In a deeply personal op-ed in the New York Times, "Hamilton" creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda made an urgent plea to Congress to take steps to protect Puerto Rico from the "fiscal and humanitarian crisis."
"What Puerto Rico needs, as a first step, is what almost any other company or government has — the ability to restructure its debt," Miranda writes. "Congress can make that happen."
While the acclaimed Broadway composer was not born in Puerto Rico, his parents are from the island. He remembers walking through his parents' town of Vega Alta, waving to business owners and people in the streets. He writes that he remembers "feeling a sense of community that often eluded me back in New York."
"In Vega Alta, I was “el nene de Luisito, que se fue a Nueva York” (“The son of Luisito, who left for New York”) but welcomed every summer as a cherished member of the community, despite my halting Spanglish," he writes.
Miranda channeled a letter Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1771 after a hurricane ravaged his home island of St. Croix. "I’m invoking Hamilton’s words today, in this plea for relief for Puerto Rico," Miranda writes.
"More than 150 schools on the island have closed," Miranda writes. "San Jorge Children’s Hospital, Puerto Rico’s largest pediatric hospital, has been forced to close two wings and 40 rooms, and cannot afford to hire the nurses it needs."
While institutions like schools and hospitals close throughout Puerto Rico, an exodus has been increasing, Miranda writes. Almost 9 percent of the population has fled the island, with most heading the continental U.S. In 2015 alone as many as 84,000 people left, many of whom are doctors, engineers or business owners.
Miranda also points out that the $72 million Puerto Rico owes in debts is equal to 68 percent of the island's entire GDP. He writes that economic development and progress cannot happen in those economic conditions.
"There are remedies when governments run up debt," he writes. "If Puerto Rico were an American city, it could declare bankruptcy, as Detroit did in 2013. If it were a state, the federal government would surely have already declared emergency measures to help the most vulnerable."
Miranda's last point empghasizes that taking action to help Puerto Rico is not a partisan issue. Neither Domocrats nor Republicans are solely responsible for the debt crisis, so he write that it is Congress' duty to begin working on restructuring loans.
"Congress, please don’t play politics with the lives of 3.5 million Americans," he writes. "Succor the miserable and lay up a treasure in heaven. We are counting on you."