances of a besieged American territory and weakened by the devastation devastated 16 years ago by hurricane Maria.

The first performance on Friday evening of Tony's musical winner at the Centro de Bellas Artes in the heart of the island's capital made one think of the most extraordinary events in the nation's performing arts history. Here there was a show that came not only to entertain, but also to serve a humanitarian mission: raise funds for the relief effort. But the research was also to draw the world's attention to an American outpost that has long been overlooked by the country that owns it, and especially as a result of a disaster that has traumatized the island.

Miranda's mission reached an emotional crescendo as a new traveling production of "Hamilton" – the sixth incarnation of the musical – celebrated its official opening to the hurra of an exuberant crowd. When the actor made his entrance, during the introductory number, "Alexander Hamilton", it was the audience who stopped the show, with a prolonged and loud ovation. At the curtain called almost three hours later, Miranda once again made her way down the house, with a tearful speech that ended with him pulling out a large Puerto Rican flag from under her costume and holding her up.

"I love the island like that" he said during a post-show press conference, "and I just want him to be proud of me."

The special visit of 23 shows of "Hamilton" in Porto Rico, a Caribbean island of 3.5 million people is not a normal stop for Broadway productions, it was really a love job for Miranda and her father, Luis Miranda, a Puerto Rican native who It is made a name in the democratic politics of New York. They have prevailed over the producers and investors of the show – which brings home only 4 million dollars to Broadway – to donate the entire proceeds of the engagement of San Juan, after the operating expenses, to a fund for artists and the arts Puerto Ricans in difficulty institutions. The fund, administered by the local Flamboyan Foundation, which also has an arm in Washington, will receive $ 15 million from the "Hamilton" race, according to Luis Miranda.

"I am so happy that he brought us this art, which means so much to us as Puerto Ricans, not just as Americans," said Roberto Ramos Perea, a famous playwright and director here and chairman of the & # 39; University Puertorriqueño, the oldest theater of the island and a repository for its dramatic literature through the centuries. "This guy," said Perea of ​​Lin-Manuel Miranda, "made it hard to do anything: capture the attention of the whole world for us."

Puerto Rico playwright and director Roberto Ramos Perea is president of the Puertorriqueño University, the oldest theater on the island and a repository for his dramatic literature. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / For the Washington Post)

It is difficult to find a precedent for a Broadway musical that includes a disaster relief movement and the political recognition of a problem in the way it does " Hamilton ". As Luis Miranda explained, his son had already led the $ 43 million emergency aid collection for the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit group seeking to strengthen Latin institutions. Dedicating an entire race to tackle the crisis raises the stakes in an unprecedented way in commercial theater.

"It is bringing the issues of Puerto Rico to the forefront of the political agenda more effectively than anyone else does," Roberto Prats, a former senator and leader of the Democratic Party here, said of Miranda.

Or as Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, the island's non-profit tourist organization, said: "The great opportunity is to transform the gift of Lin-Manuel into an impact that it goes well beyond the three weeks of the visit. "

Some residents are affected by the fact that local authorities have bent back to" Hamilton ": when a plan fell at the last minute to stage the production in a historical theater on the campus of the Alma Mater of Luis Miranda, the University of Puerto Rico, the government immediately opened a path to move "Hamilton" to the Centro de Bellas Artes. This left the university at the mercy, as the renovations of its theater – aided by a $ 1 million donation by the Mirandas – were not completed.

"We have not seen such support from any administration until now, for" Hamilton, "said Aida Belén Rivera-Ruiz, a UPR professor." I would like to see them thrive with support for local productions. "[19659015] However, Miranda's efforts have been widely accepted in the arduous campaign to bring the island back in. Hurricane Mary has caused the death of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans and has caused extensive damage, both to the properties than the psyche Last year, according to estimates by Edwin Meléndez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York, there are about 100,000 residents living on the United States mainland. the drainage of talent is hitting hard in the arts and professional classes.

The lasting fiscal disaster of the island – a $ 70 billion load that led to the imposition by the Congress of a council, known here as "the g iunta "putting a brake on government spending – has only exacerbated the sense of a continuous emergency.

"How can one recover when the tax base is eroding from day to day?" said Meléndez. "It's important," added the spotlight "Hamilton" is putting on the island, "because the rebuilding of Puerto Rico has not started yet. The main funding for reconstruction is falling very slowly."

