Lin-Manuel Miranda returns to 'Hamilton' for a limited Puerto Rico run with a message: The island is open for business
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- When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in September, 2017, the island saw carnage and devastation.
- More than a year later, the island has made tremendous strides toward recovery, especially in the tourism sector. However, there's still work to be done.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and original star of the hit musical "Hamilton," brought the show to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a limited run to raise funds for the island and promote the power of tourism spending here.
- Business Insider had the opportunity to speak with Miranda at a post-show press conference on opening night. Here's what he had to say about Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, and why you should visit the island for your next vacation.
"I never thought I'd see winter in Puerto Rico."When Lin-Manuel Miranda made his first visit to the island after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria, one of the first things that stood out to him was that the trees were bare - the leaves had all been stripped by the storm's 155 mile-per-hour winds.
Today, the summer sun is back in the sky.
That's the message that Miranda hopes to spread as he resumes the titular role in a special, three-week run of "Hamilton" in the Puerto Rican capital city, San Juan.
More than a year after the September 2017 storm killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed most of the island's infrastructure, Puerto Rico has made a remarkable recovery. Major resorts, severely damaged in the storm, closed for repairs and took advantage of the chance to make major renovations. Landmark properties like the superb El San Juan continue to re-open, with 75% open now, and much of the remaining lodging stock set to re-open within the next year. The island's roads are cleared and mostly fully repaired, and tourism is nearing pre-hurricane rates.
However, stepping away from the polished beachfront resorts and cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, the island is still hurting, and likely will be for years. Blue tarps covering missing roofs are still abundant throughout residential areas, and manufacturing - the largest industry on the island by percent of GDP - remains down from pre-hurricane levels.
That makes tourism - which already represented more than 7% of the island's GDP, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council - more vital to Puerto Rico than ever.Miranda - whose father was born in Puerto Rico and who spent his childhood summers on the island - helped bring the limited-run production of his hit musical to San Juan as a fundraiser for the Flamboyan Arts Fund, a foundation run by his family to support the arts in Puerto Rico.
However, he's hoping that in addition to raising money - a quarter of tickets are available for $10, but prices range up to $5,000 - the production will bring more attention to the island's ongoing recovery, its attraction as a destination, and the powerful contribution made by tourism dollars spent here.
"People are going to come to Puerto Rico because of Hamilton, and hopefully spend a lot of money here in small businesses on the island," Miranda said at a press conference immediately after Hamilton's opening performance. "But they're also going to see how much work is left to be done."
Several major corporate backers have joined with Miranda to contribute and raise awareness of the production. American Express brought 100 cardholders to a weekend in San Juan as part of a travel package, inclusive of flights, hotel, some meals, and tickets to the show - the package was branded as part of a "Shop Small" promotion, intended to promote spending at small businesses (AmEx provided me with access to the entire package, including transportation and lodging), while travel companies like JetBlue and Marriott donated money and held promotions and contests surrounding the show.
The weekend couldn't have been a better one for the opening of the show, and culmination of the awareness campaign. Temperatures in the 80s and copious sun in San Juan - with just a few occasional clouds and quick-passing showers - highlighted the appeal of the entire island's climate during the harshest winter months in the US, while Miranda's performance was as meaningful for the crowd as it was for him, drawing standing ovations during and after the performance.
"I think it's tied with the first one," Miranda said to reporters after the show, in answer to a question about whether the Puerto Rican opening night was the most emotional performance he's given in the role. "I just love this island so much and want them to be proud of me."Subscribe to our newsletter.
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