Lin-Manuel Miranda threw down yesterday when he spit an ill freestyle next to President Barack Obama, during the Hamilton cast's trip to the White House. Today he continued to impress us after speaking in front of Congress about the financial crisis in Puerto Rico.
Standing alongside Congressional Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer, Miranda spoke about the Puerto Rico he remembers from his childhood. The playwright, composer, and actor grew up in the upper Manhattan area of New York City but spent his summers with his grandparents in Puerto Rico, where he experienced a complete cultural immersion, "learning to live in Puerto Rico and fall in love with my culture and fall in love with my people."
Miranda highlighted the Puerto Rican plight, which often goes unrecognized by mainstream media. The island is currently in $70 billion worth of debt and Congress has yet to come up with a plan for helping the United States' commonwealth resolve its debt. Yesterday Senate Democrats introduced a bill to alleviate the financial burden, which is already being met by Republican opposition. However, as Miranda emphasized, "This is not a bipartisan issue, it's not a Republican issue or Democratic issue. What we need is the ability to restructure and get Puerto Rico out of the hole it's in."
The crisis has resulted in thousands of Puerto Ricans fleeing the island looking for work at a record high rate. In 2014, 84,000 residents moved to the U.S. mainland, a 38 percent jump from 2010. Miranda expressed his joy in being able to advocate on behalf of the Puerto Rican people:
"I'm happy to speak on behalf of my island, my people, who are, by the way, American citizens — they fight in our wars, they pay taxes, they don't get to vote for President of the United States, which is why Puerto Ricans [in the U.S.] have a duty to speak on their behalf."
It's particularly important that he remind people that the Puerto Rican cause is an American one since people seemed to have lost their damn minds when Marc Anthony, an American citizen, sang "God Bless America" at the MLB All-Star Game in 2013.
Now what Puerto Rico needs is more of its citizens who've found success to highlight the needs of the island. If Congress gets its way, it'll continue to allow its bipartisan habits to allow the island to slip further into debt. We need Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, or Marc Anthony to speak up on behalf of the over 3 million Puerto Ricans still living on the island to make sure that their plight is not dismissed by Washington politicians.