Lin-Manuel Miranda: Roaring About All That Is Positive In New York


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Lin-Manuel Miranda in the title role of Hamilton;  photo:

Lin-Manuel Miranda was on summer break from college when he learned something about how New York was put together. He was working for a bilingual newspaper started by his father, covering an event called “Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks.” The event, put on by an Irish bar and restaurant in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, was somewhat misnamed — it featured klezmer and merengue music as well.
For Mr. Miranda, then 20, it was a vision of New York’s disparate cultures not battling one another but jamming side by side. The institutions that endured, he realized, were those that “embraced every wave of immigration that’s come.” Within a few decades, this vision would inform the work that thrust him on the world.
On a December morning in Midtown Manhattan, Mr. Miranda, nursing a cold, reminisced about that summer, when he also discovered Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in New York, where Aaron Burr lived when he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. During the school year, Mr. Miranda had written and staged his first musical, “In the Heights,” at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and he had also moved into the Latino student house on campus, which gave him a new perspective on the layered worlds of New York and his own identity within them — part insider, part outsider looking in. Jumel Mansion, on Sugar Hill in Harlem, lay between Broadway and the two-story house in Inwood where Mr. Miranda grew up — with access to all those worlds but not bounded by any of them.
“You’re in a different century for exactly one block, and then you go down the steps and there’s a C-town, and you’re back in 2017,” Mr. Miranda said. “That’s to me what makes New York great — it’s all these things together at the same time. The feeling that you’re on the train with the Wall Street guy and the mariachi bands. We’re all in this thing together.”
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