Puerto Ricans take heart in ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s success

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This article by Ángel Carrión, translated by Salvador Sarabia originally appeared on Global Voices on April 25, 2016.

The Puerto Rican press and social media have been active this week with the news that Lin-Manuel Miranda has become the most recent winner of the prestigious Pulitzer prize in the drama genre with his musical Hamilton, which he composed and wrote.

The musical is based on a biography written by Ron Chernow of Alexander Hamilton, who immigrated from the Caribbean to what would become the United States and later served as the country’s first treasurer after it gained its independence from Britain. Miranda is the second Puerto Rican to receive that honour, with Quiara Alegria Hudes being the first for her play “Water by the Spoonful” in 2012.

The musical is a sensation on Broadway, where it has received praise from critics and the public. Lin-Manuel, who won the Tony award in 2008 for his musical “In the Heights,” was named one of the most influential people of the year by Time magazine. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams wrote this about him for Time:

“Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived, wrote, and stars in this breakthrough masterpiece, cementing his place as one of the most miraculous creative minds of our time. Like Alexander Hamilton, Miranda is a powerful reminder that greatness comes from unlikely places. His Puerto Rican parents’ collection of Broadway-musical records was as strong an influence during his New York City upbringing as the hip-hop he would come to love. There is no recipe for genius, but one can see the disparate elements that Miranda has miraculously seized and synthesized, embraced and celebrated, to create something profoundly moving and wholly original. He has redefined the musical and made us see anew the origins of the remarkable experiment called democracy.”

US Congressman for the state of Illinois Luis Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, made the following observation while being interviewed by Amy Goodman on independent news channel Democracy Now! He referenced “West Side Story,” a musical and film about opposing gangs in New York City in the 1950s:

“Isn’t it a difference when we get to write the scripts for the Broadway plays? The depiction in West Side Story of me and fellow young Puerto Ricans, and today the depiction of us as a community when we get to write the scripts, it’s very, very different. I’m so proud that I live in both the America in which a West Side Story showed us as gangbangers, as foreigners, as people that weren’t from here, and someone who writes about the history of the United States, Hamilton, in a way that all Americans celebrate.”

In the publication Dialogo of the University of Puerto Rico, Ana Garcia Roman alluded to the precarious economic and fiscal government situation while reflecting on how welcome news like this is:

“In a moment when things on the Island are becoming a little bad, waking up with news like this cheers anyone up.”

Certainly, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s accomplishment is a very pleasant antidote to the uncertain economic climate that Puerto Rico is living, and one that every Puerto Rican can be proud of. For this week, at least, on the front page of the country’s newspapers there was a story that reminds Puerto Ricans of what they are capable of.

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