Luis A. Miranda Jr.: Relentless Pursuit of the American Dream

In 1974, Luis A. Miranda Jr. arrived in New York City to pursue the best version of himself. Fifty years later, he shares his own journey of community organizing, political campaigning, and advocating for the Latino community and creating pathways for them to pursue their American Dreams.

By Frannie Sprouls

Photo + video by Cass Davis

Design by Arturo Magallanes

In early April 2024, Luis A. Miranda Jr. met Hispanic Executive at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights, New York City.

The ninety-four-year-old theater—with its mission of providing uplifting, transformative cultural experiences—was the perfect location to meet Miranda, whose own love of culture, theater, and movies was passed down to his son Lin-Manuel.

Miranda grew up in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, and every Sunday, his family would drive to San Juan to visit his mother’s family. After lunch, Miranda and his father would go to the movies. Sometimes Miranda would be dropped off to see a movie on his own, and that was how he ended up seeing The Sound of Music at least eighty times. Miranda’s Uncle Ernesto was involved in theater, and Miranda was recruited to be in a play that Ernesto was directing at the University of Puerto Rico. Ernesto also owned a theater bar in San Juan, where Miranda worked behind the bar during his senior year of high school.

Though he chose to pursue a different career path, Miranda’s release from the stress of studying was the movies. He’d visit the small movie house in Vega Alta as often as his parents would allow. It’s where he fell in love with Debbie Reynolds after watching

The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and it’s where he realized that he had to leave his town after watching West Side Story and seeing other moviegoers booing at the end.

“Everyone in my family knew that the future for me was very clear,” Miranda writes in his memoir, Relentless: My Story of the Latino Spirit That Is Transforming America. “I was going to do my own thing, in my own way, in a place where you can cry with West Side Story but also be mad at it. A place where Molly Brown could go from poverty to abundance. A place where I could become the next best version of me.”

That is what Miranda sees as the American dream: the quest to become the best version of yourself.

“I believe for everyone, but particularly for Latinos, it’s not yourself—it’s [for] the family,” he notes in an interview with The Latino Majority host and Hispanic Executive CEO Pedro A. Guerrero. “If you leave people behind in making sure they become the best versions of themselves, then the American dream for the Latino family is incomplete.”

Miranda pursued psychology at the University of Puerto Rico during a time of political and social change. He wanted to address systemic changes. “I was living the contradictions of capitalism and colonialism in our island of Puerto Rico,” he writes in Relentless. “But I never really worried about such contradictions. I always tried to figure out how I could fix them in another way.”

So in 1974, he moved to New York City to pursue his PhD in psychology at New York University. Those two years were a time of profound learning and realization for Miranda, and turned what he thought would be a temporary stay in New York into a permanent one. He married the love of his life, Luz, and became the stepfather for Luz’s daughter, Cita.

But his interest in psychology faded—he had no patience for the slow, therapeutical process. He wanted to fight for change, and that change would happen through community organizing and politics. “Systemic change is possible when you fight to get inside and work within the system to change it and make it fairer,” he writes.

After Lin-Manuel was born and the family moved to Washington Heights, Miranda became immersed in local politics and organized with his neighbors for better schools. Then after Ed Koch’s reelection in 1987, Miranda interviewed and was offered the role of special advisor to the mayor for Hispanic affairs. Instead of stepping into a ceremonial role, Miranda made the role into one that helped Koch navigate the Latino community.

He went on to serve in both the Dinkins and Guiliani administrations before becoming the founding executive director of the Hispanic Federation, which was created alongside other federations by the United Way of New York. The next six years were spent building the Hispanic Federation into “an important political and social force, not just an agency,” he writes in Relentless.

Then Miranda found his next challenge: campaigns. He cofounded MirRam Group with Roberto Ramirez and went on to consult for several successful political campaigns, which included the senatorial campaigns for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Kirsten Gillibrand. He managed New York Attorney General Letitia James’s reelection in 2022.

Throughout his career—from community organizing to City Hall to nonprofit work to political campaigns—Miranda built coalitions and strengthened the organizing power of the Latino community.

“I’ve never heard of those people in my life, and all of a sudden, they were experts on Latinidad. I realized: you know what? I’m going to write down what I think this means from my perspective.”

Luis A. Miranda Jr. and the American Dream

On May 7, 2024, Miranda’s memoir Relentless hit the shelves. But a month earlier, in the United Palace Theater, Miranda held the final book in his hands. “It still doesn’t have the pictures, right?” he asks, flipping through it and landing on the glossy photo pages. A smile lights up his face. “Oh yeah, it does! This I have not seen.”

The memoir, which is also available in Spanish with the title Incansable, was not something that Miranda thought he would write. “You begin to realize that all of this white hair, it’s reminding you that death is closer and that if you don’t put your stories down and do it yourself, somebody else is going to write the story from their perspective,” he tells Guerrero.

Miranda had two goals with the memoir: tell the story of his life but talk about it within the context of the political world and Latinidad. He had been seeing more non-Latinos writing about Latinos as if they knew the nuances of the community.

“I’ve never heard of those people in my life, and all of a sudden, they were experts on Latinidad,” he says. “I realized: you know what? I’m going to write down what I think this means from my perspective.”

In Relentless, Miranda welcomes the reader into his life and takes them on a journey through his own upbringing and growth as an activist, a community organizer, a nonprofit leader, a campaign consultant, and a father. Woven throughout his own life’s narrative is the expertise he’s built from working on the ground with different Latino communities and finding unity across them all.

“It’s the many families [that make] a community,” he says from the theater stage. To find community and a place for him in New York, he needed to think back to what felt like community in Puerto Rico. “[New Yorkers] may speak another language. They may eat different things. It may get cold during the winter, but at the end of the day . . . finding a community: it’s key to make sure you move forward.”

In a presidential election year, one that has the same candidates from 2020 vying for the White House again, Miranda hopes that his book helps people not only understand the political nuances of the Latino community but also get to know his family. “We are a Latino family in the United States, and I want people to realize how Latino families are complex, can achieve, can give, can be part of the fabric of this society,” he says.

Understanding nuance at scale in the US, he says, is not possible because we don’t spend the time doing that.

“We are in the situation in which we’re in as a country because we’re not reflective, empathetic, introspective about the many things that we ought to understand in order to move forward,” Miranda explains.

There are forces continuing to fit Latinos into one culture and into one way of looking at the world. This is an impossible system. “You have to adjust the paradigms. They simply won’t work without oppression,” he says. “Because if you have to make a hundred million people conform to something that they’re not, you have to use oppression to get there. And that’s not the country in which we’re in.”

Miranda remains hopeful, but for him, hoping is not enough. You have to work toward a better future.

“That’s part of why I wrote the book. I’m going to tell it as I see it,” Miranda says. “And I’m just not going to scream and criticize what somebody else said. I’m going to jump into the ring, and I’m going to fight.”

This is a trait Miranda acknowledges again and again in Relentless, and the pages are filled with his honest reflections and observations.

“The only cure is a conversation with trustworthy people who show up in our Latino community,” Miranda writes in the very first chapter. “A conversation that moves the world forward, that shows that our leaders know how voters want to move forward. That’s what we mean in Puerto Rico when we say pa’lante: it’s the drive to keep moving ahead, to build a better future.”



Luis A. Miranda Jr. Introduces Relentless

Behind the scenes photos by Anna Rhody


Editorial Direction + Words
Frannie Sprouls

Photo + Video
Cass Davis

Design + Series Art Direction
Arturo Magallanes

Web Development
Jose Reinaldo Montoya