Nov 29, 2022 - World

How a professor helped shape "Black Panther" sequel's Mesoamerican story

Gerardo Aldana drawing Mayan hieroglyphs

Gerardo Aldana drawing Mayan hieroglyphs during a visit to Popolá, Yucatán, in 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Gerardo Aldana

The man who helped shape the Mesoamerican story in the latest Black Panther installment hopes the movie will inspire more people to seek out Indigenous history.

Background: "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" introduces Namor, a decades-old comic book character, with a revised backstory rooted in Mayan and Aztec history. He is played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía

Details: Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos, an author and professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was in charge of making sure Namor's reimagined background was historically accurate.

  • Aldana tells Axios Latino he worked with the crew when there was an early draft of the script, helping create a backstory for any detail that might show up on screen.
  • He suggested the name Talokan for Namor's underwater kingdom, wrote glyphs that tell Namor's story for the sets and made sure the wardrobe choices fit with materials the Mayan used.
  • Aldana says it was invigorating to work with a Hollywood team angling to faithfully portray a topic he feels other films have botched.

Of note: Director Ryan Coogler invited Aldana to play a small role in one of the movie's early scenes, with Angela Bassett.

The big picture: Aldana says having a major blockbuster respectfully and faithfully show aspects of Indigenous culture can be an educational tool.

  • "The hope is people recognize that there's so much more to learn and be appreciative of," Aldana says.
  • "Maybe we can inspire a new generation of kids to see ancient Mesoamerica in a completely different way. And that is mind-blowing."

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos began working on the movie when there was an early draft of the script, not before there was a script.

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