May 24, 2016
When we first met with 2016 Goldman Prize winner Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera earlier this year, we didn’t know that his award would coincide almost to the day with composer, lyricist, and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s awarding of the Pulitzer Prize. So we thought we’d compare — in a very fair and scientific way — these two Puerto Rican stars and their achievements:
Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera
Won the Goldman Prize this year. And for what? For taking it on himself to save a biodiversity hotspot; home to some fifty threatened species — many found nowhere else in the world.
Has been working since 1999 to protect the Northeast Ecological Corridor from two mega-resorts. Luis Jorge successfully convinced the government to permanently protect the area, despite personal attacks from resort developers.
Has dedicated his adult life to the environment. Advocated for 15 years without compensation. Lost his hair quite possibly as a result.
Will be honored at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade next month.
Combined the powers of community organizing and science to create a safe haven for the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle.
Sure, he won the Pulitzer Prize, is a MacArthur Award Fellow and various other arts prizes (including a Tony and a Grammy) but did he win the Goldman Prize? Nope.
Founded hip hop comedy group Freestyle Love Supreme as an undergraduate and found stardom at 28 with the hit musical In the Heights while working as an English teacher. And of course, Hamilton happened.
Has a healthy head of hair. Often tied in a man bun.
Lin Manuel was honored at the same parade in 2015. Pfft. That’s so last year.
Combined the power of theater and hip hop to create Hamilton, the musical. (We admit, the songs are pretty catchy.)
Speaking Up for their Island
In all seriousness, both stars have been a boon for Puerto Rico — most recently by being outspoken about the island’s economic and humanitarian crisis:
In Luis Jorge’s acceptance speech, he calls for opposition to a bill which will be voted on by US Congress that would allow construction projects to go ahead, without the need to obey Puerto Rico’s environmental laws — all in the name of ‘economic development’. In short; Puerto Rican citizens are risking giving up their decision-making power to the mainland US. Lin-Manuel has also made a heartfelt plea calling on Congress to address the crisis.
What You Can Do
Both stars have not lost hope. Luis Jorge’s plans for the area include sustainable tourism activities which will provide much-needed economic opportunities for the local community. He is also now working with the Puerto Rican government to purchase the remaining privately owned lands and return the corridor to public hands. You can support the campaign here.