Tenoch Huerta as Namor is already widely recognized as one of the major standouts of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Not only does this interpretation of Namor deliver one of the best villains/anti-heroes in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also makes way for a beautiful on-screen representation of a rich indigenous culture. Marvel Studios knew that they couldn’t introduce a more comic-accurate Namor and his kingdom of Atlantis since DC already beat them to the punch with 2018’s Aquaman. Instead, Wakanda Forever filmmaker Ryan Coogler gives the underwater people a fresh spin as Yucatec Mayans who miraculously settled in the ocean centuries ago to avoid the dangers of colonialism.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever breaks down a few notable Hollywood barriers with its introduction of the underwater kingdom of Talocan, a term often associated with paradise in Latin American indigenous cultures. In giving an honest portrayal, the film features indigenous actors that speak Yucatec Maya for the majority of their screen time. Not too dissimilar from how Shang-Chi made headlines by utilizing more spoken Mandarin than what’s usually seen in major Hollywood productions, Wakanda Forever is the first of its kind to extensively feature Yucatec Maya. One of the 32 languages in the Mayan family, the use of Yucatec Maya in the MCU is an incredible feat given that its use has been on a steep decline due to generational divides in Latin America, and has been previously warned that it could eventually disappear altogether.
During the global press conference for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Namor actor Tenoch Huerta shared his hopes for how the film’s representation could inspire viewers, specifically those back in his home country of Mexico. “In Latin America, especially Mexico, we deny our indigenous roots, it’s just like a token sometimes,” Huerta says. Here, the actor is referring to how indigenous symbols and architecture are still incorporated everywhere in Latin America, but again these culturally significant languages are still at risk of extinction. Huerta explains that “in general terms, we deny it because it’s not about genes for us, but almost everybody in Mexico has indigenous or African roots.”
So how could the representation in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever inspire some change? Tenoch Huerta hopes that his take on Namor and Talocan “helps people to embrace who they are – who we are. To look at the mirror and say: what’s in the mirror is okay.” Speaking from his own personal experience growing up in Mexico, Huerta goes on to say, “They taught us to be ashamed of who we are, but it’s time to cut that off and say: This is who I am and I never had anything wrong with me… the mistake was in the eyes of who was looking at us, who were judging us, and most of the time, it was ourselves.”
A classic Marvel heavy-hitter like Namor receiving such a bold reimagining in one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year, and brought to life by an actor as noble as Tenoch Huerta, could actually make a difference in this regard. Huerta states that “it’s time to change… and now reconcile who we are and reconcile with our ancestors, with our grandparents, and embrace them.” The actor’s bold words will ring loud for plenty of Latin American viewers. Thanks to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Namor has never been more popular in the mainstream, and there are already plenty of calls for a solo film. When fans will see Tenoch Huerta’s Namor and Talocan again in the MCU is currently unknown, but these high demands could be the first waves of change Huerta is hoping for.