Lin-Manuel Miranda Talks Puerto Rico Benefit Song 'Almost Like Praying'
“You know how we always tell artists ‘stay in your lane’ anytime they say something remotely political? I’m trying to use what I do in service of this challenge,” Miranda tells Rolling Stone. “We’re facing a humanitarian crisis right now. And the response from our federal government is not commensurate with the previous two hurricanes, much less up to the unprecedented danger of this disaster itself.”
Miranda began work on the song, an adaptation of “Maria” from 1961 musical West Side Story, two days after the hurricane first made landfall. “I knew the name Maria was forever going to have a destructive connotation to this island,” says Miranda. “It’s also the name of my favorite song from West Side Story. So my brain was already looking for a sample to flip … And that’s what we do in hip-hop, right? We take a sample, we flip it and change the meaning. And so the hook of the song is, 'Say it soft, and it’s almost like praying.’”
But first, he sought clearance from Stephen Sondheim and the estate of Leonard Bernstein. “They gave their blessing within a day,” says Miranda. “When there’s a crisis, you call in all the favors – call the gods of musical theater! I have the great fortune to count Sondheim as a mentor and a friend. I worked with him and Bernstein on the 2009 revival of West Side Story and its Spanish translations. Sondheim wrote back immediately and said 'Yes – and what else can I do?’”
Miranda infused the number with a warm blend of dancehall, reggaeton and steel drum sounds; the result is an incendiary and highly danceable clarion call. (“If you’re gonna write a song for Puerto Rico and you can’t dance to it,” says Miranda, “you fucked up.”) Most moving is how many of Miranda’s childhood heroes, including original West Side Story cast member Rita Moreno, take turns shouting out each of the island’s 78 towns – a move Miranda says was inspired by Puerto Ricans’ heartbreaking calls across social media to find their relatives in the wake of the storm.
“There was a terrible silence,” says Miranda. “For some people days, for some people weeks. My Twitter and my Facebook were filled with friends and family listing the names of their towns. 'My grandmother is in Vega Alta, my father lives in San Juan, has anyone heard from Isabela?’ I began thinking about the towns as lyrics. What unites us in this tiny island that is 100 miles across and 35 miles north to south … Is that we’re from these towns. We ask, 'Where are you from?’ It is our link to our roots and our families.”
While enlisting collaborators for the track, Miranda says he made new friends in the process. “I broke my Rolodex and called every Latino artist I know,” he says. “And when I didn’t know them, I got on Twitter. I caused a minor uproar with Camila Cabello’s fans when I tweeted her, 'Hey I have an idea!’ I also sent a private message to Luis Fonsi, who I never met before. I cold-called and every single person said yes, without even hearing the song.”
Within a dizzying 72 hours, Miranda flew from New York to Miami and Los Angeles to be present while the artists recorded their respective verses. Yet some were still recovering in the Caribbean, where resources were scarce and internet access was spotty. “The rapper PJ Sin Suela recorded at home,” says Miranda. “But he didn’t have the bandwidth to email his verse. So he gave a memory stick to Estefan, who was there on a relief mission – she then flew it back to us. When I say 'all hands on deck,’ I’m really not fucking around!”
Riggs Morales, the executive producer behind the Hamilton Mixtape, mixed and mastered the song in the days that followed. Meanwhile, Miranda harvested stories of Puerto Rico from his collaborators, evoking tears and laughter inside the studios. This behind-the-scenes footage will air as part of a televised benefit, airing commercial-free on Telemundo Saturday, October 7th.
“I asked everyone, 'What are your favorite memories from Puerto Rico?’” says Miranda. “I will never forget seeing Rubén Blades breaking down about meeting Hector LaVoe for the first time. I’ll never forget Marc Anthony talking about wearing suits before getting on a plane [to the United States] so they’d look white when they landed … And Gilberto Santa Rosa, who sang at my wedding. He was a salsero, but grew up in the same part of town as Daddy Yankee. They could not make two more different genres, but music saved their lives.
