The U.S. has always had a tradition of xenophobia, says Lin-Manuel Miranda, and our current moment is no exception.
“What you’re seeing is a particular virulent strain of a virus that has always affected our American politics, and it’s one in which when times are difficult, politicians point at the newest people in the room and say they’re the reason you don’t have a job,” Miranda said during an interview on America with Jorge Ramos.
And there’s one person who’s been pointing the finger at immigrants more than anyone recently. “I think [Donald Trump] has done an amazing job at harnessing discontent particularly,” said Miranda, who enveloped himself in U.S. history books to write, compose and star in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.
”[Trump is] the one pointing the finger and saying it’s their fault,” said Miranda, whose musical is based on a founding father of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.
Miranda is a writer, actor and rapper, but in the last year he’s also become one of the loudest voices calling attention to the financial crisis in Puerto Rico. The writer and star of the continuously sold-out musical performs almost every day of the week, but when he’s not in the theater, he makes the time to talk about what he says is quickly “becoming a humanitarian issue.”
“I see my responsibility as a particularly highly visible son of Puerto Rican parents to sort of shine the spotlight on the problems [Puerto Rico is] facing,” Miranda told Jorge Ramos during a satellite interview this week.
Puerto Rico is currently facing a severe financial crisis. This month the island could not pay a $399 million debt payment and the situation may worsen because Puerto Rico still has more than $70 billion of debt, The financial crisis is hitting the jobs market hard, with just 40% of Puerto Rican adults employed or looking for work.
Hamilton has become one of the rare theater shows that has crossed over to pop culture and Miranda is using the limelight to discuss the issues the island is facing, The musical this month was nominated for an unprecedented 16 Tony Awards, with some cast members competing against one another in the same category.
“If I can put a human face on the people that are suffering, I’m happy to do that and speak on behalf of the island and my people,” Miranda said at a press conference asking Congress to create laws that would allow the commonwealth to restructure its debt.
“If this were an American city they’d be able to declare bankruptcy and what we’re asking for is for Congress to pass a law that allows [Puerto Rico] that right,” Miranda said on America with Jorge Ramos.
Miranda was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents and has deeply personal ties to the island. He spent his summers with his paternal grandparents in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, every year until he started college.