“The Gifts of the Hurricane:” Reimagining Post-María Puerto Rico through Comics





decoloniality, decolonial imaginary, Puerto Rico, comics, graphic novels, Hurricane María, tropical storms, climate change


Although the media framed Hurricanes Irma and María and their aftermath as a tragedy, and indeed it was, a small literary canon has emerged that explores the storms as an opportunity to rethink Puerto Rico’s future. The aftermath of the hurricanes impacted cultural production two-fold; by forcing writers to engage with climate change, while also rethinking the colonial relationship that Puerto Rico has with the United States. Looking specifically at selections from English- and Spanish-language comic anthologies Ricanstruction (2018), Puerto Rico Strong (2018) and Nublado: Escombros de María (2018) as well as single-author graphic novels like María and Temporada (2019), I explore how authors used Hurricane María as a catalyst to reimagine and recreate a more autonomous future for the island through decolonial imaginaries, a notion laid out by Emma Pérez. Despite their different approaches to Puerto Rico’s future, the comics’ commonality lies in counter-narratives that espouse community values, indigeneity, innovation, and reclamation of nature as a means to confront hardship. Together they produce alternative modalities for transcending the vulnerabilities of debilitating disasters brought on by climate change. They offer a return to pre-colonial values combined with new technologies to empower the island to break from the United States and withstand future storms.

Author Biography

Daniel Arbino, University of Texas at Austin, USA

Dr Daniel Arbino is the Head of Collection Development at the University of Texas at Austin’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. He holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota in Latin American literatures and cultures (2013) and his research interests include Critical Race Theory and post-colonial articulations in Caribbean and U.S. Latino literatures. His recent publications have appeared in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Chiricú, Label Me Latina/o and eTropic journal.


Acevedo, N. (2019, July 19). What's behind Puerto Rico's protests, scandal? Here's 5 things to know. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/what-s-behind-puerto-rico-s-protests-scandal-here-s-n1031486

Agrelo, J. (2019, July 4). How a change of color for the Puerto Rican flag became a symbol of resistance. Mother Jones. https://www.motherjones.com/media/2019/07/puerto-rico-resistance-flag-black-and-white-flag-san-juan-la-puerta-colonial/

Aldama, F. L. (2009). Your brain on Latino comics: From Gus Arriola to los bros Hernandez. University of Texas Press.

Arbino, D. (2017). Half-mast: Shifting landscapes of protest and demilitarization in Vieques. In S. Puri & L. Putnam (Eds.), Caribbean military encounters (pp. 271-288). Palgrave-Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58014-6_14 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58014-6_14

Arbino, D. (2019). “The ugliness of my surroundings”: Tip Marugg’s Ecogothic Poetics of Isolation. eTropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 18(1), 125-140. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.18.1.2019.3668 DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.18.1.2019.3668

Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (2010). Nativism. In Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (Eds.), Post-colonial Studies: The Key Concepts (2nd ed.), (pp. 143-144). Routledge.

Ayala, C.J. & Bernabe, R. (2007). Puerto Rico in the American century: A history since 1898. University of North Carolina Press. https://doi.org/10.5149/9780807895535_ayala DOI: https://doi.org/10.5149/9780807895535_ayala

Betancourt, D. (2018, March 15). A new comic book anthology raises money for Puerto Rico, telling stories of history and fantasy. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2018/03/15/a-new-comic-book-anthology-raises-money-for-puerto-rico-telling-stories-of-history-and-fantasy/

Castelblanco, F. (2018, October 24). Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez on La Borinqueña, Wonder-Woman, and Ricanstruction at New York Comic Con 2018. Comicsverse. https://comicsverse.com/edgardo-miranda-rodriguez-nycc2018/

Castor. (2018). Cómo estás? In R. Colón and Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (pp. 19-22). Soda Pop Comics.

Clark, J. (2018). Sato. Self-published.

Coker, K.J. (2015). James in postcolonial perspective. The letter as nativist discourse. Fortress Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt13wwwpq DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt13wwwpq

Colón, R. (2018a). María. Soda Pop Comics.

Colón, R. (2018b). Untitled. In R. Colón & Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (p. 2). Soda Pop Comics.