"The way music comes out of every frog, every tree, every molecule of the place,” reflects Miranda, “That’s something we share.”
The Starfire Solo from a First Generation American’s Point of View
Since the Starfire solo
series came out, I’ve seen a considerable amount of criticism for the title. To
me, this criticism makes sense because of the sheer amount of infantilism, slut
shaming, and general OOC-ness Starfire endures. However, I’m not going to talk
about that as you can probably guess from the title. @hellakoriandr wrote a great, all-encompassing post about that here, that
pretty much covers all the bases, if you would like to know more.
writing this post because there’s a common defense used for the solo that
I would like to address: “Starfire
isn’t dumb, she’s an immigrant ignorant of Earth’s culture. If you call out
this characterization, you’re xenophobic and racist.”
first generation “American.” My parents were both born in Costa Rica, my entire
family is from and lives in Costa Rica. My sister and I are the first in our
family to be born in a different country and grow up here. American culture is
so very different from our own; everyone in our family speaks Spanish as our
first language, and English as our second.
This is where that
defense of the solo is personally offensive to me and my family.
Aside from RHaTO,
been increasingly portrayed as not just ignorant of Earth’s culture, but as
dumb in general. Starfire’s
characterization took a step back in the Teen Titans 2003
animated series. As much as I love the show, her TV portrayal only retains
about 20 percent of Starfire’s original character.
Her style of speaking is
way exaggerated, awkwardly saying “the” before nouns; repeatedly making language mistakes like “the mall of shopping” and so forth. However, at her core she was
not stupid and displayed intelligence in episodes such as Troq and Bethrothed. She understood
social cues and I think that’s one aspect of her the writers got right. Although she
comes from a different culture, she understands social norms and doesn’t do
anything over-the-top odd. It’s obvious the writers were just
trying to make her seem more foreign, even if they do it in unimaginative and
Her characterization takes another big step backwards in the 2013 series Teen Titans Go!, a straightforward dumbed-down comedy version of the original show. TTG! focuses on slapstick humor rather
than clever jokes, which makes sense, because its intended audience is
comprised of 6-11
year olds. Every character is a caricature of their 2003 TV series self, so it’s not surprising that Starfire has been demoted to the role of pretty and dumb but naively,
nice girl. All glimpses of Starfire’s intelligence are lost, and she mostly
goes through the show being oblivious and “too nice” for this world. The other characters suffered this transition too. Robin is obsessive, painfully awkward, and
tyrannical. Raven is secretly into Pretty Pretty Pegasus.
So I don’t really see the harm. It’s not like a kids’ show is the reason DC
is going to suddenly start portraying Dick Grayson as an emotionally
unstable jerk in his comic iteration, right? It wouldn’t make any sense to translate a character that’s unrealistic,
stereotypical, and aimed solely at young children to a comic book series
marketed towards young women, right?
Starfire takes a final
blow in the Starfire solo series, and it goes beyond Teen Titans Go!. She
doesn’t understand cultural norms to the point where it’s unrealistic and
awkward. Beyond cultural differences, Starfire simply acts dumb. It’s insulting
to me and everyone living in a
country with different cultural values than their own, that people are attributing
Starfire’s sheer lack of intelligence to her foreignness. Ignorance does not equal lack of intelligence, and Starfire is exhibiting both.
When Starfire shakes
baking soda into her mouth, she’s not being ignorant of the fact that baking
soda isn’t something you eat. She is acting illogically.
The fact that she didn’t
read the warning on the side of the box which is made so plainly obvious to the
reader, or that she didn’t maybe just dip her finger in the substance and
sample it before flipping the box over her mouth, or maybe just think “hey,
this isn’t a bubbling liquid like the other sodas” is illogical. I don’t know
if anyone under the age of ten would do that in a foreign country, let alone a foreign world. The fact that people are labelling this behavior
as one of immigrants is beyond insulting. The only reason this panel is in this
series is so the audience thinks of Starfire as a naive, helpless girl that
needs people to help guide her through life. This is infantilization and not a characteristic of immigrants.
