Puerto Rico: Finding Our Best Way to Help

Students hear the performance of Lin–Manuel Miranda's song "Almost Like Praying," a benefit for the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Students discuss the song, see a video about how others have responded to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico, and consider how they might use their own talents and strengths to help.  


Show the following tweet by printing it out or projecting it on the screen for all to see.

Ask students:

  • Have you seen this tweet? 
  • Do you know what it’s about?
  • What can you distinguish in the image?
  • Who is Lin–Manuel Miranda?
  •  What do you think the tweet refers to?

Elicit and explain that Puerto Rican American actor Lin–Manuel Miranda is best known for creating and starring in the hit Broadway musicals Hamilton and In the Heights. 

In the weeks after Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, Miranda worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the hurricane’s devastating impact and to get people to donate time, money, and supplies to help the island’s people. As of mid–October, few of Puerto Rico's 3.4 million people had electricity, and many struggled to find clean water, food, shelter, and medical care. Recovery is expected to take years.

Miranda openly criticized the U.S. government’s lack of response to the unfolding crisis in Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States, and whose residents are American citizens. In a headline–making tweet, Miranda even told President Trump that he was "going straight to hell" after the president attacked the mayor of San Juan (the island’s capital and largest city) rather than focusing on relief efforts.

On October 5, Lin Manuel Miranda came out with a new version of the song "Maria" from the famous 1950s Broadway musical West Side Story. Miranda’s new version of the song is called "Almost Like Praying." This is what the tweet above is promoting.

Proceeds from Miranda's song will benefit the Unidos Disaster Relief Fund.The fund is managed by the Hispanic Federation, a leading Latino nonprofit organization with experience in providing disaster–relief assistance to Latinos in the U.S. and Latin America. According to the organization, all money collected through the Unidos Fund will "help hurricane victims and the recovery efforts through fellow community and civic organizations in Puerto Rico." The aim is to help Puerto Rico "address both the immediate emergency relief needed as well as the long–term need for major infrastructure investment, including hardening the island's electric grid to be able to withstand future severe weather."



Almost Like Praying’

Play Almost Like Praying.  The song’s lyrics name the 78 towns and municipalities in Puerto Rico. Miranda said the verses were inspired by all the people who sent out messages on social media after the hurricane, hoping to find their friends and family.

The video clip shows scenes of the many famous Latino performers who came together with Miranda to share their joy and concern, but also their pain and sense of urgency about what is happening in Puerto Rico. The performers include Marc Anthony, Ruben Blades, Camila Cabello, Pedro Capo, Dessa, Gloria Estefan, Fat Joe, Luis Fonsi, Juan Luis Guerra, Alex Lacamoire, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, Rita Moreno, Ednita Nazario, Joell Ortiz, Anthony Ramos, Gina Rodriguez, Gilberto Santa Rosa, PJ Sin Suela, Tommy Torres, and Ana Villafañe.

Ask students to reflect on the song and video by asking some or all of the following questions:

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about the song/clip?  Explain.
  • What is the song about? 
  • How do these celebrities make that point?
  • What other efforts supporting the people of Puerto Rico have you heard about?

Puerto Ricans Still Need Help

Show the following ABC Nightline News video (7:15 min) at:  http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/puerto–rico–aid–hurricane–maria–destruction–50195598

Discuss the video using some or all of the following questions:

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about this video?
  • What did you learn about the aftermath of the hurricane that you didn’t already know?
  • What did you learn about people helping (each other) out?
  • What are some of the obstacles?
  • What is the criticism?

An alternative, shorter video (4:32 min) to consider playing can be found at the end of this USA Today article:  https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2017/10/06/lin–manuel–miranda–puerto–rico–trump–and–his–song–hurricane–relief/734878001/

Use the same questions to debrief the clip. 

Drawing on Our Strengths to Help

Lin Manuel Miranda and other performers used their skills and connections to support the people of Puerto Rico in a way that drew on their strengths. The people in the video did the same.

  • What are ways that you and our community can draw our strengths to help? 
  • What are things we could do in this class/school/community?



Consider playing the song the song Almost Like Praying again.  Invite students to share one thing they’re grateful for in their lives.