Mexican 'Black Panther' star is in quest of fighting racism at home
On-screen, Tenoch Huerta is spearheading the struggle against racism.
The next Hollywood star of "Black Panther 2," the follow-up to the first Black superhero film, will feature Tenoch Huerta, who is waging an on-screen campaign against racism in his home country, Mexico.
The 41-year-old hopes to break the custom of Mexican actors of Indigenous descent being cast in the roles of thieves and villains by using his rising fame.
Huerta joins a select group of international Mexican performers like Salma Hayek, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Diego Luna by portraying Namor the Sub-Mariner in Marvel Studios' "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
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Huerta, who is from a working-class neighborhood of Mexico City, had several obstacles on his way to Hollywood. "Like thousands of dark-skinned people, I've been called names" such as "dirty Indian," he wrote in his new book "Orgullo Prieto".
"Mexico is a country that's racist and denies it," he added.
It is a myth, according to Huerta, that Mexico is a multiracial nation where one's skin tone is unimportant. "This is how we deny the cultural and linguistic diversity of all Indigenous nations, Afro-descendant communities, Asians," he wrote.
Huerta, who also played infamous drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero in the Netflix hit "Narcos: Mexico," criticized the way of thinking "that places white, modern, Western, on a higher level."
Huerta was the face of "Poder Prieto" (Brown Power), a group of actors and actresses who believe they are targets of prejudice because of their ethnicity and skin tone, long before "Black Panther". "We're only given characters of delinquents, domestic workers, or the poor," said Christel Klitbo, 40, who is of Danish, African, and Lebanese descent.
Aware of the powerful influence of the media, Huerta said he and the other group members see a "compelling need to change racist narratives and practices, which have been normalized, reproduced and perpetuated in the audiovisual industry."
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Huerta hopes that his participation in "Black Panther", which also features Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o, a Mexican-Kenyan, will aid in their fight. "The perception changes if we have these dark-skinned actors, of clearly Indigenous descent, in positions of power and influence, who are kings and great warriors," he said.
According to the national statistics agency INEGI, 23.2 million Mexicans over the age of three who identify as Indigenous make up 19.4% of the country's total population.
In the first nationwide poll on the topic conducted in Mexico in 2017, about one in five respondents reported having encountered discrimination in the previous year, primarily because of their skin tone.
Additionally, 75% of Indigenous people in Mexico felt undervalued by society.