While the comics are entertaining for sure, there’s an argument to be made that La Borinqueña provides a vital form of not only representation in the comic book world, but also of resistance, especially under a Trump presidency. A recent article in Pasteabout this very issue notes that “resistance is rooted in identity; the assertion of rights first assumes the validation of the claim to them. As media creators, as media consumers, we are participants in this process.”
Here, then, are some ways that La Borinqueña is truly a superhero for our time:
It provides a way to directly support independently-produced art and artists.
The success of La Borinqueña shows that, when people are tired of waiting for a place at the table, they can successfully work to create their own place. In creating the comic, Edgardo reached out to many other artists and writers of Puerto Rican descent to create an end product that spoke specifically to a real set of experiences. In addition, he made sure to leave the door open behind him for the next generation of talent by directly mentoring a young artist, Sabrina Cintron, through the process of creating her first work as a published artist. This work becomes more important than ever
The character, and the book, are both fully bilingual.
While it’s true that not every Latinx is bilingual, the characters’ seamless switching between English and Spanish without explanation or apology asserts that this is not only a normal experience within Mari’s world, but that it’s one that doesn’t require extra translation or a 101 on identity. This is how Mari navigates the world, this is how so many people express themselves, and it doesn’t need to be packaged in a way to be palatable to those who may not like or understand it.
Protecting the environment is a central issue
A 2016 Pew Research Center poll showed that about 68% of Latinx voters considered the environment a very important issue, compared to about 52% of all voters collectively. This becomes all the more important as questions remain about the Trump administration’s potential to make massive budget cuts to the EPA, as well as how it handles issues such as climate change. In her debut issue, Mari, a Columbia student majoring in earth and environmental sciences, fights to, among other things, save sea turtles, and another storyline features Mari and her best friend combatting toxic waste dumped around Puerto Rico.
The comic shines a spotlight on a black Latina character and her experiences.
While there are certainly a number of fantastic (and, sure, some mightily cheesy) Latinx comic book characters out there, it’s rare to see one at the center of a franchise, and it’s especially rare to see one who is also proudly and explicitly black. That visibility can not only help others feel represented and seen, but also asserts that Latinidad is never just one, reductive experience.
Even though the comic is centered on a Puerto Rican experience, it also shows the diversity within Latinx cultures.
Not only do we get to know Mari and her experience, but the comic also features her best friend, La La, a Dominican of Chinese descent. It’s incredibly rare to see Asian Latinx represented, well, anywhere and, like Mari, La La is a multi-dimensional character who shows the breadth and depth of Latinx experiences. Additionally, through the representation and their friendship, both characters show diversity as a source of strength and empowerment – a vital thing at a time when people are seriously arguing whether it’s OK to punch Nazis.