Why We Need a Hero Like Cecilia Reyes Now More Than Ever
Even after she developed her mutant powers, this Bronx native chooses to fight her own battles in the medical field before joining the X-Men.
Doctor Cecilia Reyes didn’t always want to be a member of the X-Men. She despised the very idea. However, she quickly learned that as a woman of color, especially an Afro-Latina woman and a mutant, her desire to “stay out of it” was always a losing battle. Oppression rarely affords the opportunity not to get involved in fighting the very systems that hold them down. For Dr. Reyes, it’s a battle that she was always destined to join, no matter how much she tried to resist at first.
As Cecilia said herself, "I've lived the past few years as a Puerto Rican woman in the middle of a bunch of white male doctors. I know how to handle myself around bigots.”
We break down some of Cecilia Reyes' most impactful moments below. Read on as we shine a light on her journey to becoming the X-Men member you know today!
Cecilia Reyes made her debut as a doctor working for Our Mother of Mercy Hospital in New York City's South Bronx. She was also a mutant hiding in plain sight while the Legacy Virus decimated the world’s mutant population—and then mutated to begin affecting humans. Dr. Reyes wanted nothing to do with being a mutant or any mutants for that matter, especially the X-Men. Instead, she wanted to make sure that the life as a doctor she had worked hard for stayed intact.
At the tender age of six, Cecilia had watched her father die from gunshots wounds he sustained during a drive-by shooting. The tragic moment was the catalyst that drove Cecilia’s singular goal to become a physician in hopes of saving others—including herself.
During the Operation: Zero Tolerance story arc Cecilia found herself forced out of hiding by the same Prime Sentinels that captured the X-Men. She claimed to support them, but she wasn’t nearly as thrilled as her colleagues were when the news broke, despite her outward stance.
Cecilia’s carefully curated life was shattered soon after when the Prime Sentinels set their crosshairs on her once they found out she was a mutant too. Once she was attacked, her bio-field powers manifested for the first time, effectively blowing her cover, and Iceman didn’t help when he showed up to come to her rescue. Cecilia was livid as she thought Professor Xavier broke his promise to keep her mutant identity a secret after she had declined his offer to come to the Xavier Institute for the Gifted. Forced to go on the run with Iceman as they battled Prime Sentinels, Cecilia's wishes to be left alone came to an end.
The entire ordeal forced Cecilia to rethink her complicated feelings surrounding her mutant identity and challenged her as she worked with Iceman and Marrow to survive the night. By the end of the arc, Cecilia’s feelings were still a mess to sort out, as her medical training ended up helping her save a member of the Superhero group she couldn't have cared less for when the night began.
Dr. Reyes attempted to return to the reality she was most comfortable living. She had sacrificed everything to become a doctor and didn't want to give it up. Cecilia managed to convince the head doctor to let her work for the day, under the condition that her mutant identity didn't cause any trouble at the hospital.
Dr. Reyes quickly learned that all prejudices, even those against mutants, are no different from those she faces as an Afro-Latina woman working in the white male-dominated field of medicine.
But even as that realization begins to settle in, all was not lost. It was on this day that Dr. Reyes saved Pyro’s life. He had sustained gunshot wounds similar to her father so many years ago. This time Cecilia was not only able to save his life, she was the only one who could save his life, as her mutant powers kept her from being harmed by his out-of-control fire powers.
Dr. Reyes received some advice from Daredevil, who watched her all day as she worked before asking her to treat his own gunshot wound. By the end, she is back at Xavier’s mansion, the very place she was determined to leave that morning.
Cecilia decided to stick around the mansion after performing an extremely complicated life-saving surgery on Scott Summers and failing to get her job back at the hospital. Although she still isn’t keen on living her life as an out and proud mutant, she at least shows some interest in getting to know the X-Men better. She also discovered more uses for her newfound powers, helped the X-Men redecorate the mansion, and even participated in Beast’s manifestation board for the team.
In a turn of events, Cecilia found herself dressed in Janet Van Dyne’s old costume and caught up in the X-Men’s battle with an alien race known as the Pilgrimm. At one point, Reyes thanked Marrow, which no one could have seen coming, including Marrow. Funny enough, despite all her identity conflict, Cecilia is the one to tell the Pilgrimm that they are no better than the N’Garai race of aliens they claimed to be better than.
Cecilia and Nightcrawler are in a battle to stay alive while they are hunted relentlessly by a villainous group of mutants who claimed to have evolved beyond the level of other mutants—they called themselves the Neo. Cecilia used her mutant powers lethally for the first time against one of the Neo. She is left feeling uncertain and shook, as taking a life went against the Hippocratic Oath she took when she became a doctor.
When Dr. Reyes wound up trapped in the Neo’s fortress below New York City, she turned to the street drug known as Rave to boost her powers. She held off the Neo’s attacks long enough to save Nightcrawler’s life. Afterward, Xavier used his telepathy and helped her beat her addiction to the drug.
Cecilia Reyes disappeared for a time after surviving the Neverland mutant concentration camp. During her time there, she was only kept alive because of her medical skills. She is now part of the medical team on Krakoa, seeming to have found a new version of the life she thought she lost long ago.
As she learned to embrace her mutant powers and resolved again and again to become a better doctor, Dr. Reyes is an essential presence both among humans and mutantkind. Though she has much to offer the X-Men as a team member, she never loses sight of where she came from and what she hopes to achieve. With her growing confidence both as a doctor and a Super Hero, we know Cecilia Reyes is a one-in-a-million role model for anyone trying to make the world a better place for all.
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