Lin-Manuel Miranda reminds Congress Puerto Rico still needs help


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By Ariana Portalatin

Thousands marched in Washington, D.C., during the Nov. 19 Unity March for Puerto Rico, including “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who continues to urge a neglectful Congress to make the humane decision to increase relief efforts in the island after Category 4 Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the U.S. territory in September.

The island of 3.4 million U.S. citizens still struggles for basic needs such as food, electricity, clean water and medicine nearly two months after the storm hit. The storm forced 140,000 Puerto Ricans to flee their homes for refuge in the U.S. mainland.

President Donald Trump selfishly rated relief efforts a 10 out of 10 in October, even though photos at the same time showed surgeons using cellphone lights to see while performing operations. Although the current death toll from the hurricane is approximately 51, the actual number is likely to be much higher. Nine hundred people who died following the hurricane were cremated before they could be examined for an official cause of death by coroners, according to an Oct. 27 article from The Hill. Congress has stood idle as relief is slow to come to the island, leaving millions struggling to survive.

“We could keep raising money, but it’s not going to do any good if the government does not help us,” said Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, during the march. “All we are asking is the same treatment as the same victims in Florida and the same victims in Texas.”

Miranda, who was joined by his mother Luz Towns-Miranda and father Luis Miranda, actress Rita Moreno and celebrity chef Jose Andrés, helped lead marchers while holding a Hispanic Federation banner reading “Fight For Puerto Rico.”

The march is the most recent relief effort of Miranda, who brought together numerous music artists in October to create a song, called “Almost Like Praying,” which has raised more than $500,000 from downloads. Miranda explained during an Oct. 6 interview with NBC that the song signifies the importance of action.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Miranda said. “We need supplies, we need aid, we need a government response that matches the response of our people.”

During a visit to the island Nov. 7, he announced a partnership with the Hispanic Federation—a nonprofit organization founded by his father—for a $2.5 million hurricane recovery fund, but noted at the Nov. 19 march that the fund had already raised $20 million from more than 100,000 contributions from all 50 states and 23 other countries.

He is also asking the U.S. government to eliminate the island’s debt, which reached nearly $70 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Miranda accepted the well-deserved President’s Merit Award at the Latin Grammys Nov. 16 for his relief efforts, which he also dedicated to Puerto Rico.

All of Miranda’s efforts have been successful in keeping Puerto Rico in the public eye as Congress forgets about its own people. Trump has mocked the island, blamed it for its own turmoil and has compared its damage to that of Hurricane Katrina in an effort to undervalue the island’s destitution, all the while celebrating the government’s efforts as if they are more than lazy.

Although the public’s work to bring relief to the island shows true compassion to help others in need, the public should not have to compensate where Congress lacks. It is the government’s job to take care of its citizens, and that includes those who are not on the mainland.