Colón, R. (2018c, September 28). “One year later, Puerto Rico is standing still.” The Nib. https://thenib.com/hurricane-María-one-year-later/

Colón, R. (2017, October 16). “Puerto Rico: Should I state, or should I go?” The Nib. https://thenib.com/rosa-colon

Coto, D. (2019, September 20). “Puerto Rico faces slow recovery 2 years after the storm.” AP News. https://apnews.com/article/hurricane-María-caribbean-hurricanes-storms-puerto-rico-966a0ad2b5094233a99551843025111f

Cruz, M. (2018). Untitled. In R. Colón & Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (p. 18). Soda Pop Comics.

Dawson, R. & Atchison, D. (2018). ¡Pa’lante! In E. Miranda-Rodriguez (Ed.), Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & rebuilding Puerto Rico (pp. 14-16). Somos Arte.

Díaz-Basteris, M.F. (2019). Webcomics, huracanes, y colonialismo en Puerto Rico. Alter/nativas: Revista de estudios culturales latinoamericanos 9, 1-24. https://alternativas.osu.edu/assets/files/issue9/ensayos/diaz-final.pdf

Earle, H.E.H. (2017). Comics, trauma and the new art of war. University Press of Mississippi. https://doi.org/10.14325/mississippi/9781496812469.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.14325/mississippi/9781496812469.001.0001

Etkin, D. (2016). Disaster theory: An interdisciplinary approach to concepts and causes. Elsevier.

Florido, A. (2019, September 24). 2 Years after Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico, the exact death toll remains unknown. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/24/763958799/2-years-after-hurricane-María-hit-puerto-rico-the-exact-death-toll-remains-unkno Garcia, A.M. (Director). (1982.) La operación [Film]. Latin American Film Project.

García Márquez, G. (1967). Cien años de soledad. Editorial Sudamericana.

González, W. (2018). Untitled. In R. Colón & Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (pp. 12-13). Soda Pop Comics.

Guzmán, S. (2018). My beloved Borikén. In E. Miranda-Rodriguez (Ed.), Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & rebuilding Puerto Rico (pp. 99-104). Somos Arte.

Kaplan, E. A. (2005). Trauma culture: The politics of terror and loss in media and literature. Rutgers University Press.

Knowles, S. (2015). The postcolonial graphic novel and trauma: From Maus to Malta. In A. Ward (Ed.), Postcolonial traumas: memory, narrative, resistance (pp. 83-95). Palgrave-Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137526434_6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137526434_6

La Borinqueña grant awardees. (2018). La Borinqueña. https://www.la-borinquena.com/2018-la-borinquena-grant-awardees

La Borinqueña grants program. (2018). La Borinqueña. https://www.la-borinquena.com/la-borinquena-grants-program

Lopez, I. (2008). Matters of choice: Puerto Rican women’s struggle for reproductive freedom. Rutgers University Press.

Lugones, M. (2008). The coloniality of gender. Worlds & Knowledges Otherwise 2, 1-17.

Maldonado-Torres, N. (2007). On the coloniality of being. Cultural Studies 21(2-3), 240-270. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162548 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162548

Marqués, R. (1952). La carreta, comedia puertorriqueña en tres actos. Casa Baldrich.

McCaffrey, E. (2002). Military power and popular protest: The U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Rutgers University Press.

Medina, L. (2014). Nepantla spirituality: My path to the source(s) of healing. In E. Facio & I. Lara (Eds.), Fleshing the spirit: Spirituality and activism in Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous women’s lives (pp.167-185). University of Arizona Press.

Mignolo, W. (2005). The Idea of Latin America. Blackwell.

Mignolo, W. (2007). Delinking. Cultural Studies 21(2–3), 449–514. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162647 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162647

Mignolo, W. (2011). The Darker Side of Western Modernity. Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv125jqbw DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv125jqbw

Mignolo, W. & Vasquez, R. (2013, July 15). Decolonial aestheSis: Colonial wounds/decolonial healings. Social Text Online. https://socialtextjournal.org/periscope_article/decolonial-aesthesis-colonial-woundsdecolonial-healings/.

Miranda-Rodriguez, E. (2016). La Borinqueña #1. Somos Arte.

Miranda-Rodriguez, E. (2018a). La Borinqueña #2. Somos Arte.

Miranda-Rodriguez, E. (2019, July 26). “A new day for Boriken.”The Bronx Free Press. https://thebronxfreepress.com/a-new-day-for-borikenun-nuevo-dia-para-boriken/

Morillo, J. (2018). Macondo, Puerto Rico. In M. Lopez, D. Rodriguez, H. Newlevant, D. Ruiz, & N. Schwartz (Eds.), Puerto Rico strong (pp. 155-162). The Lion Forge.

