My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Puerto Rico Strong is a comics anthology supporting Puerto Rico disaster relief and recovery with all proceeds going towards rebuilding efforts on the island post-Hurricane Maria (Sept. 20, 2017) and Hurricane Irma just two weeks prior which had already left over a million residents in the dark. Puerto Rico Strong is rightly named as it is a beautiful portrait of the resilience of Puerto Rico, as told through stories of struggle and triumph through a historical lens as well as narratives that reflect today’s climate on a truly personal, community-wide, and national level.
It is a work edited by Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derek Ruiz, and Neil Schwartz with comics created by a team of talented writers and artists. As Hazel Newlevant stated in the collection’s introduction, it “weaves together a prismatic tapestry of Puerto Rican identities and experiences. They range from intimate family traditions to uncovered histories’ the direness of the present moment to the luminous possible futures we can strive for.”
I enjoyed each body of work from Puerto Rico Strong and count this collection immeasurably valuable. Knowledge is a treasure and this anthology schooled me in unexpected ways and I appreciate it greatly. Each story afforded me an opportunity to grapple with and take ownership of my lack of understanding. For instance, why isn’t Puerto Rico a state? The classification as a U.S. territory or an unincorporated U.S. territory seems archaic. Spanish rule ended in 1898 and ever since then, Puerto Rico has been under U.S. control. Those terms ‘rule’ and ‘control’ as it pertains to defining Puerto Rico’s U.S. status grieves me. It makes Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans the ‘Other.’ It makes it that much easier for us to distance ourselves when a tragedy strikes Puerto Rico in the form of a devastating storm like Hurricane Maria. We fail our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans when we turn a blind eye to them.
By Matt Bellisle
(From the Puerto Rico Strong Anthology)
You are not faceless.
You are individuals.
You are not alone.
You are Americans.
You are our brothers and sisters.
We stand with you…
And we are stronger together.
Matt Bellisle’s Faceless is just one of the pieces I loved and it’s because of how it spoke to my heart but there was so much to glean from this collection and it ignited an interest in learning more. And while we may be hard-pressed to find Puerto Rican history as told by Puerto Ricans in our classroom curricula and history books, Puerto Rico Strong would certainly be a great launching point for further research and study and discussion. It should be on every bookshelf and it would serve your students well being added to classroom and library collections. Lion Forge recommends ages 14 and up but I would say that it would also be a good fit for 7th & 8th grade students also.
Please also check out the teaching and discussion guides from Lion Forge: http://www.lionforge.com/educator-puerto-rico-strong/ because you are certainly going to want to teach this in your classroom.
Lion Forge | http://www.lionforge.com/
OmniBros Live! 4/19/18 – Interview with the creators and editors of Puerto Rico Strong | https://youtu.be/N3oSamxxKew