La Borinqueña Doll Creates Latina Superhero Production
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez still feels the pressure of being a one-man army when it comes to promoting the crown jewel of Somos Arte, his independent creative studio. Since 2016 he has been at the forefront of all campaigns around his creation La Borinqueña. The Puerto Rican superheroine has starred in a series of self-titled graphic novels that have directly addressed cultural themes and current events at the forefront of the island, all through the lens of a superhero yarn. It’s an effort that earned him a humanitarian award at the 2019 Eisner Awards (Academy Awards of the comic industry), collaborations with Hollywood stars such as Rosario Dawson, and crossovers with DC Comics’ biggest characters like Wonder Woman. But even with all the praise, he makes it clear that it has always been an uphill battle.
“There are so many moving pieces when you’re something as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when you’re something as big as Star Wars,” Miranda-Rodriguez told POPSUGAR. “But [how about] when you are something as small as a freaking sorullito called La Borinqueña? You have me, and I literally feel like your abuela is in the kitchen doing a gazillion things at once. I make the bacalaitos while I’m looking at the rice, while I’m watching the habichuelas, while I’m turning over stones, while I’m ‘the pernil carving. “
But even though he acknowledges the workload, Miranda-Rodriguez sees it as a responsibility he’s happy to shoulder. Last year, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane María’s devastating passage over Puerto Rico, he released a special edition of “La Borinqueña” with a commemorative cover. The proceeds from that sale went to various philanthropic organizations that Somos Arte supports, most of which are community organizations involved in helping causes relevant to Puerto Rico and its diaspora population.
Recently, he decided and sent his latest extension of the Borinqueña brand: action figures, with several points expressed to make them possible. Although children are still popular, action figures – especially those featuring pop culture characters – have become a huge market for collectors and enthusiasts. After introducing a modern superhero team called the Nitaínos in the last installment of “La Borinqueña,” he now had a roster of characters to draw from to fill fans’ shelves.
Ever aware of the needs of his community, Miranda-Rodriguez decided to go further. He teamed up with the same company that made the action figures, Boss Fight Studios, to release a doll based on La Borinqueña, which is available for pre-order on their website.
“They’re doing something they’ve never done before. They’re actually making toys for children, and they’ve created a line of dolls for girls called I Am Brilliance,” he said. “The first wave of these dolls has two wrestlers from the Masked Republic, which is an existing wrestling franchise. But La Borinqueña is really part of that wave as well, which is separate from las luchadoras.”
Miranda-Rodriguez has studied the socio-political structure of race and ethnicity and its impact on Black and brown communities, and has always looked to consider them with all of his projects. In this case, the doll reflects La Borinqueña’s identity as a Black Latina, from her skin color to her curly hair. This is done on purpose.
“This has a lot to do with how young girls, in particular, are positioned through play,” he explains. “Positioning in terms of the roles they play, the gender roles they play, the class roles they play, and even the roles they play in racially identifying themselves.”
A major inspiration for his motivation to make the Borinqueña doll is an experiment that was carried out now infamous in 1939 called the Clark doll experiment, named after the psychologists who performed it.
“Clark’s trial largely confirmed the opinion of many [African-American] children had self-hatred about their own situation—of their identity,” Miranda-Rodriguez says. “And when they were given the choice to choose between a white baby doll and a black baby doll, they played with the doll white . And when they weren’t allowed to play with the white doll and only got the chance to play with the black doll, they were very upset.”
This is the level of care and attention to detail that Miranda-Rodriguez also influences his stories, always looking for a way to overcome the escape from comic books with a finger sensitive to the pulse of real-world topics that need to be identified.
“Introducing this character to a child, especially little girls, is revolutionary because I give [them] choice between ‘Do you want to play with the baby doll or the fashion doll?’ [or] ‘Do you really want to play with the superhero?'” he says. [and] the color of your skin. A superhero that actually comes from a real place. A superhero that asserts their identity, asserts their place and asserts their visibility.”
Representation and inclusivity is a topic that he has touched on before in the series “La Borinqueña” and it can be said that it is the main thematic line for him as a whole.
The goal, he says, is to deal not only with the internalized racism that the Clark trial showed but also with “internalized colonialism” that he thinks is in some Puerto Ricans as well. The country once banned its own flag and demonized its national heroes, which has led to what he says is the unfortunate consequence that “some people don’t see the value of our heritage, they don’t we see the value in our heroes.” Decorating La Borinqueña in Puerto Rican colors is a way to counter that.
The hope for Miranda-Rodriguez and Boss Fight Studios is to have the dolls ready for sale by Día de los Reyes – January. It is an important holiday in Latin America, especially in Puerto Rico, which is known for its extended Christmas holiday season. The doll will be distributed online and available in select stores across the East Coast.
“We hope that we will enter a place where there are multi-billion dollar corporations so that big stores like Walmart or Target will see the value of La Borinqueña’s action figures. [and] La Borinqueña dolls and put them on the shelves,” Miranda-Rodriguez says.
The attempt was preceded by a successful campaign by Puerto Rican cocoa processor Chocolate Cortés, which sold limited edition chocolate bars with La Borinqueña comic strips printed on the wrappers. The run wiped out Puerto Rico’s record and forced Chocolate Cortés to enter its Florida-based distribution location. It confirmed Miranda-Rodriguez’s long-standing desire to work with and support local businesses,
As always, he and his team at Somos Arte (which includes his wife, Kyung Jeon-Miranda, as director of projects) will continue to push forward with bigger plans for their work and struggling to get them in front of a new audience.
“We as Latin people must see the value of our own intellectual qualities, and our own art, and our own stories,” he says. “So that we can show the rest of the world that our stories, our characters and our toys need to be on the same shelves as other heroes too.”