Day 6

'Ricanstruction': Comic book superheroes are coming to Puerto Rico's aid

Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez is launching a new comic anthology to raise money to help rebuild the island.

The comic anthology will feature characters like Batman and Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman will be one of the superheroes appearing alongside La Borinquena in "Ricanstruction." (courtesy of Somos Arte)

Hearing updates from friends and family in Puerto Rico can be difficult for graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez.

This week, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez announced that he is releasing a comic anthology called, Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico. The money raised from the book will go toward helping those on the island rebuild. ((courtesy of Somos Arte) )

Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, many are still struggling to rebuild.

Miranda-Rodriguez's friend Luis owns a local comic bookstore that also serves as an art gallery, bubble tea cafe and tiki bar. Luis hasn't been able to open his business since September because he still has no electricity. 

"He's had to convert himself into operating a food truck and relocating to ... another one of the boroughs in the municipality of San Juan," Miranda-Rodriguez tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury. 

"Shops that are run by businessmen like Luis cater to students, cater to local residents," explains Miranda-Rodriguez.

"Unfortunately, if there isn't electricity, there isn't enough power —literally — to thrive and actually allow this business community to grow, and [allow] families to support one another. "

Miranda-Rodriguez grew up in the Bronx, but his family is from Puerto Rico and he has many loved ones who still live there.

That's why Miranda-Rodriguez — and a few superheroes — are now doing their part to help out. 

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This week, Miranda-Rodriguez announced that he is publishing a comic anthology: Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico. The money raised from the book will go toward helping those on the island. 

The book will feature some of the biggest names in comics, including DC Comics characters Wonder Woman and Batman. They'll appear alongside his own comic superhero, La Borinqueña.

"Internationally, we look to these icons, these heroes, as symbols of hope and inspiration," Miranda-Rodriguez says.

"I thought to myself: 'These characters are so universally recognized on our planet. How amazing an opportunity would it be to introduce my character as the literal bridge to bring these characters to Puerto Rico?'" 

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, writer and creator of the best-selling graphic novel La Borinquena, talks about his project during an interview at the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education in New York City. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Who is La Borinqueña?

La Borinqueña was created two years ago, and has become a symbol of patriotism for Puerto Ricans. 

Her story begins while she is studying at Columbia University, where she is known as Marisol Rios de La Luz. 

During her studies, she takes a semester to study abroad in Puerto Rico, and while there, she explores some of the island's caves and comes across five small crystals.

It's then that Atabex, a Taino mother goddess, and her two sons appear before her. The trio then gives Rios de La Luz superhuman strengths — the power of flight and the ability to control storms. 

Miranda-Rodriguez says La Borinqueña was created to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and how it would affect Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. 

"My comic book allowed me to bring this dialogue to media outlets like Teen Vogue [and] Entertainment Weekly," he says.

"All of these different media outlets were not talking about Puerto Rico, but they were interested in a superhero. And the iconography of this character that I designed was enticing enough to allow me to talk about these real world issues." 

A symbol for Puerto Rico

Above, a man rides his bicycle through a damaged road in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. Below, six months after the passing of Hurricane Maria in San Juan. (RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Contributors to Ricanstruction will include other comic book artists, including Canadians Yanick Paquette and Ken Lashley. There will also be stories written by Rosario Dawson, Rubén Blades and Sonia Manzano.

For Miranda-Rodriguez, creating Ricanstruction is more than just raising money for support and aid in Puerto Rico. He says he hopes the book will continue to create discourse around humanitarian crises like Hurricane Maria.

More importantly, he wants to use the story of La Borinqueña to empower people on the island during tough times. 

"Fundamentally, it's not really what her superpowers can do to save Puerto Rico. It's what our power as readers and as lovers of these stories can do to help people," he says. 

"I'm hoping that with the release of this book in two months, the dialogue will continue to occur and the awareness will continue to happen to bring the resources necessary to help this nation rise up once again." 

To hear our full interview with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.