I Wrote My Way Out: A Jubilant Hamilton Comes to Puerto Rico

Miranda/Hamilton with the Puerto Rican flag. Photo by Chicago Tribune

Marking the 264th birthday of the "ten-dollar Founding Father without a father," Lin-Manuel Miranda has brought his extraordinary musical "Hamilton" to a still-ravaged Puerto Rico as part of a fundraising effort to "bring the artistic pulse of the community back to life” after 2017's Hurricane Maria. A fierce Trump critic and defender of Puerto Rico, where his parents were born and he maintains close ties, Miranda is reprising the title role to retell the unlikely story of Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, born on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies and survivor of a hardscrabble childhood on St. Croix - "Immigrants. We get the job done." Asks the show's resentful Aaron Burr: "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a/Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten/Spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor/Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?" Miranda answers the question with an electrifying mix of hip hop, jazz, verve. (Yes, it's as  good as the hype.) Now, the show notes, "262 years later, Alexander Hamilton has made it home to the Caribbean."


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Friday, Miranda kicked off a 24-performance, three-week residency at San Juan's Centro De Bellas Artes in hopes of raising $15 million for the Flamboyan Arts Fund, with a large number of $10 seats going to island residents through a lottery. Miranda has wanted to bring "Hamilton" to Puerto Rico for years. Citing then-and-now parallels, from his own father's story to Hamilton's leaving after a hurricane destroyed his island, he views its new venue as the "closing of a poetic circle" - especially given that the eloquence of Hamilton's account of the hurricane inspired neighbors to pay for his education in America. "In the wake of Maria, (our) stories are important," he says. "Artists (tell) those stories in a way that resonates." After an emotional opening night met with multiple standing ovations, a tearful Miranda draped himself in a Puerto Rican flag. Earlier, he said he hoped Hamilton would bring both money and awareness to the island he loves: "(People) are going to see blue tarps...and how much work is left to be done."

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