Comic book auteur Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez helped make superheroes more diverse by creating the Puerto Rican superhero — LA BORINQUEÑA. In 2018, Marisol Rios De La Luz aka La Borinqueńa teamed up with DC Comics Wonder-Woman in RICANSTRUCTION. Together, they ensure we do not forget the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. At New York Comic Con 2018, we luckily got to discuss both comics with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez.

The below text contains the transcript from our interview at New York Comic Con. The transcript was edited for clarity.

ComicsVerse (CV): I’m here with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. We are at New York City Comic Con 2018, and you’re watching ComicsVerse. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. So, first thing, last time we spoke you were getting ready to the museum LA BORINQUEÑA #2 and RICANSTRUCTION. During that whole time did you ever, did it dawn on you just realizing, wow, LA BORINQUEÑA is not just inspiration for Puerto Ricans, but for all comic book readers?

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez (EMR): I mean, that’s the idea, you know what I mean? Because it’s expected that if you create a great story that everyone can enjoy. As people of color, we’ve always enjoyed everyone else’s story, whether it speaks directly to us or not, because it’s speaking to us at our core as humans. I approach my storytelling in the same way because I wanted to tell a story that everyone could see themselves.

Of course, I’m speaking from the experience of a Puerto Rican. But I’m still speaking from the experience of a human being because we still have our families, we still have our struggles, we still have our culture. I think that many people are finally seeing that people of color can obviously tell stories that everyone else can see themselves in. We don’t have to have protagonists that are blond and blue-eyed for that to happen. So it’s very welcoming and definitely inspiring to see a very diverse audience.

I’ve been speaking nationally over the last two and a half years. Oftentimes the majority of students that I speak at at universities aren’t Latino. And it’s just that the work is getting to a larger audience. I think that’s really what this project is about because it’s all raising awareness about what’s happening in Puerto Rico, with this current humanitarian crisis. And to really introduce into the discourse the concept of de-colonization.

But not just in the political status of the island. Even in our own consciousness, to really kind of rethink and look at ourselves differently. To look at how Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans are a part of American history and actually have their own heritage as well. And creating my narrative, LA BORINQUEÑA, it kind of adds to that conversation and it kind of adds to that history. I’m very proud to be applying, like they say in Spanish, mi granito de arena, my own little grain of sand to this movement.

CV: Thank you so much. Actually, as I was reading LA BORINQUEÑA #2, what I love personally is the fact that you manage to tackle political issues without getting too heavy-handed. How did you find that balance?

EMR: Well, because when I’m writing, I write through Marisol. Marisol is a senior in college, but she’s not an activist, she’s an Earth and environmental studies student. So her approach of looking at the world is pretty much like acquiring and assessing empirical data. She’s a scientist at heart, but as a student she’s being made aware of these injustices that are happening in Puerto Rico. Be they economic injustices or environmental injustices, or just human rights violations in general. As a human being when you just see things that are wrong… Well, it sticks to you. So when I try to write this story, I write it from her perspective.

Now, I’m a 48-year-old man. I can’t write and expect people to be at the level I’m at with my own political education because my life has brought me to where I’m at. When I write Marisol, as a 19 to 20-year-old young woman, I’m trying to channel that space that these young people are going through. Like, discovering their own identity, living autonomously for the first time from your family, discovering who you are in the grand scheme of things, and who you are in the world.

In writing that, Marisol’s exploration of her own political conscience is organic. I try to address these social issues by just real world experience. I’m not going to write a narrative that has a character monologuing about the rights and wrongs of the world. It’s more through organic conversation or situations that these issues will arise. And I think that’s kind of the best way. Most people who take to the cause of activism and to speak out of injustices, they come through it through a personal experience. Something that speaks to them at the core. When that happens, you get real people who really invest in actually overcoming the injustices that exist in reality.

CV: So, RICANSTRUCTION. That was a beautiful story, a beautiful anthology. It has raised over $150,000 for benefits towards disaster relief from Hurricane Maria for Puerto Rico. Is there anything else that you think that people can do to help out with the cause because people are still suffering?

EMR: What we did on our website, if you go to la-borinquena.com, you can literally find organizations that we have already micro-grants to. You can follow them on social media or go directly to their websites to get in contact with them. I encourage people to do just that. When you see these elaborate fundraising projects that exist, oftentimes by larger celebrities raising millions of dollars, there really isn’t any transparency as to where the money exactly is going.

One thing we were trying to do with the money we were able to raise is create a grants program to identify these organizations. If you know Puerto Rico geographically, we gave money to organizations as far Northeast as Culebra to as far Southwest as Boqueron. We pinpointed these locations because we wanted our resources to get to as many organizations that were doing direct impact work, literally working directly with the community. And we’ve hand-selected very small institutions to do that. Not larger organizations, but very small grassroots organizations.

So what I encourage people is to do the same. We live in an era where we’re all connected via social media. It really isn’t that hard to get online, on either Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, and find these organizations. Directly get involved either through monetary support, or even physical support like take a trip to Puerto Rico. Do some volunteer work, reach out to these organizations. Or, even simply, you’re into comics, pick up RICANSTRUCTION because we’re still raising money.

We’ve raised $150,000 so far but we’re still selling books. I’ve been selling hundreds of copies here at artist’s alley at New York Comic-Con. We’re still selling books and the book continues to do well, breaking records. It was #1 on amazon.com for four months, which blew me away, and it continues to break records. And it’s all for an amazing real cause. It’s not a good cause, it’s a real cause. That’s really fundamentally what superheroes are about — helping out. And we’re doing it in real life.

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