see a lot of defenses of her speech patterns, which I would understand if she
had not already learned the English language perfectly.
sounds like a joke to me. She asks, “Will I hurt it?” I’m not familiar with
Tamaran, but I’m pretty sure that if you want to eat something you think is
alive, you have to hurt it. Please, tell me again how this is pure cultural
almost as if this panel was made to make me angry. These sparkling thought
bubbles show up every issue and sure, it’s a cute idea. ‘Hey, let’s put
pictures inside bubbles, that sounds good.’ But it comes off incredibly dumb; she has the thought bubbles because she doesn’t understand American sayings and idioms, which infuriates me.
up knowing more English than my parents, I’ve had a lifetime of family members asking me to explain sayings and idioms. They’re probably what my parents
struggle with the most, even after knowing English for over 20 years. Sayings
and idioms are used more often than you’d think. You can know a language
perfectly and still get tripped up on them because there’s no rules to them.
But I’ll be damned if my parents or anyone who doesn’t know English as their
first language ever thought that “have a drink and meal on me” for a
second meant actually eating food off a person’s head.
are several other instances that offend me if people are attributing all of
Kory’s actions to cultural ignorance, but this post is long enough. This post
is directed at people who think that Starfire’s cultural ignorance is an excuse
for the lazy and demeaning writing that portrays Starfire this way. Your
desperate attempts to defend this problematic title is offensive. My people,
and immigrants in general, are not your way out. I don’t know if the
writers use the same excuse, but I doubt they are going to admit they’re writing
her as an idiot. Please stop portraying Starfire’s lack of intelligence as the
behavior of all immigrants. It’s xenophobic on top of an already sexist title.
I was actually excited
when I heard about the series. Starfire is one of my favorite characters and
the series was originally described as following her journey as she learns about earth’s culture and finds her place in society. As a first
generation American, that subject interests me greatly and I saw overwhelming
potential for the series. Starfire’s ignorance of earth’s culture in New Teen Titans was the most I’ve ever related to
a character in terms of cultural identity. People assumed she was dumb and she
would prove them wrong. She learned to respect earth’s social norms while still
staying true to her Tamaranean identity. Eventually, she even considered earth
more of a home than Tamaran, despite its vastly different culture. She was an
inspiration to me, especially since I never felt as though I belonged in
neither Costa Rica nor the U.S. She was an incredible example of dealing with
cultural discrepancies beyond language barriers for me and others like me.
Teen Titans v1 #31)
Long live New Teen Titans
Starfire. She’s my hero.
It’s been a looonnnggg time since I got on a Sample Pack Saturday Flip for the week!!! Shout out to @maschinemasters and @billyblass for this weeks Flames!!!! @reiatsurecords #MutantSoul #BXMutant #ElevateTheCulture #RespectTheProducers #NYC #TheBronx #MusicProducer #Artist #ILoveMusic #Beatmaker #MaschineMasters #MPCMasters #ExperimentalHipHop #UnderGroundHipHop #BoomBapHipHop #IGBeatClub #Sampling #Chopping #Cratedigger #MPC #MPCRenaissance #Instrumental #HipHopBeats #HipHopInstrumentals #Practice #MagnitHandz #boombap #reiatsurecords #SamplePackSaturday
At the Museum, it’s not just biological specimens that need preservation. Making sure the Museum’s vast collection of cultural artifacts will be around for decades to come requires delicate handling—and creative solutions. Case in point: the specialized cases for housing fabrics made between 3000 and 1000 B.C., which were discovered in a burial site by Museum archaeologists working during the 1940s in Huaca Prieta, along the northern coast of Peru.
To the naked eye, the fabrics look like plain burlap. But a glance through a microscope reveals that the individual strands of these unassuming textiles were once dyed and woven into intricate forms, including geometric patterns and images of local wildlife such as condors. These details give researchers clues to the environment, aesthetics, and beliefs of ancient cultures.
