In 1990, Miranda founded the nonprofit Hispanic Federation, focused on health and social services for immigrant communities. By the end of the decade, he had also started a consulting group that helped political candidates address the concerns of Latino voters. As his clients, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and Kirsten Gillibrand were elected senators from New York. When we see Clinton greet him in the documentary, it’s with words that closely echo Aaron Burr’s phrase for Hamilton: “You have been going nonstop!” And in addition to bringing Hamilton to Puerto Rico last year, Miranda chairs a program to develop Latino audiences on Broadway.
Miranda’s favorite movie is The Unsinkable Molly Brown, a fantasy about a small-town kid whose drive propels her to success. (“He was raised on a steady diet of American bootstrap narratives,” Lin-Manuel chuckles in the documentary.) Yet while Miranda’s own work schedule, with about five hours of sleep a night, subscribes to the get-a-lot-further-by-working-a-lot-harder ethos, his political priorities recognize the need to help people whose circumstances might constrain their drive.
We spoke about his nonstop pace, Puerto Rican–diaspora politics, the protests that challenged Hamilton in San Juan, and what it will take for Democrats to win in November.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner: What gave you the drive you recognized in The Unsinkable Molly Brown?
Luis Miranda: That’s the way I am wired. I live with this motto: Is there anything else I need to do before I go to bed? I do an inventory of everything I set up as goals for the day, and usually I get out of bed again and answer that one more email and watch that last candidate video that I needed to approve. I believe that everybody is the same way, and if they’re not, they’d better change. There’s just too much shit to do! Sometimes I get to Lin-Manuel’s, and I jump into action. He says: [slowly] “Dad, how was your day?” I say: “It will be better when we handle this situation!”
Pollack-Pelzner: When did that drive become harnessed to politics for you?
Miranda: When I started getting involved in New York politics, it was NYU student politics. It was: How do you increase the number of minority students in this PhD program? How do you hire faculty and supervisors who are more diverse? Then I realized I was in a community that had lots of needs. How do I get involved with others, with institutions fighting for better schools, fighting the overcrowding of schools in immigrant neighborhoods? I saw government as a way to resolve those problems. Then I went into the nonprofit sector. You continue to figure out how to accomplish the goal of social justice. Partisan politics is one more way of doing that, by electing people who will better represent you.