Puerto Rican superhero 'La Borinqueña' inspires fans in Holyoke
Clutching a stack of comic books in her hands, Maritza Rivera of Holyoke, Massachusetts, waited excitedly for a quick photo with the author of "La Borinqueña."
"It's great to have such an amazing author who created this Puerto Rican character, be here in Holyoke," said Rivera, who attended a meet and greet with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, at the War Memorial building in Holyoke Friday night.
"Finally we have representation out there in ... comics," Rivera said.
The event was sponsored by Nueva Esperanza and Neighbor to Neighbor and was an opportunity for fans of the Puerto Rican superhero to meet the creator and discuss the significance of representation in comic books.
"We all needed it. The city needed it," said Precious Rodriguez, who also left with several comic books.
There are currently three volumes and two special edition comics available.
"It's something you can't really hold. I don't know how to explain it, it's unreal," she said.
Miranda-Rodriguez said he specifically wanted to visit Holyoke because of the large Puerto Rican population. The city as a whole is 54% Latino, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, with most identifying as Puerto Rican.
"What I'm seeing in Holyoke right now is something very incredible in the sense of a change that will impact puertorriqueños here in Massachusetts, but also the diaspora," he said. "Holyoke has its first Puerto Rican mayor, various Puerto Rican councilors, very open LGBTQ members and it's incredibly inspiring to see such a progressive and diverse cadre of leadership."
Miranda-Rodriguez wrote for Marvel before writing this independent comic book in 2016 featuring Marisol Rios De La Luz, a college student studying science who develops powers from Taino (indigenous) deities while on a trip to the island of Puerto Rico.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Miranda-Rodriguez partnered with DC Comics to release a special issue of "La Borinqueña." In that book, the superhero worked with characters like Wonder Woman to reconstruct the island.
Marisol Rivera, who shares a name with the hero, said when she first learned about "La Borinqueña," she knew it would not only impact her, but her high school students in Springfield, many of whom are Puerto Rican.
"It was great to see someone that is not only representing us physically, but also telling our story," she said. "As a teacher, I am always trying to pass on our stories because they are not being taught here in the US."
Rivera said she hopes to see the character evolve and become a part of comic book pop culture, like many of the Marvel and DC characters with their own movies and television series.
"Comic book characters are hot right now," she said, "and so I'm hoping Puerto Ricans and 'La Borinqueña' will be a part of all that."