After over a year of preparation, Lin-Manuel Miranda brought his Tony-winning phenomenon Hamilton to Puerto Rico on Friday.
While bowing to a standing ovation in San Juan, Miranda surprised the audience at the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center by bringing his dad Luis, who’s running the production, onstage for an emotional embrace. “No one moved more mountains than him,” he told the crowd during curtain call.
Backstage at a press conference immediately following the sold-out performance, Miranda teared up again when discussing his dad.
Asked by a journalist what he “savored the most” on opening night, Miranda said — without missing a beat — “Bringing my father out on stage tonight.”
“No one’s worked harder than him,” he continued. “I really thought there were moments he was not going to survive. My dad’s worked in politics and been the most efficient guy in the room his entire career — the whole thing was a test for this. Him getting applause was the highlight of my night.”
For the first time since leaving the original Broadway cast of Hamilton in 2016, Miranda, 38, reprised the role of Alexander Hamilton on Friday for the first of 23 performances in Puerto Rico. The shows aim to uplift in the area ravaged by Hurricane Maria.
To coincide with the run, Miranda has co-launched The Flamboyan Arts Fund, dedicated to preserving, amplifying and sustaining the arts in Puerto Rico. All profits from Hamilton‘s Puerto Rico performances go towards the fund.
Puerto Rico holds a special place in Miranda’s heart — and bonds him especially close to his dad. Luis left for New York when he was 18, as revealed in a profile in The New York Times. And by the time Miranda was born, the family would come every summer to visit.
Speaking of his fund, Miranda previously stressed that “time is of the essence.”
“It’s a struggle to be an arts organization anywhere, particularly on an island that’s been hurt by one of the worst hurricanes in history,” he said in a video exclusive to PEOPLE. “I believe art helps us survive. We can’t wait for Puerto Rico to recover to then support the arts because there is no telling when that will be. We need to support the artists who are out there now. We need to have their backs.”
Among his other backers, Miranda has found a powerful corporate partner in American Express to bring Hamilton to Puerto Rico. The company is also supporting Puerto Rico’s Hamilton run as part of a larger commitment to the island. Through its expanded Shop Small initiative, AmEx has partnered with many local organizations to encourage Hamilton audience members to shop in San Juan and aid the economy.
“People are going to come here because of Hamilton — and hopefully spend a lot of money,” Miranda said to the press. “That’s my wish.”
Hurricane Maria resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and about $90 billion in damages after it hit Puerto Rico in September 2017.