Five months after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico taking half of Emmanuel Marrero Fonseca's home, the cosplayer was dealt a blistering blow when his two day old son perished in the hospital due to lack of resources.
"He was in the NICU and after Maria, we had problems with the electricity, gasoline, and other necessities, and one day, he was gone," said Marrero Fonseca.
Zuriel Emmanuel Marrero Crespo was only 2 days old.
Even with the heaviness in his heart, Marrero like many of his neighbors and family on the island affected by the deadly storm, he was determined to move forward. For him that meant dressing up like Thor, God of Thunder for other children as their island, their islita, continued to recover.
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He carved Zuriel's name into the back of Stormbreaker. Due to the disaster, Marrero Fonseca and his wife have no videos of photographs of their son.
"All I have is Stormbreaker and it comes with me everywhere I go," he said, his voice cracking.
Exactly three months after the death of his son, Marrero was among the hundred of cosplayers who attended this year's Puerto Rico Comic-Con May 18 through 20 in San Juan.
"People deserve this," said executive producer of the event, Ricardo Carrión. "People here today don’t have electric power in their home. But they’re here.”
There was never a doubt in Carrión's mind the show would go on, he said. Even as the powerful September storm plunged the entire island into darkness last year, Carrión knew PRCC is exactly what the people of Puerto Rico needed.
It wasn't only a time for geekricans to lose themselves momentarily in their fandoms, but also a way to let others know the people of Puerto Rico are resilient and they will overcome.
For Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, a New York-based comic book artist and the creator of La Borinqueña, the convention provided him confirmation of the strength of the island's people.
Fans formed a line around his booth for the chance to thank him for creating the comic, an experience he said humbled him.
"I am sincerely grateful and recognize that I have a great responsibility to create stories that continue to highlight the resilience and beauty of my people," Miranda-Rodriguez said.
But he also took the opportunity to point out that there were still plenty of people on the island without resources.
“Here we are, a natural disaster hits the island leaving her completely powerless," he said. "Eight months later and although this event is fantastic, there are still pockets of the island still without electricity. ... There are families that have still not received FEMA aid.”
To help his fellow Puerto Ricans, he spearheaded Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico, an anthology that features stories from Puerto Rican artists and DC comics heavy hitters, including Gail Simone. Proceeds from the book will benefit relief efforts on the island.
Maria struck the island September 20, 2017 and decimated the Puerto Rico's infrastructure. It caused billions of dollars in damage but it wasn't until recently that the human toll was more accurately and horribly brought to light.
A study from performed by a group of independent researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions and published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates more than 4,600 people died as a result of the storm. Many of them months later due to lack of medical attention and resourced.
"But we aren't losing hope," said Marrero Fonseca. "There is always a way to move forward and we know that we will do it together. We know that we are not alone."
To get involved with Puerto Rico hurricane recovery, check out these sites below:
For more information about La Borinqueña: RICANSTRUCTION, click here.
Additional reporting by Jesse B. Gill and Aliza Pearl.