A Symbol of Hope: Interview with Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez, creator of Superhero La Borinquena

Before you do anything else today, go to this website and get yourself these amazing comic books:
https://www.la-borinquena.com/

As a female person of color, I rarely saw myself represented in the content I consumed growing up, and I definitely do not remember ever seeing a Superhero that ever looked like ME.

This is why La Borinqueña is so important to the younger generations of latinas.

Graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda and a number of incredibly talented graphic artists from Puerto Rico and the US, worked on a comic book that raised funds for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria called RICANstruction – collaborating with DC Comics to raise awareness about the needs of the island.

La Borinqueña is a Superhero that has inspired and raised close to a quarter of a million dollars for grassroots organizations on the islands. Yet her impact reaches far beyond this fact. Because children in our community can see themselves in a way they haven’t ever seen themselves before.

What I learned when I sat down with Edgardo will leave you inspired. And the conversation will also push you to ask yourself: What does it mean to have real representation, and original stories, in the content you consume on a daily basis? And beyond that, to ask who are the gatekeepers that determine whether you see yourself in the content that you pay for?

One of the amazing things about this comic series is that Edgardo was able to bring in DC Comics … from Wonder Woman to Superman, Batman and Green Lantern. We discussed that all it takes to raise awareness for the island is the belief that you can contribute, through your voice, your skills, your networks… through action. There are so many ways each of us can positively impact an island that experienced the worst hurricane in their history.

The discussion with Edgardo covers many things but we started with the most looming crisis – the Puerto Rican debt crisis. He shares that his first comic with La Borinqueña was focused on being able to digest how the debt crisis is impacting the people and allow those most affected to have a voice, to counter the fact that the island’s residents are US citizens and yet do not have voting representation in Congress.

Edgardo also discusses that the public needs to better understand Puerto Rico’s struggle under colonialism. And knowing Puerto Rico’s history is key. History is an important aspect of the comics that Edgardo felt was needed to fully capture what it means to be Puerto Rican and American.

We spoke of the ability of La Borinqueña to tap into popular culture to tell Puerto Rican stories, and be a catalyst for more conversations. Edgardo noted that most comics are written by white men and the narratives therefore pursue white male fulfillment in villians that are bullies to be defeated. But Edgardo asks: “To tell our stories of people of color, what are we going to do differently? Are we going to perpetuate the same traps?”

Edgardo notes that his upbringing was full of strong women who mentored him closely, and which had a huge influence on his creation of La Borinqueña Comics.

He states his activism is centered on the issues that affect marginalized groups who have been discriminated against.

We also spoke about the economic condition and climate change effects on Puerto Rico. The fact that the people of the islands have been working on borrowed money from the start.

(Check out the episode on the Debt to learn about the historical economic justice issues affecting Puerto Rico here).

Edgardo also shares what happened when Hurricane Maria hit and the circumstances around that tragic day that changed our lives. Edgardo spoke about being at a comic convention right after the Hurricane and worrying that it was inappropriate to be at this event given what was happening on the island. But ultimately many there described it as a therapeutic moment for all of them.

We spoke also of the Puerto Ricans living in the US realizing the level of inequality, that it was a “wakeup call” that made the millions in the US react to the disparity the islanders are facing, but also to galvanize them to organize and act. Since Maria we see many raising awareness and funds, and supporting organizations on the island to bring notice to the Public health crisis happening there.

When asking “What it means to be Puerto Rican” we discuss the fact that the answer is not one note, but that our experiences are varied and rich in perspectives. Edgardo travels the country to share the stories because of the power in connecting on universal experiences. And that universality is key towards a more equitable society, where the experiences of people of color are humanized.

Before the interview was over I had to ask Edgardo… “How much further do we still have to go in representation in Hollywood and mainstream media” and his answer was great… “We have a lot to go!… it feels like we haven’t even gotten on the bus yet, (like) we’re still waiting at the bus stop!”

Perhaps my favorite moment of this interview was when Edgardo mentioned that La Borinqueña is a symbol of hope…. and I hope you also find yourself thinking of this as well, as we continue to share the voices of people who struggle daily, just to be treated with the same rights and dignity as anyone else on the mainland.

HOW can you help? Buy the La Borinqueña Comics, especially RICANstruction, which raises funds for Puerto Rico’s grass roots organizations.

You can find the website here:
https://www.la-borinquena.com/

https://www.la-borinquena.com/

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