Tony Award-winning actor, lyricist and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke at a press conference at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (3015 W. Division St.) in Humboldt Park Nov. 1. The event advocated for relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
Miranda spoke alongside the museum director, Billy Ocasio, and representatives from Norwegian American Hospital (1044 N. Francisco Ave.). The hospital is organizing a team of nurses and doctors to deploy to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks as the island remains in need of water, medicine and other resources.
The “Hamilton” creator, who is of Puerto Rican descent, also spoke of his love for Chicago during the conference. He said he loves visiting the “vibrant” Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park and admires the citizens’ dedication to helping their ancestral home.
Miranda’s most notable personal contribution to relief efforts thus far has been from his recent single, “Almost Like Praying.” He recorded the song with several Puerto Rican and Hispanic artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan and Luis Fonsi. All proceeds from the single benefit the Hispanic Federation UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund, an organization Miranda is working with.
“My first response to almost anything is to begin to write lyrics,” Miranda said. “That’s just how my brain works.”
Miranda talked about resources for those who want to assist in relief efforts and about his personal connection to the devastation in Puerto Rico, such as food drives, online relief funds and benefit events. He also said he has family members living 30 minutes away from the island’s capital, San Juan, which has suffered financially after the hurricane with the loss of tourist revenue. While he said they’re safe, Miranda’s family is among the 74 percent of the island’s population still without electricity.
One of the factors Miranda stressed in his short speech was the need for innovative, sustainable energy solutions to come to Puerto Rico — solutions that would survive a storm like Hurricane Maria, or at least prove more durable than the previous power grid.
“We want to be preventative for the future,” Miranda said. “There are going to be more hurricanes.”
Miranda expressed gratitude for the efforts of the current cast of “Hamilton” in Chicago, who put on a benefit concert, “Rise Up for Puerto Rico,” Oct. 30 at the Greenhouse Theater Center (2257 N. Lincoln Ave.). The concert raised funds for the organization United for Puerto Rico.
“I’m really proud of [the cast] and all the work they continue to do,” Miranda said. “I think they’ve been really good neighbors and they’ve been treated as wonderful neighbors [in Chicago].”
During a brief Q&A session with reporters following his speech, Miranda answered a question from a Columbia College student reporter who asked how college students could get involved. He encouraged students to donate to the Hispanic Federation online and participate in donation drives around Chicago. He also said that anyone can get involved, even if that means just spreading the word about ways to help Puerto Rico.
“Your voice is not nothing,” Miranda said. “Your voice, as a matter of fact, is everything.”
Miranda concluded by saying that until “a sense of normalcy” returns to Puerto Rico, engaging in activism on the island’s behalf will be his new “full-time gig.”