When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 2017, many living on the mainland struggled to connect with their loved ones. Power was knocked out across the entire island, making communication challenging. Even the hotline the Puerto Rican government set up to provide information to worried friends and family proved ineffective. People received a busy tone because of the sheer volume of callers. But as they desperately looked for news – many turning to social media, where others relayed the little information they knew – they were forced to carry on living their lives outside the island. That’s how Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez found himself at New York Comic Contwo weeks after the storm, a time when folks still had no idea about the severity of the effects. While there to talk to fans about his work and his original comic book character, La Borinqueña, an Afro-Boricua superhero, his corner of Artist’s Alley turned into a sort of therapy session.
“There was a line of like 50 people waiting for me every day, the four days of the event,” Miranda-Rodriguez tells me on the telephone. “But more than anything, the space became a very special place for people to share, ’cause up until that point, many of us still had not heard from our family or friends or anyone from Puerto Rico. Not only were people not able to communicate with one another on the island, but we weren’t able to communicate from here to the island. So many people came to the table, they saw the image of La Borinqueña; it gave them a sense of optimism. But at the same time, many of them were overwhelmed emotionally, crying, asking me about my family. I cried; there was a lot of hugging happening.”
The tearful meetups also became the genesis of one of Edgardo’s most ambitious projects: Ricanstruction: Reminiscing and Rebuilding Puerto Rico, an anthology raising money for recovery efforts, which featured about 150 collaborators. The book made its debut on May 29, 2018, but it was at NYCC that set this 192-page anthology in motion. Dan DiDio – the co-publisher of DC Comics – and S.O. Leilani Ramos Lugo lined up to get a chance to speak to Edgardo. When Dan came face to face with Edgardo, the first thing the Nuyorican creative said was, “What are we going to do for Puerto Rico?” DiDio asked Miranda-Rodriguez to put together a proposal.
“As soon as he left – within minutes – I came up with the term Ricanstruction Reminiscing and Rebuilding Puerto Rico,” he adds. Soon after, he diligently worked to make this idea a reality.
One of the most noteworthy parts of Ricanstruction is the number of famous names attached to the project. Rosario Dawson, Sonia Manzano, Javier Munoz, Ruben Blades, and more created content for the book. Some, like Rosario Dawson, he persuaded to create a comic.
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