A report by Zach Goins for the Daily Tar Heel.
UNC will get a taste of the Marvel universe when comic book artist and writer Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez visits campus on Sept. 14.
As a part of the John and June Allcott Gallery, Miranda-Rodriguez’ artwork will be on display in the Hanes Art Center from Aug. 27 until Sept. 21. Miranda-Rodriguez’ visit to campus will also kick off the University’s month-long Latinx Heritage Month.
Miranda-Rodriguez has worked with Marvel for 11 years, previously focusing on superheroes of African descent, like Black Panther, Luke Cage and Storm, but after writing his first story for the anthology series “Guardians of the Galaxy: Tales of the Cosmos,” Miranda-Rodriguez recognized the larger role he could play.
“Writing that story gave me the exposure I needed to realize there was a strong need for people of color to write stories,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “The reception to my first Marvel book was so strong that I decided to use that attention I was garnering to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis affecting Puerto Rico.”
Enter La Borinqueña – a superhero of Miranda-Rodriguez’ own creation.
La Borinqueña, also known as college student Marisol Rios De La Luz, spends a semester abroad in Puerto Rico, where she encounters the island’s spirits and gains the power of superhuman strength, flight and the ability to control storms.
La Borinqueña has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon for the people of Puerto Rico, representing the island’s traditions, heritage and struggles that are often overlooked in pop culture.
For Mario Marzan, an associate professor of art history, Miranda-Rodriguez’ commitment to social work in addition to art made him an obvious choice for the Allcott Gallery.
“His comics are really bringing attention to some of the issues that are impacting Puerto Rico right now,” Marzan said. “I myself am originally from Puerto Rico, so his topic was close to home for me personally.”
When Miranda-Rodriguez first created La Borinqueña, he knew he could use his platform to not only share his artistic abilities, but to promote some of Puerto Rico’s most pressing issues, too.
“It is truly humbling to see the cultural impact that La Borinqueña has made internationally,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “I initially set out to develop this graphic novel series to bring to light the need to decolonize Puerto Rico as it has been a colony of the U.S. for 101 years now. I also want to make those of us here in the U.S. aware that there are 3.5 million U.S. citizens also living in Puerto Rico who have always been treated as second-class citizens. They can serve in the U.S. military but cannot vote for their commander-in-chief.”
Josmell Perez, the director of Carolina Latinx Collaborative, worked together with Marzan to organize Miranda-Rodriguez’ visit, said he’s excited for Latinx students to see superheroes that look like them.
“I’ve been at Carolina for over 10 years, so I’ve seen the Latinx community grow in both size and prominence,” Perez said. “I think it’s important to create these learning opportunities for all of our communities to be able to show the richness of our cultures, because Edgardo’s work is the perfect example of what it means to have pride in one’s culture.”
Miranda-Rodriguez, Marzan and Perez all hope that La Borinqueña and her visit to UNC-Chapel Hill result in one thing: awareness.
“I want students to walk away feeling and knowing that Puerto Rico is just as much of the U.S. as Texas, North Carolina and New Jersey,” Perez said. “They just want what we all want — to be seen and to be heard.”