The world watched this summer as for the first time in history, Puerto Rico’s national anthem was played in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. Monica Puig clinched the tennis final to bring home gold while her country watched. Brooklyn-based Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez was staying in Rio Grande, spending some time with his wife, two sons and two nephews in Puerto Rico. There, they experienced the happiness of viewing that gold medal game live, celebrating the moment he feels they as a Puerto Rican people needed.
“It sent chills up and down my spine, or as we say in Spanish, ¡se me pararon los pelos!” Miranda-Rodriguez recalls, speaking of the moment Puig grabbed the Puerto Rican flag. Edgardo explained that she choose the original sky blue flag with a single star, a revolutionary flag originally made in New York City in 1895 by a group of Puerto Rican activists. This flag was later changed to navy blue in 1952 when Puerto Rico became a commonwealth.
“When Monica Puig later accepted her medal, I immediately sang the revolutionary lyrics to our national anthem. I looked on social media and saw that the #LaBorinqueña hashtag was now shared with my character and Monica Puig. It was so surreal that a fictional character I created was introduced and received the same year Puerto Rico wins it’s first gold Olympic medal.”
He’s speaking of another hero who has been inspiring Puerto Ricans lately, a brand new character Miranda-Rodriguez created called La Borinqueña. Of course this isn’t the first new character we’ve seen from Edgardo, who we spoke with before the debut of DMC# 1, a new series from Darryl Makes Comics, that he co-created with Darryl McDaniels AKA D.M.C of Run-DMC. Miranda-Rodriguez also acts as Editor-in-Chief of Darryl Makes Comics.
With the release of DMC #2, we’ve seen an evolution of some of the characters introduced in the first issue, along with the titular DMC. In DMC #1 we are introduced to LAK6, a precocious young graffiti artist that Miranda-Rodriguez saw could grow into her own superhero. He sees the DMC character as an anchor in their universe that inspires other characters to see their own power. In DMC #2, LAK6 finds her power and joins the hero as his sidekick.
“Similar to LAK6, Angelique the Fly Girl will be developed into a hero. 2017 looks to be a promising year for Darryl Makes Comics as we plan on experimenting with solo titles for our new characters. It’ll be a bold move for us, but we think the fans will really enjoy it.” Darryl Makes Comics recently tweeted out the new superhero upgrade for Angelique, envisioned by Miranda-Rodriguez.
DMC exists in a very specific era of New York City, a city which is no stranger to the comics medium. Nor to Miranda-Rodriguez, whose recent debut work with Marvel Comics alongside DMC co-creator Darryl McDaniels wrote a love letter to the Big Apple, specifically the Lower East Side. After his family returned from Puerto Rico, Edgardo was delighted to find his copy of the recently released trade (Guardians of the Galaxy: Tales of the Cosmos) featuring his story that was originally printed in Guardians of Infinity that teamed up Ben Grimm AKA the Thing with fan favorite character Groot.
“DMC and I were given an entire roster of characters to choose from for this story. DMC immediately paired up Thing and Groot and even came up with the team-up name – “Grimm & Groot” – so it was from there that I started writing our story. DMC focused on the Thing’s dialogue and I had the story take place in Nueva York. What’s cool about Marvel characters is that they never age. Ben Grimm will always be in his late 20s or early 30s. Knowing that, he grew up in a Lower East Side that was familiar with my experience. A Puerto Rican poor-working class community that celebrates it’s heritage via it’s cultural institutions and gardens.”
A part of that heritage is the Puerto Rican food that Miranda-Rodriguez always finds a way to bring into his writing, as he feels it resonates with so many Puerto Ricans. Much of the Guardians story even takes place in a restaurant, a recurring theme for Edgardo, but it also offered an opportunity to bring in more culture to the story that Marvel fans really got behind.
“Dr. Marta Moreno Vega told me about the Ceiba tree in Puerto Rico, being over 500 years old. To me, the tree closely resembled Groot so it was a cool way to then connect Groot to Puerto Rican culture. Fans took it from there and loved how in a Marvel comic book a black Puerto Rican grandmother was talking to her light complexioned grandson about Puerto Rican history.”
It’s a form of awareness about his Puerto Rican heritage that he continues to share using his new character La Borinqueña, who shares her name with the national anthem we heard played for Monica Puig. La Borinqueña AKA Marisol Rios De La Luz, gains her powers after exploring the caves of Puerto Rico and finding five similar crystals that awaken Atabex, the Taino mother goddess. Strong women play a large role in La Borinqueña, and in Miranda-Rodriguez’s own thoughts on his heritage and the character.
