Since Superman’s debut in 1938, the world has become accustomed to watching white men with a self-proclaimed sense of moral superiority repeatedly save the world, while sporting fluorescent-colored tights. In the face of public discontent, studios like Marvel and DC have started making an effort to diversify their lineup of supers by changing their gender or casting them as people of color. Amidst the Falcon and the newly-realized female Thor comes an original Puerto Rican heroine created by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez named La Borinqueña. In this newly released comic book series, a compost-collecting millennial named Marisol Rios De La Luz discovers a set of crystals buried in the caves of Puerto Rico that give her superhuman strength, the power to control the weather, and the ability to fly.
"I wanted to write La Borinqueña so that my two sons would grow up seeing a woman of color, with their heritage, become a superhero that everyone would enjoy," Miranda-Rodriguez tells The Creators Project. "People of color, especially Latinos, are invisible in mainstream media. I wanted to create a superhero that was powerful enough to save the day on the page and in real life."
Marisol is studying Earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University while living with her parents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She eventually decides to study abroad in Puerto Rico, where she finds the aforementioned set of crystals, which summon the Taino mother goddess Atabex. The goddess then summons her two sons — Yúcahu, the spirit of the seas and mountains, and Juracan, the spirit of the hurricanes. Together, these two spirits give Marisol her powers, which she uses to help protect the environment and her people on the island of Puerto Rico.
The comic book and graphic novel was written and art directed by Miranda-Rodriguez and illustrated by Emilio Lopez, Will Rosado, Eric Jimenez, and Sabrina Cintron with digital coloring by Juan Fernandez. Growing up with a Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx, Miranda-Rodriguez always felt that comic books were lacking diversity. In a promotional video feature produced by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, Miranda-Rodriguez says he sees today’s superheroes more as corporate brands than inspiring fictional personalities. He asks himself, “What if I were able to create a character that actually stood for something, that was grounded in actual reality, that represents a people that should be respected and should be given an opportunity to be celebrated?”
La Borinqueña rocks a suit and cape of the Puerto Rican flag while rescuing a crashing plane and guiding endangered sea turtles ashore. At the end of a day’s work, she breaks out in dance at a local block party as truly the people’s champion.
On December 19, the Puerto Rican Supreme Court passed the Municipal Ordinance of Peñuelas that bans toxic ashes from being dumped in Peñuelas, on the southern coast of the island. La Borinqueña fights for this particular issue in Miranda-Rodriguez’s book, which is now a real social justice victory. Miranda-Rodriguez believes “a superhero really stands for inspiration, for hope. But more than anything else, it really reminds us that we have the potential to rise up and actually be stronger for ourselves, and we shouldn't actually have to wait for somebody to save us.” Check out Miranda-Rodriguez’s video interview with Hunter College, below:
Pick up a copy of La Borinqueña, here.