Making both sides of the weave accessible to researchers presented an interesting challenge. To avoid the wear-and-tear that inevitably comes when a sample is lifted and flipped over, collections staffers in the Division of Anthropology built custom cardboard supports that can be opened from either side. Viewers can flip the support for an up-close look at both sides, all without ever needing to touch the fabric.
She’d needed space.
There were too many people in his small apartment and she felt like the
walls were closing in. There were too
many memories there in the first place, too much or Robin that was hastily left
behind when they had returned to Storybrooke.
She couldn’t bear to be with it, couldn’t handle them all looking at her
as if she would breakdown at any moment.
When she announced she was going for a walk and sped out the door, Emma chased
her down the hall and forbade her to go out at night on her own.
“Just around the block,” she’d practically pleaded, begging
her friend to understand that she couldn’t let them see her like this. “Just
long enough to be able to breath.”
Although breathing isn’t something she ever thinks she’ll do again. The air doesn’t seem to fill her lungs the
way it did when he was here, when his hand warmed hers, when his fingers pulled
tangles lose from her hair. “I just need
to not be here,” she’d confessed and knew Emma understood. The apartment that had been Robin’s had also
been Neal’s; there were layers of memories covered in paint and dust that
neither woman wanted to face or forget.
Emma doesn’t know if it’s the desperation in the queen’s
voice or the pain in her eyes, but she’s forcing her phone in to Regina’s
hands, bidding her to “Be careful.”
Adding, “If you’re not back in an hour I’m sending everyone out looking for
you,” as Regina answers her threat with a grateful nod and disappears down the
Regina took a deep breath the moment the night air hit her
skin, then she walked. Turned corner after corner, looked in windows of diners
and bodegas, thumbed through magazines at newsstand, and somehow ended up here.
She doesn’t know what possesses her to do it. She’s never once thought about getting a
tattoo in this realm or any other. She’s
hidden enough scars over the years not to want anymore, but here she is in the
‘parlor’ that smells like incense and rubbing alcohol flipping through a
leather bound portfolio while Spike (she wonders what came first, his name or
the sliver metal spikes sticking through disproportionately large ear lobes) is
setting up his station in the back corner.
She’s taken aback by his appearance at first, figures most that aren’t
from his world would be, but he has kind eyes and made her feel at ease the
moment she stumbled through his door at 3 am, nervous in this strange world
without magic that differs so drastically from her sleepy little costal town.
He comes back up to her when he sees she’s not actually
looking at the samples she’s flipping through; her head is in the book, but her
mind is elsewhere. He pulls the it from
her hands, waits a moment for her to meet his eyes. “Who did you lose?” he asks.
She’ll never know why, but Regina spends the next several
minutes pouring out her heart to this tattooed stranger. He doesn’t say anything else, doesn’t offer
comfort or condolences, just grabs a pad of paper and begins sketching. When they’re both satisfied, he helps her lay
on her side with her sweater rucked up.
She’s still fully covered, he’s made sure of that, and she smiles her
appreciation for his steady hands that do not wander. She flinches at the first buzz of the needle,
the sound echoing through the otherwise quiet space.
“The sound is the worst part,” he assures her and offers to
turn on music to help drown out the noise of the machine. She tells him ‘sure’ (in a voice that shakes
too much for her liking), because it’s entirely too quiet and she is starting
to hear herself think. Expecting some
unintelligible grunge music, her eyes go wide when the notes of Scheherazade
fill the room. He only smiles at her wide
eyed surprise. As he leans closer to
begin his work she sees the words lest ye
be judged running down his arm in an elegant script.
She closes her eyes and relaxes under his touch as he brings
the buzzing needle to her ribs over and over.
It hurts, but not like she expected.
In fact, she’s grateful for the constant burn; it reminds her that she
can feel something other than empty.
It’s over quickly; Spike was true to his word. She’s wiped off and bandaged up, just as the
last notes of the lone violin float through the air. They both hold their breath to sustain the
emotion until the vibrato fades to a deafening silence.
