Mr. Bubble, Pink Super Hero

Life comes with a lot of problems, too numerous to list here. And when extreme weather strikes, we often look to our governments to help the recovery. That was certainly the case when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September of 2017 — the storm caused perhaps as much as $10 billion in damage and claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people on the island. Even a year later, Puerto Ricans were struggling to return to a pre-storm state. In the summer of 2018, the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation polled a1,500 Puerto Ricans, asking (among other things) where more government investment was needed, and most of the results shouldn’t be a surprise. More than half (54%) wanted more money to go toward rebuilding hotels and tourist attractions, a prime driver of the economy. Roughly three-quarters of respondents thought that more resources needed to go toward repairing schools, the electrical grid, and people’s homes. 

But topping that list? An overwhelming majority of respondents — 93% — wanted the government to put more resources toward “repairing roads and highways.” Or, as one person told the Washington Post, “Welcome to the island of corruption, bankruptcy and the bumpy roads. We got more craters here than the moon.”

Which is probably why this guy exists.

That, via CBS News reporter David Begnaud, is Enrique Rivera — at least, when he’s not in costume. When he’s out in, let’s say, uniform, he goes by another name: Pink Bubbles Superhero.

In August of 2021, Rivera, “tired of the government inaction” according to this profile on One Caribbean Television, decided to transform himself into Pink Bubbles Superhero. (He claims — jokingly, we’re sure — to be “a former superhero from the Pink Planet” who was sent by his home planet’s governor to help.) Armed with cans of spray paint, pink boots bearing the Puerto Rican flag, a tutu, cape, a “PB” logo, and of course, a smile, he marks the potholes with basic designs, partially if not primarily in an effort to shame the government into actually fixing the holes. His efforts also help drivers stay safe until the holes can be fixed; as he told CNN, he specifically chooses bright colors (for the paint, not just for his outfit) so that cars can see the potholes at night and in the rain. 

And his efforts appeared to be effective. Per both news reports, potholes tagged by the man from Planet Pink didn’t last for very long after the hero swooped into action; the government filled in the holes within two or three days. But unfortunately for those whose roads are still damaged, it’s unlikely Pink Bubbles will visit them anytime soon. After raising a few hundred dollars to buy more paint, Rivera announced on a GoFundMe page that “Pink Bubbles has decided to shift his efforts to political action to solve the pothole problem” and has retired from painting them.

Bonus fact: Pink Bubbles isn’t the only person to use the power of shame to embarrass governments into fixing streets — and one type of intervention doesn’t even require a superhero. In 2017, a Kansas City man named Frank Sereno threw a 3-month birthday party for a pothole in his neighborhood, “complete with a slice of cake with a candle on top” as reported by CNN. Sereno did not sing to the pothole, but he did post the photo to Facebook, which sparked local authorities into action — the hole was filled within a few days. And some Puerto Ricans have employed a similar tactic. Again per David Begnaud, on September 20, 2021, residents of Orocovis, Puerto Rico through a four-year (!!) birthday party for a Maria-caused pothole and posted photos to social media; five days later, the pothole was finally fixed. 

From the Archives: Blue Ear: Another bespoke superhero — with a really great reason for being.