After announcing his intentions to create an environmentally friendly Puerto Rican superhero as a part of this summer’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, with the collaborative efforts of several Puerto Rican artists, inkers, colorists and editors, is introducing his flag-wearing heroine, La Borinqueña, to comic-book fans today.
Miranda-Rodriguez heavily promoted the comic after news of it debuted in The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs in May, and he recently held celebratory events in New York and in Puerto Rico.
Today’s release date of the comic is intended to coincide with the 122nd anniversary of the Puerto Rican flag.
At first glance, this comic is very much your standard superhero story, but the power of “La Borinqueña” is in the details.
The heroine, Marisol Rios De La Luz, greets you on the opening pages, flying in the sky and saving the day on the beaches of Puerto Rico while putting on a show with her nature-fueled superpowers. But the impact of this comic book comes from Miranda-Rodriquez’s putting Puerto Rican culture on display.
“La Borinqueña” is a bilingual comic book. Miranda-Rodriguez, knowing the power of the Puerto Rican flag and the pride it puts in all who salute it, perhaps rightfully assumes that many who will flock to this title are proud Puerto Rican comic book fans excited to see their culture in a superhero title. That’s not to say you have to be Puerto Rican to enjoy this comic book.
It’s one thing to wrap the Puerto Rican flag around La Borinqueña, but it’s what a hero does and experiences that determines what’s sometimes missing from superheroes who are on display for their diversity: authenticity.
And “La Borinqueña” has authentic Puerto Rican flavor. A touching panel is when Marisol is on a flight leaving New York to visit her abuelos in Puerto Rico. When the flight lands and the pilot announces that they have arrived in San Juan, the passengers erupt in celebration — a moment any Latino will tell you is all too common when visiting your Spanish-speaking motherland. And this is probably the first time many Latinos have seen that moment in a superhero comic book. Those are the moments that make La Borinqueña feel special.
Because the story opens with La Borinqueña saving the day in her super-suit, you might think you won’t be treated to an origin story. But Miranda-Rodriguez gives readers a look at how La Borinqueña came to be through flashbacks. The star on La Borinqueña’s suit, inspired by the one star on Puerto Rico’s flag, has special meaning, and the story will show you Marisol’s journey to finding it and unexpectedly becoming a hero.
There is also lots of Afro-Puerto Rican pride on display on “La Borinqueña’s” pages, something that is beyond lacking in almost all aspects of Spanish-speaking media and entertainment. Miranda-Rodriguez puts Afro-Caribbean culture on full display with a brown-skinned heroine (both of Marisol’s parents are Puerto Rican, and her father is Afro-Puerto Rican) who takes pride in her roots and is comfortable in her skin. After saving the day, La Borinqueña dances in celebration as an onlooker points out that she’s got “tumbao,” an African sexiness and style. The comic’s embrace of Puerto Rico’s African roots is refreshing.
Another takeaway from La Borinqueña’s debut is the way in which Miranda-Rodriguez introduced her: independently.
The comic-book industry has made great strides in introducing more superheroes of color, but it is not a perfect process. There probably was not room for a hero like La Borinqueña at Marvel or DC Comics, but that didn’t stop Miranda-Rodriguez from realizing his heroine had a place in the comic-book world.
Sometimes you just have to do things yourself. Miranda-Rodriguez did that and gave his people a new cultural superhero icon in the process.