Lin-Manuel Miranda Raps a Plea to Congress to Help Puerto Rico (Video)
Puerto Rico was the main subject of yesterday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, an HBO show that merges comedy and news-telling in a format that approaches issues around the world from a highly detailed perspective. Hosted by John Oliver, last night’s installment aimed its focus on Puerto Rico, the United States territory which is facing a debilitating economic crisis. Burdened with $70 billion in debt, the island nation of three-million residents has a poverty rate of 45% – a figure nearly impossible to fathom. Oliver brilliantly unpacks the nuances of the Puerto Rican situation, namely that despite being American citizens, Puerto Ricans cannot rely on the United States government for fiscal aid in the same way Americans can. With that in mind, the episode devotes much of its airtime to illustrating just how dire the situation in Puerto Rico is and how ludicrous the lack of action at the hands of the U.S. government has been with regard to helping resolve the crisis. In the final segment, a special guest is invited to plead directly with Congress in a heartfelt and poetic series of raps that beautifully and succinctly explain the quagmire that is Puerto Rico’s economic state.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Hamilton – a Broadway play which may well go down in history as the biggest crossover hit in musical theater history. Before playwright, however, he is an American of Puerto Rican descent, one who grew up in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood. Growing up, he spent considerable time in Puerto Rico, visiting family in the town of Vega Alta. That perspective and his introduction into mainstream popular culture makes him a perfect spokesperson for the issues facing Puerto Ricans, at least for American audiences. As such, he performed a musical number that merged his Hip-Hop sensibilities with his deep love for his motherland, and his plea is touching. “Hopin’ to God John Oliver’s comical dissertation resonates with the Congress that got us in this situation,” he says before accusing congressional leaders of turning their backs on Puerto Ricans once American interests have been met. “Along with suicidal tax incentive declarations – ‘yeah, we’ll pay your bonds, first close the hospitals, fuck the patients’,” he says of the lame-duck politicians. In closing, he says “it’s non-partisan, the hard part is in convincing Congress Puerto Rico matters,” asking them to “pass legislation that will help us ease our grief.”