A sanctuary for the hero of a hometown

If there is one thing that the Miranda know how to do these days, it is the attention of the command. A half hour drive from San Juan along the northern coast of the island is Vega Alta, the hometown of the long Miranda family, which has become a tourist destination for fans of Lin-Manuel. In a small square, or "placita", on Luis Muñoz Rivera Street, the Miranda created a sort of Lin-Manuel sanctuary. An open-air café, some small food stalls, a souvenir shop, and a "Miranda Museum" host visitors who sip milkshakes while watching a gigantic mosaic portrait of Lin-Manuel, posed as a revolutionary hero. In the museum, some of his entertainment prizes are shown, along with other portraits.

Tourists and fans of "Hamilton" Dave and Kathy Mullen of Madison, Wis., Pose for a selfie in front of a mural honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda in the hometown Purto Rican of the Miranda family of Vega Alta. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / For the Washington Post)

"He was born to be a New Yorker and live in tight spaces," said Luis Miranda with a laugh during a morning interview in the hall of Luis A. Ferré auditorium at the Centro de Bellas Artes of San Juan, while the cast of "Hamilton" was trying inside. "We had space in Puerto Rico, so why not store it there, in an exhibition way?"

Back to Vega Alta, while Luis Elvin's brother and sister Yamila chatted and conversed with the sellers, a 20 or so strong tourist group sat at the museum tables, having lunch and peering at the memorabilia. "I loved his talent – I think he's a single guy," said Roxene Pierce, a retired Iowa City Spanish teacher who bought a tour package that included stops at Vega Alta and a Bacardi rum distillery. as well as a ticket for "Hamilton".

Dave and Kathy Mullen, of Madison, Wis. – He is a software architect and she advises the elderly on how to resize – he drove up to Vega Alta alone. They said that their trip to Puerto Rico was caused both by the love for "Hamilton" and by the desire to put their dollars for tourists to work in a destination that needed help. "It's very difficult not to respond positively to Lin," said Dave Mullen.

You have sensed several times in talking with visitors – 90% of tourists come from the mainland – that people have actually responded to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his family in a deeply personal way.

"I intended to come to Puerto Rico," Pierce explained, "because [the Mirandas] asked us to come to Puerto Rico."

The power of art [19659028] It is difficult to calculate the extent of the fame of Lin-Manuel Miranda: Puerto Ricans say that even here, his fame, for now, is concentrated in cosmopolitan circles, rather that through the spectrum of the insular society. However, with television appearances and his role in the new Disney movie "Mary Poppins Returns", his visibility continues to rise, and his intention seems to be to exploit that popular appeal for key causes, such as his raid. in cultural diplomacy and humanitarian aid.

Friday at the press conference, Puerto Rican journalists have posed the kind of questions posed to political candidates: what did he think of the debt problem? And the crime? How did you hear about the Trump administration's threat to withdraw money from the help of a Puerto Rican disaster to pay for the wall? Miranda, still in the excitement of the show – during a number called "Hurricane," he said, had had trouble keeping calm – seemed a little overwhelmed by everything.

"Lin has always been extremely cautious about choosing his political causes," said Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater in New York, where "Hamilton" had its world premiere in February 2015. "He took the Puerto Rico's security, health and social policy as the central political policy of his Second Eustis, Lin-Manuel and his politically astute father "believe that it is a cause that has no disadvantages."

Like other central figures in the development of "Hamilton" – from the main producer Jeffrey Seller, to Ron Chernow, whose biography of Hamilton Miranda based the musical, with the actors Leslie Odom Jr., Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones of the original cast – Eustis came to San Juan to attend this historic moment of musical theater, even Questlove and Shonda Rhimes were there, Friday evening, Oprah Winfrey will be on the road early, Jimmy Fallon will broadcast from San Juan next week, and also a delegation of The Congress with the President of the Chamber, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will arrive.

The power of Lin-Manuel Miranda and "Hamilton" to arouse curiosity and attention, four years after the show seems to be an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of Broadway.

"If you can marry politics, the government needs and the arts," Hamilton is the perfect scenario for this, "said Prats, who is planning a run for governor in 2020. A passionate fan of "Hamilton", Prats sees a lot to savor and learn from, in the story of an immigrant of Caribbean origin who helps to lead the colonies to economic independence.

"I'm going to quote a sentence from the show," he said. "& # 39; Raise a glass for the four of us, tomorrow there will be more of us." We raise a glass for Lin-Manuel and hope that tomorrow there will be more than him. "

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