prospect |  Tenoch Huerta's role in 'Wakanda Forever' is a big moment for Latinos

prospect | Tenoch Huerta’s role in ‘Wakanda Forever’ is a big moment for Latinos


Watching “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” it’s easy to get carried away by the power of Namor.

Marvel’s King of the Seas, played regally, with dignity, pride, and full of indigenous and anti-colonial swag by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta, is the next big thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man moment. It’s a “uh-oh, Thanos has all the Infinity Stones” moment. It’s a “yes, all three Spider-Men are in the movie” moment. This is a “WandaVision” type first moment episode.

In one of the most anticipated sequels in MCU history, one that still exists despite the loss of Chadwick Boseman, Huerta is the man. El chico que te quita el sueño (“The Boy Who Keeps You Awake”) which basically means it’s an undeniably star performance. He’s all that and a bag of Vibranium.

This Namor’s power, which first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1939, is not obvious. Of course, he’s as strong as the Hulk. He’s a king. He can fly, with literal wings on his feet. He’s a mutant – which means the X-Men will finally be in the MCU sooner rather than later.

But Namor’s true power is that he is played by a latino man – and a brown-skinned onetaking center stage in a universe of black superheroes. And it’s not something that can be taken lightly.

The film features two bordering nations – one on land (Wakanda), the other under the sea (Talokan), both led by superheroes. One is Black, the other is Indigenous, both powerful and refusing to adhere to colonization by force. I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve seen this in a superhero movie. And as someone who walks in both of these worlds, I can honestly say that I didn’t expect to connect so closely to a superhero movie unless it was one I made myself. . I became this Leonardo DiCaprio pointing GIF for two and a half hours – and a film that was already emotional for so many reasons became even more so.

I spoke with Huerta at the premiere of “Wakanda Forever” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture last month. He called his Black Panther moment a “B and B power,” Brown and Black Powerful. He uses that as a term of embrace, not division, knowing that the black and Latino communities have not always been in agreement here in the United States.

He sees the shooting of the film as two worlds coming together for the greater good and realizing that the sins of colonization have impacted these communities equally. It was a chance to make great music together and realize they’re a lot more alike than they think.

“We are the same,” Huerta told me in Spanish. “[Latinos and Blacks] are not in two distinct points of life. We are on the same side. And if we work together with love, we can move forward. I hope this film, with the message it contains, can help everyone understand that.

Let’s be clear on something: Black people made this moment happen for Huerta — and it’s a moment he’s probably never experienced even in his native Mexico on this scale. The beauty of “Wakanda Forever” is its darkness – including a black director, writers, producers and cast – was a bridge, allowing Huerta to cross the MCU and allowing all of Latin America to celebrate its own superhero moment, just like “Black Panther” did. was for black people everywhere. in 2018.

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Huerta’s rise to MCU MVP rank goes against the grain of how entertainment and media work in Latin America. To see a Mexican of your color in a royal role of leadership and superheroism is special. If you are latino/a/x, in the United States or in Latin America, and have been to your abuela’s house enough times when Univision or Telemundo were on, you already know what I am talking about. what do you see when Spanish is on TV? It doesn’t matter if you’re watching the news, a short story, a movie, heck, even an advertisement – the message is clear. White is the preferred model. And the closer you are to this whiteness, the more likely you are to shine. Where do you think the age-old term improve the raza (better your race) comes from? Latin America always lets you know what it is fighting for.

In Latin America, Huerta is more likely to be chosen as an assist than a hero. One of his biggest Spanish-speaking roles to date? A drug dealer on “Narcos”. Think about when you clearly see non-white Latinos on television. How many times have they been in a bondage role? Or the villain? Few are the type of Latinos interpreted as the family living in that grand mansion you always see on “La Rosa de Guadalupe” – they are more likely to clean this kind of house. You do not believe me ? What’s the biggest moment recently for a Latino actor who doesn’t look like a Utah Jazz season ticket holder? Yalitza Aparicio nominated for an Oscar for ‘Roma’, right? What did she play in this film? A maid. You get where I’m going. Wonder how many times you’ve seen a man of color from Huerta have a shot at being the main man or, heck, even a Latin Lover on major Spanish speaking TV networks, or streaming services like Pantaya? or Vix.

All this is the rest of the pervasive smell of anti-darkness that has been part of Latin American culture for centuries. White? Great. Metis? Meh, okay, we’ll all let you in. Black? Doesn’t exist here unless we need help on our World Cup squad. The average non-Latino American doesn’t even realize that black Latin Americans exist, in part because of what they see whenever they are exposed to Latin American media.

This characteristic Latin American anti-blackness is something I feel whenever someone is shocked to see that my Puerto Rican father has a black son. (Never mind the fact that I look a lot like him and have the same name. I’m just a lot taller and more tanned than the guy, thanks to my beautiful African American mother.) Or whenever I get looks Latinos here in Washington when they hear me speak Spanish. Yes. Yo hablo español. Or every time these same Latinos respond to me in English when I clearly started a conversation with them in Spanish. It’s something I felt listening to those recordings of Latino politicians in Los Angeles saying horrible things about black children last month. No one understands anti-Blackness in Latin America like someone who has to be black in Latin America. And let me tell you, this moment that Huerta is living? There’s a part of me that thinks Latin America doesn’t deserve it, given how much they value darkness. I know that. He knows it. Y ustedes saben tambien. But the blacks gave it to you anyway. You’re welcome.

I couldn’t help but get sentimental as Huerta and I spoke to each other in Spanish at a museum meant to honor the very people who were giving him his big break in Hollywood, the town where I was born that was a times, before gentrification, his own Wakanda. We were there, two brunettes Latinos in beautiful costumes, very aware of where comic book culture had taken us both in our careers. It was a dripping cool moment that your average Televisa producer would have looked just past in search of their next star who didn’t look like any of us. But melanin prevailed that night.

In “Wakanda Forever”, Namor, much like the Black Panther before him, leads a nation that has looked at the face of colonization and said not today. Not here. Not now. Never. Even the secret origins of its surface name, “Namor,” are a proud Aboriginal moment for a chief’s kiss. which we don’t want to spoil here. Huerta understands the strength of giving people like him, especially young people, a chance to see themselves in a way that many in their homeland don’t see as worth the time.

He told me, “If tomorrow a kid in Mexico or Latin America looks in the mirror and says there’s nothing wrong in the mirror, that’s who I am – that means everything to me.”

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