From the history and mysticism found on the island of Puerto Rico, a superhero was born.
La Borinqueña manifests from the fictional character Marisol Rios De La Luz, a Columbia University earth and environmental undergrad whose studies bring her to Puerto Rico. While exploring the caves on the island, she discovers five similar-sized crystals that reveal a magical realm.
"Atabex, the Taino mother goddess, appears before Marisol once the crystals are united and summons her sons Yúcahu, spirt of the seas and mountains and Juracan, spirit of the hurricanes," a description on the website states. "They give Marisol superhuman strength, the power of flight, and control of the storms."
Created and written by graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, La Borinqueña's power has grown beyond the story in three major ways: the character positively represents Puerto Rican women, and Latinas in general, in a way rarely seen in stories; she beautifully portrays an Afro-Latina or a Latin American woman of significant African ancestry, which is a segment of the Hispanic population widely underrepresented in stories, and on film and television; and the comic book heroine also diversifies the superhero world with her badass Boricua self.
"Women of color finally see themselves," Miranda-Rodriguez proudly told A Plus, adding how positive feedback on the book from women has included "We're not invisible" and "She looks like me."
A study released in February 2016 by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism found that most stories "fail to represent the demographic composition of the U.S."
“In a bold way, I am making a statement that states we have the talent and the stories,” Miranda-Rodriguez added.
La Borinqueña joins a growing roster of female superheroes of color, such as Maya Lopez, aka Echo/Ronin, who first appeared in the pages of Daredevil; Renee Montoya, a.k.a. The Question from Gotham, and Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel.
Miranda-Rodriguez's creation also presented a rare opportunity for talented Puerto Rican artists to collaborate on a comic book project. Artists include Will Rosado, a New York City-based illustrator who began his career at Marvel Comics; Ralph Anthony "Rags" Morales, who formerly worked at Marvel as well as Valiant Comics; and newcomer Sabrina Cintron, an illustrator, comics and concept artist, and lover of storytelling, just to name a few.
"This is a project that unites a roster of Puerto Rican talent from the comic book industry," Miranda-Rodriguez said. "Never before have Boricua artists who've worked with Marvel and DC worked together on a project that is independently published featuring a Puerto Rican superhero in her own book."
It was also extremely important for the story to be inclusive of both English and Spanish, although it's written for a general audience.
"I'm not translating the book because all we ever do as Latinos in the U.S. is acquiesce," the Somos Arte design studio founder explained.
"I was born Edgar Miranda and changed my name to Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez to acknowledge my single mother who raised me," he continued. "She wanted to name me Edgardo, but my father wanted me to 'fit in.' I'm not fitting in anymore and neither should any other person of color. We're all Americans and like Pedro Pietri [a Boricua poet and playwright from New York City] said, 'Aqui se habla Español all the time. Aqui to be called negrito y negrita is to be called love.'"
Quick history lesson: The term "Borinquen," which means "the land of the brave lord," was the name the Taino Indians gave the island of Puerto Rico. In fact, the tribe's original name was the Arawak Indians before they met Christopher Columbus in 1492 when he renamed them after the first word they reportedly said to him, taino, which means peace or good people. "Boricua" is what some Puerto Ricans call each other, especially those living in mainland U.S.
"I hope La Borinqueña is the first of many projects celebrating our heritage and identity," the Boricua comic book artist said.
This just in! At publishing time we celebrate a real life victory La Borinqueña was fighting for.
In the first edition of La Borinqueña, the heroine is trying to stop water contamination in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, where coal ash was dumped by the AES Corporation, which provides a large majority of the energy on the island. This has been a real battle for the people of Peñuelas, which provoked protests that began around Thanksgiving and prompted hashtags like #NoALasCenizas ("No to the ashes") and #PuertoRicoNoEsUnCenicero ("Puerto Rico is not an ashtray").
"AES and the landfill are alleging the coal ash isn't harmful and that people should not be concerned," one protest organizer told Latino USA.
"The Puerto Rican supreme court officially banned toxic ashes from being dumped in Peñuelas," Miranda-Rodriguez said. "This is what La Borinqueña was fighting against in my comic book, and now it's a real social justice victory!"
One victory down and La Borinqueña's crime-fighting continues.