“When I think about Puerto Rico, she’s always a woman to me. My motherland. When I arrive at my Uncle Joaquin’s home in Ceiba I kneel and kiss the earth, similar to kissing my mother or grandmother. The original national anthem, written by Lola Rodriguez de Tio, was a call to action. It truly reads like a hero’s theme song: ‘Arise, Puerto Rican! The call to arms has sounded! Awake from this dream, it is time to fight!’ The national anthem was always named La Borinqueña, which comes from the Taino word Boriken, the original name of Puerto Rico. It’s named after the Puerto Rican Woman. Therefore, my hero was always a woman to me.”
Miranda-Rodriguez created La Borinqueña amidst a time of political turmoil for Puerto Rico in order to raise awareness on the current debt crisis. She debuted at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade as a patriotic symbol that a larger audience could relate to. La Borinqueña is a way for Edgardo to share his message of hope and unity, which is part of the reason the character has been gaining so much traction following her debut. Of course it’s also because of the heart and soul Miranda-Rodriguez imbues his character with, taking from the many inspirations in his life.
“When I created my character, I named her after my younger sister Marisol, who’s been paralyzed since the age of 9. Now at 32 she still stands as a strong symbol of love and life for me. I also was inspired by all the other powerful women in my life. My mother, my wife, my cousin Lillian DeJesus, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega and my mentor Iris Morales, a member of the Young Lords Party. Marisol Rios De La Luz has always been a woman to me, as she is the best of our people.”
Miranda-Rodriguez believes his creation of a character like La Borinqueña was inevitable, following the path of his life as an educator and activist which has made him the father and husband he is today. “I write La Borinqueña for my sons and for everyone, young and old. Social media has given me a peek into the demographic I’m nurturing with this project. Many women of color, mostly Latina, are saying that they are looking forward to purchasing their first comic book, La Borinqueña.”
His work with this character has given him the opportunity to speak to students, professionals and community members all over. Miranda-Rodriguez looks forward to his upcoming speech at his alma mater, Colgate University, having already spoken at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “La Borinqueña is receiving the buzz because the character and her message are necessary. Iris Morales always tells me, ‘if we don’t tell our stories, no one else will.’ That’s why people are truly excited.”
Miranda-Rodriguez has put together a special event with the City University of New York’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies that will lead up to the release of the first issue. “Cafe Con Comics will be the first event of its kind. Professional artists from the comic book industry, of Puerto Rican heritage, will come together to exhibit their artwork, interact with fans and take part in a panel to discuss their experience as comic book professionals and the difficult roads they have had to navigate because of their ethnicity. I’ve confirmed Felix Serrano, Will Rosado, and Chris Batista to appear at the event. ” The exhibition is currently running until January 27th, 2017.
Following this, during Puerto Rican Heritage Month in November, Miranda-Rodriguez hopes to have a preview issue available for fans. La Borinqueña will also be part of CTRL+ALT, a group art show at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. “That exhibit will feature an original story about La Borinqueña and her best friend, Lauren ‘La La’ Liu, a Chinese Dominican. This exhibition will be an interactive comic book and will give me an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the Asian Latino experience which is part of my own family.” CTRL+ALT will feature art installations, performances and maker spaces that illustrate how emerging forms of media, once considered fringe, can envision more sustainable, equitable futures for communities of color, and can be seen November 12-13.
The first issue will debut back in Puerto Rico on December 17th at the Aguada Con Comic Fest. Miranda-Rodriguez will also be talking with students at the University of Puerto Rico about his career combining storytelling and advocacy. For everyone else looking to pick up the first issue of La Borinqueña, it will be available at www.laborinquena.somosarte.com on December 22. This also serves as the anniversary of the creation of the Puerto Rican flag, that revolutionary symbol that was hoisted so proudly this year by Monica Puig at the Olympics.
With the upcoming release of DMC #3 and three other books that will be announced very soon, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez has a busy year ahead of him. So where does that leave Marisol Rios De La Luz?
“La Borinqueña is my passion project, the book and character closest to my heart. I hope that her book is received very well. Based on the response, I hope to continue her adventures with the next story in time for April’s Puerto Rico Comic Con. However, like my mom always says, ‘¡si Dios quiere!'”
Or maybe in the case of La Borinqueña’s origin, Gods‘ willing. Be sure to check out more of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez work over at www.somosarte.com and check out the La Borinqueña Facebook Page and the instagram @LaBorinquenaComics. And do yourself a favor and grab the already released issues of DMC from Darryl Makes Comics!
Images: Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, Darryl Makes Comics, Marvel