Nose, I. (2018). It also rains in Puerto Rico. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Olmedo, I. (2002). What grandmothers can teach us about Puerto Rican culture and community. Practicing Anthropology, 24(3), 34-38. https://doi.org/10.17730/praa.24.3.p48417618838481u DOI: https://doi.org/10.17730/praa.24.3.p48417618838481u

Pérez, E. (1999). The decolonial imaginary: Writing Chicanas into history. Indiana University Press.

Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America. (Trans. M. Ennis). Nepantla: Views from the South, 1(3), 533-580. https://doi.org/10.1177/0268580900015002005 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0268580900015002005

Rivera, G. (2018). #Queerborinegra. In E. Miranda-Rodriguez (Ed.), Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & rebuilding Puerto Rico (pp. 145-147). Somos Arte.

Rivera, L. (2018). Family ends with me. In M. Lopez, D. Rodriguez, H. Newlevant, D. Ruiz, & N. Schwartz (Eds.), Puerto Rico strong (pp. 96-101). The Lion Forge.

Rivera-Santana, C. (2020). Aesthetics of disaster as decolonial aesthetics: making sense of the effects of Hurricane María through Puerto Rican contemporary art. Cultural Studies, 34 (3), 341-362. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2019.1607519 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2019.1607519

Robbins, J. (2018). Presión. In R. Colón & Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (pp. 27-30). Soda Pop Comics.

Rodríguez, R. (2019). Temporada. Self-Published.

Román, A. (2018). Thirty years later. In E. Miranda-Rodriguez (Ed.), Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & rebuilding Puerto Rico (pp. 155-157). Somos Arte.

Rosado, A. A Taino’s tale. In M. Lopez, D. Rodriguez, H. Newlevant, D. Ruiz, & N. Schwartz (Eds.), Puerto Rico strong (pp. 80-85). The Lion Forge.

Sáez, D. (2018). Lo que recuerdo de María. In R. Colón & Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (p. 16-17). Soda Pop Comics.

Santiago, Y. (2018). Waking up in darkness. In R. Colón & Y. Santiago (Eds.), Nublado: Escombros de María (pp. 14-15). Soda Pop Comics.

Shwed, Ally. (2018). La operación. In M. Lopez, D. Rodriguez, H. Newlevant, D. Ruiz, & N. Schwartz (Eds.), Puerto Rico strong (pp. 101-103). The Lion Forge.

Sou, G. & Cei Douglas, J. (2019). After María: Everyday recovery from disaster. The University of Manchester Press.

Tarwater, T.J. (2018). Pasitos grandes. In M. Lopez, D. Rodriguez, H. Newlevant, D. Ruiz, & N. Schwartz (Eds.), Puerto Rico strong (pp. 21-40). The Lion Forge.

Torres, F. L. (2019). Deconstructing the superhero: Interrogating the racialization of bodies using all-new, all-different avengers, Vol. I. In R. Ginsberg & W. Glenn (Eds.), Engaging with multicultural YA literature in the secondary classroom (pp. 162–170). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429053191-17 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429053191-17

Torres, F.L. & Medina, C.L. (2021). Cuentos combativos: Decolonialities in Puerto Rican books about María. Journal of Literacy Research 53(2), 242-264. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086296X211009294 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1086296X211009294

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1–40.

Vargas Morales, T.L. (2003). Señal de primavera. Isla negra.

Ward, A. (2015). Postcolonial traumas: Memory, narrative, resistance. Palgrave-Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137526434 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137526434

Wuebbles, D.J., Fahey, D.W., Hibbard, K.A., Dokken, D.J., Stewart, B.C., & Maycock, T.K. (Eds.). (2017). Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I. U.S. Global Change Research Program. https://doi.org/10.7930/J0J964J6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.7930/J0J964J6

Yeampierre, E. (2018). Bohío Girasol 2050. In E. Miranda-Rodriguez (Ed.), Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & rebuilding Puerto Rico (pp. 164-169). Somos Arte.

Yglesias, M. (2017, October 9). The Jones Act, the obscure 1920 shipping regulation strangling Puerto Rico, explained. Vox. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/9/27/16373484/jones-act-puerto-rico.




How to Cite

Arbino, D. (2021). “The Gifts of the Hurricane:” Reimagining Post-María Puerto Rico through Comics . ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 20(2), 156–179. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.20.2.2021.3815