Jorge Ramos Omits Union Threat From Lin-Manuel Miranda Interview

Univision senior anchor Jorge Ramos and noted playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda recently had an interview in which they managed to talk about a lot of different things, while saying nothing and leaving out some major news regarding Hamilton's upcoming run in Puerto Rico.

The interview itself wasn't particularly noteworthy. Watch as Ramos and Miranda tread familiar ground on art and activism, as aired on Univision's Al Punto on Sunday, December 23, 2018:

JORGE RAMOS: As an artist, is your sole duty to create art, to do musicals? Is that your only obligation, or is there a political part that your father and mother refuse to let you cast aside?

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: Well, my job is to follow the inspiration, but I believe that the activism that I do comes from that same place. Because the idea that won’t leave me alone is the same as the cause that won’t leave me alone.


MIRANDA: You know, when I marched with the Immigrants Belong Together, Families Belong Together March, that was because the images that were out there would not leave me alone, they would not let me sleep on Father’s Day (in the United States).

RAMOS: Art and politics go together?

MIRANDA: I think the impulse to do something, whether it comes from, it has to come from the idea or the cause that doesn’t leave you alone.  


Artists talking about the creative process is the lifeblood of interviews- nothing new there. But as we've often noted here, sometimes the most important part of an interview is what isn't said. Bias doesn't only manifest itself by comission, but by omission. Such is the case here, because Ramos managed to go the entire interview without mentioning the fact that Hamilton had to change venues due to the threat of "campus protests". Per The New York Times:

A production of “Hamilton” set to run in Puerto Rico next month is abruptly changing venues, citing a concern about security in the event of expected protests.

The musical’s lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, said Friday night that he was moving the show from a historic theater at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus to a modern facility in another part of San Juan, to make it easier to obtain police protection for theatergoers and the cast and crew. A longstanding practice in Puerto Rico has restricted police access to college campuses, and Mr. Seller said the likelihood of protests made police protection desirable.

Even then, the Times buries the lede. Way down in the 4th-to-last paragraph:

The university has long been roiled by protests over a variety of issues, and “Hamilton” was facing a possible demonstration by staff upset over budget cuts, according to a report in a student publication.

It wasn't just a "a possible demonstration by staff" that spooked the Hamilton team into an 11th-hour venue change, as characterized by the Times, but a clear and present threat of union-organized violence. Missing from the Times report is any mention of the letter sent by the Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Faculty Employees of the University of Puerto Rico (known in Puerto Rico as HEEND) directly to Lin-Manuel Miranda, which threatened thusly:

Knowing that your renowned play Hamilton will take the stage in January, we want to warn you of the situation in which we find ourselves, and of the potential that a conflict of major scale may arise which could affect your performance.

As columnist and local talk-show host Enrique Cruz correctly noted, the Hamilton kerfuffle brought back memories of the DuPont Plaza Hotel fire of 1986, the deadliest hotel fire in Puerto Rico's history. As UPI reported:

The tragic blaze was started about 3:15 p.m. Dec. 31, 1986, by three hotel employees who used cooking fuel to set ballroom furniture on fire. The fire started minutes after Teamster's Union hotel workers voted to reject a management proposal for a new contract.

Teamster officials denied involvement and government investigators have uncovered no union ties to the perpetrators.

The scramble to change venue is understandable, given that bit of history. The threat of "conflict of major scale" became equivalent to, well, loudly yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

This brings us back to Jorge Ramos.

For all his talk of asking tough questions and being opposite to power, Ramos was perfectly comfortable discussing artistic and activist process with someone who is at or near the apex of cultural power. Being true to the contrapoder gimmick would've required frank discussion about the HEEND letter and the decision to change venue for Hamilton's run in Puerto Rico. Instead, his viewers missed out on a major story.

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