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Real Borinquena's true identity: Social activist law student (545 hits)

The Puerto Rican Day Parade has had myriad special guests over the years, but none like this.

Santurce, Puerto Rico, native Stephanie Llanes, 28, a recent University of California, Berkeley, School of Law graduate, will be donning patriotic polyester atop a float Sunday as comic book heroine La Borinqueña.

Like her super-powered, fictional counterpart created by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, Llanes is devoted to the fight against social injustice, making her the ideal person to portray a character who’s supposed to embody hope.

“(Edgardo) wanted someone who actually represented what La Borinqueña stands for, not just someone who somewhat (physically) resembles the character,” says Llanes.

“To be honest, I’m nervous in (that) I feel like it’s an incredible responsibility in the sense of what she represents. She’s a freedom fighter; she’s fighting for the freedom of Puerto Ricans, and not just on the island, but diasporic Puerto Ricans.

“I’m carrying the weight of that responsibility, and I think that’s the nervous part.”

Llanes, who’s three-quarters Puerto Rican and one-quarter Dominican, will be in costume Sunday at the parade and mingling with the crowd.

“It’s kind of a surprise exactly what I’m going to be doing,” she says. “What we could tell people is they’ll have to go to the parade to see what La Borinqueña will be doing.”

While her true identity is of a buttoned-up law student, Llanes is no stranger to performing before a crowd — as a teen, she was a reggaeton artist who went by the stage name Felina and recorded two albums in English.

Then she found her true calling.

“When I was 19, moral decisions drove me to kind of steer my life in a different direction,” says Llanes, who has been preparing for the bar exam and starts working at the Center for Constitutional Rights in September.

“So I started community college and was involved in a lot of racial justice activism. The ability to go to school gave me the opportunity to really understand what was going on with my family, in terms of poverty, and then just see how that was attached to what was happening more broadly to the Puerto Rican (and) African-American communities. I’ve been involved in racial justice activism ever since.”

As to how her family has reacted to her interesting gig this weekend, Llanes recalls her younger sister being excited for her, but not shocked.

"She said, ‘You’ve always been a superhero to me,’ ” Llanes says.
Posted By: Will Moss
Friday, June 10th 2016 at 3:56PM
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