The Importance of Namor From ‘Black Panther’ and the Representation of Indigenous Communities
Photo courtesy of Hispanicize

You’re living under a rock if you haven’t heard that “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is finally out! The premiere was so successful that it brought in $330 million worldwidey todo con un Latino in the spotlight.

Since the beginning, fans across social media have raved about Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta’s anti-hero role named Namor. While it’s true that Huerta’s spotlight represents Latinos, it’s also clear that his role as Namor takes on a more specific part: he represents Indigenous communities.

The importance of Indigenous representation in media

Throughout the movie’s press cycle, Huerta was vocal about colorism in Mexico. In a conversation with NBC News, he talked about how there’s a lack of representation in Latin America – and how it’s a great moment for the Indigenous community to be represented.

“When they decide to give this background to Namor, you know, this new background — Mesoamerican culture, especially Mayan culture — I think they nailed it,” Huerta told NBC News. “Because it’s the right moment to do it in a way, on the one hand, and on the other hand, it’s important for many people, especially kids. It’s a way to say, ‘Eh, there’s nothing wrong with you. You should be proud of who you are. And the melanin in your skin … it’s OK, and it’s beautiful.’”

The lack of Indigenous representation & problem with media erasure

In another interview, he also relays the message about needing more brown and black representation in the media. “Brown-skinned people, Black people, [the representation] is not there,” Huerta told the Los Angeles Times. “We are invisible to them. If you’re invisible, you don’t exist. There is nothing more cruel than denying the existence of the people. They [have been] denying us for a long time.”

This “invisible” aspect brings us to another point. The main reason why social media users are calling out Namor’s character as representing the Indigenous — rather than the Latino — culture is because of erasure.

A Twitter user, jazzmynnicolee, wrote: “I feel like ppl are missing the point that Black Panther Wakanda Forever is not Latino representation. Namor is indigenous.” Another Twitter user, InJEVONweTrust, wrote: “Namor isn’t a Latino character despite Tenoch being of Mexican heritage. Namor is indigenous Maya & should be recognized as such, so their identity isn’t further erased.”

Thus, both are true. Yes, Huerta represents Latinos, and it’s a milestone for us to see Latinos in a Marvel movie — but as far as his character, Namor, goes, he’s Indigenous and should be referred to as that.

“I hope this movie helps [people] respect the Indigenous population that exists now,” Huerta told L.A. Times. “They are resisting, defending their territories, and fighting for their autonomy and the right to exist in the way they were existing for the last 1,000 or 2,000 years.”