Reviews | Lin-Manuel, Luis Miranda: How to Help Puerto Rico After Hurricane Fiona

Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator of “Hamilton” and “In The Heights”. Her father, Luis A. Miranda Jr., is a philanthropist and political strategist.

Much of Puerto Rico is without power due to Hurricane Fiona, which hit the island on Sunday, dumping more than two feet of rain in some places, causing mudslides and destroying homes. The storm struck almost exactly five years to the day since Hurricane Maria caused unprecedented devastation in the archipelago in 2017.

For many Puerto Ricans, there is an understandable fear of “here we go again”. It is well known that Maria left more than $90 billion in damage, leaving nearly 3,000 dead and the longest blackout in US history. Some cities waited about 11 months to regain power. Had this type of disaster occurred in the Americas, the appalling lack of federal response in 2017 would have been unthinkable.

The way back was long and difficult. Only about $25 billion of the nearly $80 billion authorized by Congress after Maria arrived on the island. Emergency agencies were slow to intervene. The entire federal response was summed up by Donald Trump, who briefly came to the island and casually threw rolls of paper towels at a crowd of Guaynabo residents.

Lin-Manuel and Luis Miranda: Puerto Rico necesita ayuda ya

Maria was followed in rapid succession by multiple earthquakes in 2019 which slowed reconstruction and of course the covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Five years later the power grid is still paralyzed and provides unreliable electricity, stagnating the growth of businesses large and small. One thing is certain: more help is needed to support entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations.

But the inept federal response had a silver lining: It spawned new partnerships and creative ways of doing business. Community after community, we have seen Puerto Rico’s nonprofits rise to the challenge of rebuilding the archipelago in a more sustainable and just way. Our family has worked alongside Hispanic Federation, a Latino membership organization in the United States, which has invested more than $50 million in Puerto Rico’s recovery and funded 140 nonprofit organizations.

The federally-licensed health centers, which serve hundreds of thousands of mostly low-income Puerto Rican residents each year, were beacons of hope in the weeks after Maria and often became a gathering place for people to get together, charge their phones and store temperature-sensitive medicine. . A number of nonprofits came together after Maria to provide solar power to 16 clinics, stabilizing services in the event of future disasters. One of the centers is the Orocovis emergency room, located in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, which remained operational across Fiona when other institutions lost power.

Maria also destroyed approximately 80 percent coffee trees on the island. Coffee is central to Puerto Rico’s cultural and economic identity; it supports many families who operate small multi-generational farms. So we decided to revitalize this sector by bringing together philanthropy and business to help.

A coalition that included Nespresso, Starbucks and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, came together to distribute 2 million climate-resilient coffee plants to more than 1,100 farmers. According to a 2017 agricultural report census, 67% of coffee farms on the island are considered small businesses, generating less than US$10,000 in sales that year. Thanks to these kinds of collaborative efforts – and the leadership of local farmer organizations and the hard work of the coffee farmers themselves – Coffee production on the island has now exceeded pre-Hurricane Maria levels.

The island’s arts and culture groups have been more difficult to sustain, which are always hit hard by natural disasters – and are often the last to be resuscitated. The Flamboyan Arts Fund provided direct support to 541 artists and 106 arts organizations, including museums, theatres, arts education programs and concert halls. The fund is behind the biggest private investment in the arts in recent history and has supported many organizations after Maria damaged their facilities and deprived them of income in the months that followed. A typical grant went to the Museo de las Americas in San Juan, which lost power for more than 80 days after Maria, causing extensive damage to a key exhibit on Taínos and other indigenous groups. The grant enabled the museum to restore artifacts and reopen an immersive exhibit to the public.

All of these groups still need help now that Fiona has struck. Both storms remind us that Puerto Rico is in a state of increasing vulnerability. Solving its energy crisis, the effects of climate change and the continued migration off the island are key priorities for both the citizens of this island and the nation of which it is a part. Nonprofits cannot solve these problems on their own, but they can play a vital role in creating accessible health care, supporting the arts, and innovating in agriculture to improve the lives of people. farmers.

We call on all of our partners in philanthropy, business and the arts to join our family and invest directly in Puerto Rico.

Lynn A. Saleh