We’re closing out “Hispanic” Heritage Month with a conversation with La Borinqueña writer and creator Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. For those who don’t know, La Borinqueña is a comic book hero that celebrates and fights for Puerto Rico, the island’s history, culture, and people. Winner of the Eisner’s Humanitarian Award, Miranda-Rodriguez has collaborated with everyone from John Leguizamo to the Smithsonian to Rosario Dawson and back again as the force behind La Borinqueña and the Creative Director and owner of Somos Arte, a Brooklyn-based creative services studio.
When LatinaMedia.Co co-founder and EIC Cristina Escobar connected with Miranda-Rodriguez he was wrapping a successful crowd-funding campaign to produce a hardcover collection of all of La Borinqueña comic books to date. Check out our conversation as we discuss the origin of La Borinqueña, her impact so far, and Miranda-Rodriguez’s path to successful crowdfunding.
CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Why did you create La Borinqueña?
EDGARDO MIRANDA-RODRIGUEZ: In late 2015, then-Governor Padilla of Puerto Rico announced that the U.S. colony had amassed an unpayable debt of $80 billion. This exasperated an already struggling economy since the U.S. repealed Section 936, a provision of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code that served as a tax-incentive law that pharmaceutical companies especially took advantage of.
A humanitarian crisis ensued which, added to the natural disasters since Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Fiona, and earthquakes, has led to a migration of a million Puerto Ricans to the U.S., the closure of public schools, and the increase in tuition at the public university.
The first issue of La Borinqueña was published the same year that the U.S. enacted federal law to establish the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). My goal was to create a comic book series that would tap into the fervor for superhero storytelling.
In this space, there has never been an Afro-Latina with her own series that tied directly to stories about Puerto Rico. My love of comic book collecting since I was a child and professional experience producing comic books for celebrities (John Leguizamo, Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels) gave me the confidence to self-publish and create La Borinqueña.
CRISTINA ESCOBAR: What has the community response been like?
EDGARDO MIRANDA-RODRIGUEZ: I debuted my superhero at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2016, was honored with my own day by Mayor Bill De Blasio, delivered a talk in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian National Museum of American History to graduate students studying curatorial arts – all before the first issue of La Borinqueña was published.
Over the last seven years, I’ve spoken about La Borinqueña at public schools from New York City to Washington D.C. and universities like M.I.T., Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, Carnegie Mellon, and my alma mater Colgate. Libraries from Puerto Rico to across the U.S. have La Borinqueña in their collection. Our first issue is part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, NPR, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, Univision, Telemundo, WAPA, and more have interviewed me about La Borinqueña. Textbooks internationally feature La Borinqueña in lessons that teach about Puerto Rico.
Via the sales from our collaborations with DC Comics, NRDC (National Resources Defense Council), and others we’ve raised and awarded $200,000 in micro-grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Puerto Rico. We’re very fortunate to have this support from fans to institutions.
CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Tell me about your recent project to crowd-funded a hardcover. Why is making this collection important?
EDGARDO MIRANDA-RODRIGUEZ: For years, our softcover paperback graphic novels have been taught at schools and part of collections at libraries. Our series is episodic, so many of our readers haven’t read all of our books. Our hope with this hardcover edition of Volume 1 is that our first story arc that spans 4 different graphic novels can be enjoyed and studied by readers of all ages.
CRISTINA ESCOBAR: You hit your goal really quickly! What was your fundraising/outreach process like?
EDGARDO MIRANDA-RODRIGUEZ: I did TV interviews, live comic book blog conversations, and social media partnerships with celebrities like Rosario Dawson, Dayanara Torres, Luis Guzman, Rubén Blades, and Luna Lauren Velez. This helped us reach an audience that showed up over the course of our 30-day campaign to show their support.
CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Will people who missed the campaign be able to purchase the collection? How can they support/get involved?
EDGARDO MIRANDA-RODRIGUEZ: We’re looking at the possibility of ordering additional copies of the books to have them available for the holidays and for schools. We are truly happy with the success of our campaign. This ensures that we can continue to publish our stories independently because there are fans out there who are reading and teaching La Borinqueña.