Tenoch Huerta will be a guest of honor at C2E2 in Chicago.
By Amelia Orozco, Hola America
“If you don’t see it, you can’t dream it,” is something Tenoch Huerta is known to say. Because of Huerta, many Latino kids can now envision themselves as heroes on the big screen, and most exciting of all, in a Marvel movie. Huerta, originally from Ecatepec de Morelos, a municipality of Mexico City, stars in Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. He captured audiences’ hearts with his interpretation of Namor the Sub-Mariner, a character that was first introduced in Marvel Comics in 1939. Namor is somewhat of an anti-hero who seeks to keep Talokan, his underwater home, which he has protected for centuries, from being discovered by the rest of the world. The sequel also honored the late Chadwick Boseman, who played Black Panther, and lost his battle to cancer in 2020.
In Wakanda Forever, we see Namor reawakened in the Marvel Universe. He is seen emerging from the water, powered by wings on his feet. It is in that moment that Huerta also debuts as this significant character and important symbol for Latinos, with his pointy ears and pierced nose, fully adorned in spectacular regalia, as is customary for royalty. The character, Namor, then recalls his mother’s stories about a place like Wakanda, “A protected land where people never have to leave and never have to change who they were.” These words are a foreshadowing of the overall narrative that Huerta is passionate about, that of speaking up for those with Indigenous and African roots in Mexico, where racism is common.
In director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther sequel, Huerta completely envelopes this character and fully represents people like him, people with brown skin. His persona is strong and resilient and someone who is immensely proud of his culture and physical attributes. He, along with Mabel Cadena, born in Mexico, who plays Namora and Alex Livinalli, a Venezuelan-born actor, who plays Attuma, are all a beautiful representation of the “invisible” people on the big screen and have now crossed a milestone that has taken much effort to reach. It takes working ten times harder with twenty times more effort to make it, Huerta has said about competing in a mostly white dominated society.
At the beginning of his career in Mexico, Huerta was astonished to find that he was that “other” part of society, and he felt the stark differences between himself and his fellow castmates. It was more than their lighter skin, but also the way they dressed, where they ate, and their accent and slang. He admits he even tried to assimilate and take on their style and vernacular. Regrettably, he shares, he lost some of his accent in the process. But Tenoch Huerta’s resolve has not changed. In fact, it has been reinforced.
Huerta has already leaped a thousand steps ahead for that invisible part of society, those that identify with him. He has been nominated several times and has won an Ariel (Mexico’s equivalent of an Oscar) for his role in Dias de Gracia in 2012, has starred in numerous movies and TV shows in Latin America, Spain and the U.S. He was one of the main characters in The Forever Purge in 2021, and in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico in 2018, along with many other roles and accomplishments as an actor. Even so, when he was chosen for the role of Namor, social media in Mexico was quick to denounce him and discredit him as an actor. But their attempts to do so were unsuccessful because of Huerta’s talent and tenacity.
Aside from learning how to swim and how to hold his breath underwater for five minutes, Tenoch Huerta did so much more, making his role so meaningful. It is one thing to be a force to be reckoned with as a Marvel superhero, but it is another thing to be that force in your native country. Tenoch is known to be outspoken about racism in Mexico, the very place that gave him life. In his recently published book, Orgullo Prieto (Brown Pride), published in Dec. 2022 by Penguin, Huerta does not hold back and tackles systemic racism head on. He writes about how dark-skinned Mexicans like him were taught to feel shame to be who they are, and how it was common to call an indigenous person an “indio,” or “Indian,” making it known they were lesser than their whiter, lighter-skinned compatriots.
In 2019, a famous Mexican actor was caught on video using this derogatory term to refer to Yalitza Aparicio, the first Indigenous Mexican woman to be nominated for an Oscar for her role in the movie, Roma. Huerta says that, unlike the United States, where racism exists and is acknowledged, and there are laws against discrimination, there are no such protections in Mexico because of the blatant denial.
But Tenoch Huerta has hope for the future. He already sees the next generation being more aware and active in this movement to end racism. The system is what is broken, and racism has been engrained into everyday life since Mexico was colonized. It has become the norm to see light-skinned Latinos in leading roles and dark-skinned people playing the villain, the maid, the drug addict, or the gangster. Once you are aware of the problem, says Tenoch, you must do something about it. Now, at least, the world can see brown people in something as global as the Marvel Universe. The deep divide has kept a large pool of qualified and talented people, in many professions, on the sidelines for too long.
Tenoch Huerta is scheduled to be one of the guests of honor at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) which takes place March 31-April 2. Huerta is scheduled to be on the panel “Tenoch Huerta Spotlight” on Sunday, Apr 2, 2023 at 1 pm. He will also be available for Photo-Op and autograph sessions Saturday and Sunday, check C2E2.com for details.