Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez talking with Fabio Castelblanco of ComicsVerse at NYCC 2017, New York Comic Con 2017.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez speaks passionately to ComicsVerse about the Puerto Rican superhero he created — La Borinqueña!

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ComicsVerse: Hey guys, I’m here with ComicsVerse, and we are at New York Comic Con, 2017. I am here with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez.

I know you get asked this a lot, but La Borinqueña, what was the inspiration for the story? It definitely has some real world, cultural background. Could you give us a little bit more info on that?

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: Well, for the last four years, and at my studio, [inaudible 00:00:27], I’ve actually been in the publishing game in comic books. I’m publishing, now, my third graphic novel with D and C. It was literally right over there. I’m publishing my first comic book in the series with John [inaudible 00:00:39], but I wanted to do something that was really focused on real-world issues, particularly those of Puerto Rico to reflect my heritage, but also to reflect humanitarian crisis that’s been happening on the island for some time now.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriquez talks about La Borinqueña at the New York Public Library in the Bronx, NY.
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriquez talks about La Borinqueña at the New York Public Library in the Bronx, NY. Photo by Justin Gilbert Alba.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: The humanitarian crisis affecting three and a half million Americans living on the island, which is more than a total of Alaska, Nevada, and Iowa state combined. Given the fact that these three and a half million Americans have been living on an island, they’ve been Americans since 1917 under the Jones-Shafroth act. They’ve never really been able to celebrate their full American citizenship. They’ve not been able to vote for President, but they’ve been serving in American wars since World War I.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: So knowing well what that means and this duality of culture, living here in the United States, and having family in Puerto Rico is something that’s always been a part of my identity. Because although we’ve been given our citizenship as Americans, we were never received fully as Americans. We’re always treated as second-class citizens. So when Puerto Ricans came here, we’ve always been establishing our own institutions. We’ve always been establishing our own stories from [El Museo del Barrio 00:01:47] to university studies on various campuses across the nation to scholars because it’s important for us to validate and celebrate our own heritage. It’s part of our resilience that makes us Ricans, Puerto Ricans. That pretty much is what led me to inevitably create La Borinqueña, knowing well that in popular culture right now, people are so consumed by superhero culture.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: However, these superheroes, and in it’s truest essence of the form, really represent corporate brands. They’re really selling us pajamas and fruit roll-ups, but I wanted to use the traditional storytelling of superheroes, the iconography of superheroes to really reach a larger audience because the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, which really hit a deadlock in 2015, when the then governor of [00:02:35] said, “We’re not paying this 80 billion dollar debt.” I realize that this information wasn’t being disseminated to a larger audience, to a larger mainstream audience. Knowing well that, since 2006, when Congress closed tax code 936, there has been a massive dip in the economy of Puerto Rico. Some poor decisions made by the island’s administrations to sell bonds, unfortunately, led to what the rest of the island had to suffer through.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: All of this was information that was readily available through The National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News. However, nobody in the general market was talking about it. I thought to myself, if I could create a character, a comic book that I can use as a conduit to really translate these real-world issues to the rest of the world, then perhaps on a small scale, I can actually start a national dialogue to get people more aware. That’s exactly what’s been happening over the last year and a half. I’ve been very fortunate to receive an abundance of mainstream news coverage form Teen Vogue to Entertainment Weekly, the Buzzfeed to the Wall Street Journal, to CNN, to NBC, to The New York Times, all talking about this comic book, but by talking about the comic book, they’re talking about what’s really happening in Puerto Rico.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: Now, given what’s happened in the last couple of weeks with hurricane Maria and hurricane Irma, it makes it even that much more of a reality, the humanitarian crisis happening in Puerto Rico, but for the last year and a half that I’ve been on tour promoting this book at universities, at museums across the United States, I’ve been literally saying that it has been a humanitarian crisis.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriquez talks about La Borinqueña at the New York Public Library in the Bronx, NY. Photo by Justin Gilbert Alba.
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriquez talks about La Borinqueña at the New York Public Library in the Bronx, NY. Photo by Justin Gilbert Alba.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: I’ve been studying the work of various scientists who have been saying that Puerto Rico who have been saying that Puerto Rico is long overdue for a natural disaster. Given the state that the island was in with this compromised infrastructure where the power company is already 40 billion dollars in debt, the island wouldn’t recover. I actually took all of that research that I did, and I actually translated it into my comic book. In the comic book I published last December, a hurricane hits the island. It leaves the island in a blackout, in flooding. Marisol, aka La Borinqueña, actually has to go and save some lives.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: This is half a year before the actual hurricane hits Puerto Rica. My comic book for me is really a platform to advocate and represent my heritage, and remind us, as Puerto Ricans, but also as everyone living in this nation that we have a responsibility to the three and a half million Americans, but as a Puerto Rican living here in the United States, being one of five million, I feel a responsibility to help and to become more involved, not just to wave a flag and [Spanish 00:05:14], but to actually be a part of a movement that can galvanize enough of us to make a commitment.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: That’s actually been happening. With my work, I’ve been able to pull together comic book artists from the industry of Puerto Rican [inaudible 00:05:27] who’ve never worked alongside one another from George Perez to Rags Morales to Gustavo Vasquez to Chris Batista to Will Rosado to Chris [inaudible 00:05:34]. Artists who have been in the industry for over 20 years, but have never actually worked under the banner or the flag of Puerto Rico for a cause like this.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: Even as recently as today, Lin Manuel Miranda announced the fact that I’m a part of this project almost like praying. He brought me in to do the key artwork, the album artwork for that song. This just shows you from a comic book nerd like me to a theater nerd like him, as Puerto Ricans, we still have a vested interest to not only raise awareness but to advocate for our people.

ComicsVerse: Wow, thank you, man. That was amazing. I love that. As I was reading the issue that I bought from you, I honestly started to feel myself well up a little bit. Tears were coming to my eyes because I see, La Borinqueña, she’s saving them from this hurricane. I think about people that are dealing with this right now. I think, “God, how helpful would it be if they had someone like this if someone like her really did exist?” In a way, you are helping them by creating her.

“Arte de La Borinqueña,” A Fundraiser for Puerto Rico

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: Well, I’m helping out by reminding us that we have heroic capabilities within ourselves. There’s a line I wrote in the story that’s actually one of my favorite lines. It is very relevant now. When she saves this family and the little boy tells her, [“Spanish 00:06:52], I want to be a superhero like you,” and she says, [“Spanish 00:06:57], Oh, how sweet.” She responds by saying, [“Spanish 00:07:00], I’m only doing my part, [Spanish 00:07:04], You all are the real heroes.” It’s the people in Puerto Rico now that are showing their resilience by coming together. They’re not lazy. They’re strong. We’re fighting. We’re helping one another. I know that with our help here in the US, we’re gonna help our sister and brothers in Puerto Rico. We’re gonna rebuild Puerto Rico. Not only for the island but for all of us.

ComicsVerse: This has been Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. I’m Fabio. You guys can find this interview anywhere on social media, www.comicsverse.com. Thank you so much. That was amazing. Gracias.

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: [Spanish 00:08:02].

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