Nov 10, 2022 - World

Black Panther's Latino characters get long overdue look

Alex Livinalli, Tenoch Huerta and Mabel Cadena sit on a sofa, smiling while looking down, while at "Despierta America" at Univision Studios to promote Wakanda Forever

From left: Alex Livinalli, Tenoch Huerta and Mabel Cadena during an appearance on "Despierta America" in Florida. Photo: John Parra/Getty Images.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is the first Marvel movie with several top billed Latino characters, prompting excitement in Latin America and beyond.

Why it matters: Until Black Panther, every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was led by a white man, according to an Axios analysis.

  • Overall, Latino characters represent only 5% of Hollywood roles on average since 2007, according to the most recent data from USC Annenberg's Inclusion Initiative.

Details: Mexican, Venezuelan and Guatemalan actors are among the leads in the new Black Panther movie.

  • It also has major set pieces inspired by Mesoamerican mythologies, and its soundtrack includes Mayan rappers.

The big picture: Fans say they're happy to see their Indigenous roots represented.

  • Others have said they were moved after Tenoch Huerta Mejía, the Mexican actor of Indigenous roots who plays Namor, one of the lead characters, delivered a speech this summer dedicating the movie to Latin American fans.
  • "It's fantastic to be here and represent our heritage in this kind of movie," Huerta Mejía said during a recent red carpet interview.

Created in 1939, Namor, also known as the Sub-Mariner, was one of the first comic book characters. He made his debut in issue #1 of "Marvel Comics."

  • The character's origins as a leader of Atlantis, the mythical underwater kingdom, have been slightly reworked for the movie, in which Atlantis is a hidden Mesoamerican realm called Talokan, taking after the Aztecs' idea of the water-based paradise Tlalocan.

Yes, but: The character of Namor and his people have historically been antagonists in Black Panther comics, prompting criticism that the movie could negatively depict Latinos.

  • Huerta Mejía has said he hopes viewers will sympathize with his character.

What they're saying: "I hope and think many will identify with how Talokan as a community is forced to leave the place they live in, their lifestyle, everything they know, to embark at sea seeking a better life," Venezuelan-American actor Alex Livinalli, who portrays Talokanil lieutenant Attuma, told Noticias Telemundo.

State of play: Latinos have made major inroads in big Hollywood franchises this year, especially in TV.

  • Mexican Diego Luna and Chilean American Pedro Pascal starred in Star Wars offshoots "Andor" and "The Mandalorian," respectively, and Jenna Ortega is the lead in the upcoming Netflix show, "Wednesday Addams."

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