“La Borinqueña” is a Beacon of Hope for Puerto Ricans
Image Credit: Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez
After releasing Guardians of Infinity with Marvel Comics, which included a superhero in the form of an Afro-Puerto Rican grandmother and Groot, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez realized that the public was hungry for varied representation of Puerto Ricans.
“Many of us take for granted what it means to be Puerto Rican.” Miranda-Rodriguez said last year, at a Meet the Author event at Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia. “We’re an ethnic group comprised of different races.”
Following the popularity of the comic, the graphic-novelist had been approached by the National Puerto Rican Day committee to create a hero to be endorsed during the parade. After months of planning, La Borinqueña made her debut as a hero, but that hunger still lingered.
The graphic-novelist answered the question of “What’s next?” by independently creating and publishing La Borinqueña, with a hero symbolizing the patriotism and history of Puerto Rico.
The story was inspired by a conversation with his wife about the current debt crisis facing the island. News coverage and public opinion began to label Puerto Rico as a “failed economic nation”, according to Miranda-Rodriguez.
He was also inspired by Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of In the Heights and Hamilton, who was representing an important part of Puerto Rican heritage.
“I started asking myself, ‘What can I do?’,” said Miranda-Rodriguez. “I was tired of complaining.”
Miranda-Rodriguez suffered from writer’s block, fearful as to what his next move should be. His wife suggested going to Puerto Rico to decompress.
“I actually felt like I was reconnected and charged a part of me that was depleted,” He shared.
The debt crisis is not the only issue facing the island, as the environment is drastically changing as well. This was taken into account in the creation of La Borinqueña or her civilian name, Marisol Rios De La Luz, who is a science student doing research. She receives her superpowers from Taino goddess Atabex, as she tries to save her project from a storm.
“She has to be a student, to learn, to be open, to observe. She’s going to Puerto Rico to fulfill her credits as a science student.” He explained. “Overwhelmingly, young women of color are STEM students but that’s overlooked by the media.”
Although there is larger encouragement for women, especially women of color to join STEM, there are still barriers. According to the National Science Foundation, only 10% of science and engineering jobs are occupied by women of color. In 2010, only 3.5% of bachelors degrees in STEM went to Latinas.
While the gender of the hero was not actually a conscious decision, her physical appearance was. What is notable about La Borinqueña is her dark skin and curly hair.
“It was very important that she was a negrita because I did not want to create a character that did not acknowledge the beauty of our heritage,” said Miranda-Rodriguez.
He acknowledged the issue of colorism and racism in the community, and the common misunderstanding of Latinos being considered a race, when it is an ethnic group. With La Borinqueña and even her best friend who is Chinese-Dominican, these characters give a face to those that are typically underrepresented in the Latino diaspora.
There are other issues the Latinx community faces aside from representation in media, but it is important be conscious of how what we see in media affects how we view others and ourselves.
Latinx representation across media is still lacking. However, most roles in both Latin America and in the United States are given to white or mestizo Latinx. Many of that group are disappointed by the lack of Latinx representation in U.S. media, but fail to acknowledge how their faces are all over TV, movies, and magazines in their country of origin. Meanwhile, Afro-Latinos and Indigenous groups are brushed to the side, while others don’t even realize Asian-Latinos exist as well.
There are very few Latinx superheroes out there compared to their non-Latinx white counterparts. Some notable ones are America Chavez and Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes).
Miles Morales, the Spiderman succeeding Peter Parker who will be featured in a new animated film, is Afro-Puerto Rican. Sunspot, another hero in the Marvel Universe, is Afro-Brazilian but as ultimately been whitewashed in the New Mutants movie. There are very few Afro-Latino superheroes, so La Borinqueña is an important addition to the list.
La Borinqueña does not only provide positive imagery for readers of all backgrounds, but she is a beacon of hope for Puerto Rico. For years, Puerto Rico has been harshly affected by an economic crisis resulting in a mass exodus to the mainland United States as well as decades of structural racism and colonialism.
This hope was needed after Hurricane Maria struck the island on September 23, 2017, only a few weeks after Hurricane Irma. Months after the hurricane, people still do not have access to electricity or clean water, with new studies claiming that over 4,600 Puerto Ricans died as a result of the hurricane.
Miranda-Rodriguez and his team spent months working on “Ricanstruction: Remincensing and Rebuilding Puerto Rico”, a comic anthology partnered with DC Comics to raise money for relief efforts. The book shares stories of La Borinqueña and others rebuilding Puerto Rico for a prosperous future, with the help of legendary heroes such as Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman.
As of time of posting, “Ricanstruction” is the top seller on Amazon for two months. If you wish to order this comic anthology, you can click here. The “Ricanstruction” is already available online and in comic shops and the 2nd issue of La Borinqueña available on June 10th.
Edgardo’s Twitter: @MrEdgardoNYC