Since his introduction to global audiences as Namor in Marvel’s latest superhero film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the acclaimed actor Tenoch Huerta has been receiving widespread praise for his role and been named as one of nine breakthrough entertainers of 2022 by The Associated Press.
This year’s recognition is given to those who became “next-level, a shift triggering where-did-you-come-from vibes,” the AP wrote in announcing the list.
While Huerta isn’t a newcomer, having appeared in blockbuster films such as “The Forever Purge” and the Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico,” he’s using his newfound mainstream pop culture exposure to advance causes like inclusivity and social justice.
“You can’t dream of something” that you can’t see, Huerta told the AP in an interview, referring to the lack of “brown skin people” like him onscreen, in ads and in theater.
Huerta, 41, who is of Indigenous heritage, grew up in Ecatepec, a suburban area of Mexico City, known for its high levels of delinquency and often referred to with prejudice by the people in the capital.
His role as Namor, a mutant leader of the underwater kingdom known as Talokan, which is based on Mayan and Aztec influences, is a milestone and a big step for diversity in Latino culture.
“In Latin America, especially Mexico, we have a lack of representation,” Huerta told NBC News in a November interview, adding that “all the people” are white on TV or in the ads one sees on the street.
“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 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 on you. You should be proud of who you are. And the melanin in your skin … it’s OK and it’s beautiful.’”
The actor has now become a symbol of racial justice in Mexico, denouncing prejudice against those who look like him. He recently published “Orgullo prieto,” loosely Dark Skinned Pride in English, a book he wrote with kids and young people in mind, detailing his own experiences dealing with racism and classism in his home country.
“I try to create, as much as I can, a better place to live for them,” Huerta told AP.