You Can’t Erase Magic: La Borinqueña

By Jose Figueroa 

What a time to be alive.

As social media has let us all know, the past few months haven’t been the best for geeks of color. There were the multiple incidences of white washing and erasure in the upcoming projects, Doctor Strange, the Netflix series Iron Fist and Ghost in a Shell. Then, Marvel chose to cast Tom Holland as a white Peter Parker, denying geeks of color from experiencing an Afro-Latinx Spidey join the party in Captain America: Civil War. These incidents, built upon empires that have completely excluded Womxn of color, white washed numerous characters, and exploited Black lives in order to service storylines, have made many fans of color rally together in protest. It’s been difficult maintaining loyalty to industries that ignore the existence of fans of color, but the last few weeks have proven that not all hope seems to be lost.

Seriously. What a time to be alive for geeks of color.

If you haven’t been on Twitter lately, you’ve been missing out on the magic that is #BlackPantherSoLit. Fans of color, specifically Black Twitter, are celebrating due to the introduction of Black Panther in Civil War, the character’s upcoming solo film which potentially will be led by Chadwick Boseman, Lupita N’Yongo and Michael B. Jordan (*screaming in joy*), and the current best selling Black Panther comic by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The hashtag, created by Twitter user @ChadwickNChill, has started an online block party that is full of love and pride in finally seeing representation in such a powerful way.

While we were all basking in the online celebrations, another story broke that continues to celebrate black and brown bodies in a huge way. Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, who recently made his Marvel comics debut by including Taíno culture in Guardians of infinity NO. 3, is continuing to create spaces for untold stories. Miranda-Rodriguez and his team of Boricua creators are collaborating to bring Afro-Boricua super-heroine, La Borinqueña, to life this month.

Like I said, what a time to be alive.

The creation of La Borinqueña, also known as Marisol Rios De La Luz, comes at a critical time for Puerto Rico as the island suffers through a financial crisis that destructively affects it’s people. A massive wave of Puerto Ricans are leaving their homeland, escaping a disaster (caused in large part by the U.S) that has been brewing for decades. For those who aren’t aware of the long history of violence the people of Puerto Rico have experienced, check out Porto Rico: America’s Forgotten Colony, a series written by Michelle Carroll though Guerrilla Feminism, for a brief and in-depth analysis of the trauma forced upon the Island.

The severe state that Puerto Rico finds it’s self in is directly linked to its status as a commonwealth (AKA Colony) of the United States. The U.S has spent decades attempting to strategically erase Puerto Rican culture and it’s people, while simultaneously profiting off of the island and exploiting Puerto Rican labor and bodies. The “land of the free” has silenced leaders fighting for independence and has shifted the conversation by placing blame and responsibility on the victims of hundreds of years of colonialism. The creation of La Borinqueña serves as proof that our stories and our people are resilient, and that we will continue to shout in pride for our Boricua roots. In an article with the Washington Post, Miranda-Rodriguez says:

“This comic book that I’m writing with my team is not going to solve the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, but it’s going to open the dialogue in a way that can be accepted and understood by a larger audience that will absorb it, learn from it, and also take action from it”

Miranda-Rodriguez and his team stand on the shoulders of giants, adding to the history of Puerto Rican activists, both on and off the island, such as Oscar Lopez Rivera and The Young Lords Party. The character’s existence boldly (expect nothing less from Boricuas) challenges the United States to pay attention to the mess they’ve created and will hopefully create dialogue demanding more for the island of Puerto Rico.

Miranda-Rodriguez also uses his platform to intentionally create space for an Afro-Boricua female character. Black Puerto Ricans, and Afro-Latinx’s, are often excluded and erased by systemic forms of violence. Puerto Rican Hip-hop activist, Rosa Clemente, writes on the experiences of navigating through the world as a Black Puerto Rican, describing it as a constant battle of proving ones identity to the rest of the world. My father is a Black Puerto Rican and I grew up around Boricuas of all shades. Despite this, I was never taught the history of Puerto Rico and the genocide of the indigenous population, the Taíno people. The education I received ignored and erased the history of African slaves brought to the Caribbean. Not being able to give a language to my existence, to explain the complex history of my identity, denies my humanity. La Borinqueña gives Afro-Latinx’s the opportunity to finally see themselves as powerful beings full of magic. As Miranda-Rodriguez states:

“People saw themselves. And when you see yourself, that’s empowering. When you hear your story, you recognize for the first time that you have that superpower.”

The character will also explore the intersections between race and gender, giving Afro-Latina’s a hero that represents the marginalization and violence that Black Latinas continuously experience. Afro-Boricua female children will finally have a hero, proudly donning the Puerto Rican flag, that they could identify with and that will validate their immensely powerful identities.

While a step in the right direction, characters such as La Borinqueña and the Black Panther do not mean geeks of color are safe to freely navigate in geek spaces comfortably. These characters and the people bringing them to life represent the power geeks of color have, and hopefully our power will continue to make folxs uncomfortable with the status quo. So, for now enjoy the party and remember, we are real. We breathe magic. Our existence is beautiful. We cannot be silenced or erased. Party on and see you all the next time the Internet brings us together.


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