The moment is shattered by the ringing of her phone. She fumbles through her pockets to silence it
only for it to begin ringing again then beeping with the arrival of text
messages and voicemails. “It seems you
are needed,” Spike laughs at the ire in her eyes. She’s barely past her predetermined hour and
if any of them think that she’ll be subject to a curfew they’ve another thing
It rings again, SAVIOR, her phone displays and she punches
the screen to answer with enough force to break. “What Emma!”
The artist continues to watch her, maybe he should give her
some privacy, but it is his shop after all.
He can’t count the emotions that cross her face as she listens silently
to whatever this Emma is telling her. Her
grip is white-knuckled around the phone, she’s breathing faster and faster, and
her body sways slightly before he leans her against the counter with a hand at
her elbow. “You have to go,” he tells
her as she lowers the phone with a shaking hand. She’s nodding, but he’s not sure she’s aware
of anything at the moment.
Regina won’t remember him putting her coat back on her; she
won’t remember him asking where she stays and tripping over her words until he
pieces together that it’s the building 3 blocks north. She won’t remember him walking her out into
the street, up those blocks, then up 4 flights of stairs until he’s knocking at
a nondescript apartment door. She’ll
only remember that door opening to him.
Piercing blue eyes flooded with relief when he takes her in, dimples
deeply set into stubbled cheeks as he smiles and pulls her into his arms then
into the apartment, closing the door to the stranger he hadn’t even noticed.
When Spike returns to his shop he can feel a change he can’t
quite describe. The air is charged,
everything feels more alive somehow. There
is no doubt in his mind that the man he delivered his client to (he’d never
even asked her name) was the same that her tears had fallen for. He knows he was part of something, some magic
still to be found in this cruel world.
There in bed, spooned together, when his hand comes to rest
as it always does, curling around her ribs just below her breast. She flinches, barely, but he notices
“What is it?” he asks, lifting his palm away from her.
nothing. I forgot about it,
actually. It’s just a silly little…” she rambles, linking their hands, bringing
his back to wrap around her.
“Regina?” he asks again because she’s clearly avoiding the
issue. “A silly little what?”
“I got a tattoo,” she blurts out. Then explains, “In New York.
Before you–,” she can’t help but laugh at herself. When did she become this nervous person? Especially with him? Never with him. “I got a tattoo in New York right before you figured
out how to get back,” she tells him, pulling herself back together. “It’s where I was when you showed up at the apartment.”
“May I see?” he asks, but he’s already reaching to turn on
the bedside light and his fingers have slipped under the t-shirt she
wears. It’s his, he notices, and wonders
if she’d slept in it the entire time he’s been gone, but makes no mention of it
just yet. Regina pulls her arms to cover
her face. She’s suddenly embarrassed,
bashful even. She’d never intended anyone
to see this new part of her.
His hand splays against her stomach; the other bunches the
shirt near her armpit so he can get a proper look. It’s small, delicate, a silhouetted bird perched
upon a black-lined arrow resting just below her breast, just where he
held—holds. He stares at it longer than
it would take to admire the simple design; seeing everything behind its
meaning. He shifts a bit higher, bends
his head and places his lips to her marked flesh. Leaves them there, breathing against her “It’s
“I needed it,” she tells him, arms now resting over her head
so she can look down at him. “But you’re
here now so I guess I don’t need it anymore.”
She smiles at him, pulls at his shoulders until he leaves her ribs for
her lips, kissing there before settling on the pillow beside her.
“I like that I’m a part of you,” he breathes against her as
he maneuvers his arm under her neck, his hand holding just below the new
“You always will be,” she assures him, fitting herself more
securely into his side as sleep begins to cloud her mind. “Promise me you’ll never be a memory,” she
whispers against his arm, against his own ink that marks him as hers.
He sighs into her hair.
Won’t answer, can’t. And she
knows he can’t, knows he won’t ever lie to her and to promise her such a thing
would mean inevitably breaking a promise.
Whether it’s another tragedy that fate seems fit to bestow upon them, or
inevitable, but blissful old age, they will part again. So he stays quiet, presses closer against her
back, squeezes her just that much tighter, whispers ‘I love you,’ into her
hair. It’s enough.