July 23, 2018, WFMY
This report is the latest in a number of NPQ articles examining how Puerto Rican nonprofits are faring and what they are doing to revitalize the island.
After landing in the US territory last Sunday, Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright-actor Lin-Manuel Miranda announced that all proceeds from January performances of the musical Hamilton in Puerto Rico would be donated to the Flamboyan Foundation’s new Flamboyan Arts Fund. Miranda explains more in this exclusive interview on TODAY with Savannah Guthrie.
Initial grantees of the new fund are: Andanza Dance School & Company, Create, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Y No Habia Luz Theater Company, and Teatro of the University of Puerto Rico. Miranda hopes the fund will eventually grow to at least $15 million to help many more of the island’s artists and art institutions rebuild.
Miranda, largely of Puerto Rican descent, frequently visited the Commonwealth as a child and teenager. Miranda is looking forward to reprising his role as Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico, set for January 8th through the 27th at the University of Puerto Rico’s Teatro UPR in San Juan.
“The goal wasn’t just artistic satisfaction, but how can we leave Puerto Rico a little better than we found it?” said Miranda, whose parents are from the island.
Hurricane Maria caused damage estimated at more than $100 billion when it hit last September. Cultural and artistic groups across Puerto Rico have been greatly affected, losing government and nonprofit support amid an 11-year-old recession.
“This will allow us to start dreaming again, to come up with new ideas, to visit more cities. This will allow us to breathe,” Julio Morales, artistic co-director of the local theater company, Y No Habia Luz, told the Associated Press.
Initial grants from Warner Bros., Loretta and Victor Kaufman, and anonymous donors established the Flamboyan Arts Fund. Airbnb will donate a percent of fees from stays booked in Puerto Rico from June through September 2018. Banco Popular and Church’s Chicken pledged to support the new Fund, and Marriott International pledged a portion of each hotel room reservation at its 11 Puerto Rican properties from December 2018 through February 2019.
Miranda spearheaded numerous fundraising efforts since Hurricane Maria, raising more than $41 million (according to the TODAY interview linked above). One initiative recorded alongside an all-star cast of Latin artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Gina Rodriguez, Fat Joe, Gloria Estefan, Camila Cabello and Marc Anthony, was Miranda’s love song to Puerto Rico, “Almost Like Praying” (music video here). The song benefited the Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund. Long before the hurricane, after a meeting with President Barack Obama in March 2016, Miranda joined US Democratic lawmakers to call for congressional action to back a Senate bill that would allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy and significantly ease its $70 billion debt burden.
Hurricane Maria was the worst natural disaster on record to affect Puerto Rico. What first seemed like a natural disaster quickly became a long-standing infrastructural one.
The entirety of Puerto Rico was declared a Federal Disaster Zone. The power grid was effectively destroyed by the hurricane. Less than half the population had tap water, and 95 percent of the island had no cell phone service. Two weeks after the hurricane, Oxfam chose to intervene for the first time on American soil since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A timeline of FEMA’s response to Hurricane Maria can be found here, and here for statistics on power restoration in particular. Many of the efforts that are leading the recovery in Puerto Rico are grassroots organizations primarily led by women.
Though Hamilton’s take on civil society and government might grate on some elected officials, to the citizens of Puerto Rico, it will likely be a welcome call to action.—Jim Schaffer