The Mexican actor has published a book devoted to his fight against racism and the discrimination that plagues his country, populated by a large indigenous minority.
In Hollywood, he is the rising Latino star, starring in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But in his country, Mexico, Tenoch Huerta embodies the fight against racism and “blankness– the “whiteness” – omnipotence in the film industry. An environment that he aspires to change by using his notoriety to contribute to a greater representation of actors of indigenous origin or “swarthy”reduced to the bad roles of delinquents.
Tenoch Huerta, 41, has recently joined the small club of international Mexican stars – Alfonso Cuarón, Guilermo Del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Salma Hayek or Diego Luna – who have found their calling in Hollywood. In Wakanda Foreverhe plays Namor, mutant prince of a Mesoamerican Atlantis – a strong South American character in the middle of the gratin of black actors gathered in this new Afro-futuristic bet from Marvel Studios.
But the path to the blockbuster, which hit theaters last week, has been rocky for the charismatic actor from the working-class suburb of Ecatepec. from Mexico City. “Mexico is a racist country and who denies it”launches Tenoch Huerta in a book published shortly before the release of the film, Orgullo prieto (swarthy pride). Over the pages, the pair of Diego Luna in the series Narcos Mexico denounces the “whiteness”which he defines as a “form of being and thinking placing the white, modern, western, at a higher level”.
Metis vs. “swarthy”
The forties thus attacks the “myth” from “all mestizos” widespread in his country, as well as to the so-called “process of cultural assimilation». “Like thousands of swarthy people, I was called every name: “dirty Indian”, “nigger”, “starved to death”…he explains. This is how we deny the cultural and linguistic diversity of all indigenous nations, Afro-descendant communities, Asians“.
We are only given characters of delinquents, domestic workers, or the poor. I am very sad to think that there is not a single superhero that our children can identify with.
Even before Black PantherTenoch Huerta was already the figurehead of the Poder Prieto association, a collective of actresses and actors who consider themselves victims “of their origin and their skin color” in the distribution of roles. “We are only given characters of delinquents, domestic workers, or the poor. I am very sad to think that there is not a single superhero that our children can identify with”deplores Christel Klitbo, 40, a dark-skinned actress.
Aware of “the powerful influence of the media in the intimate and social life of individuals”, Tenoch Huerta and the others insist on the “compelling need to change racist narratives and practices, which have been normalized, reproduced and perpetuated in the audiovisual industry”. His appearance in Black Panther can contribute to this, he hopes: “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“.
The actor also calls for a change “habits and customs” within Mexican families, citing in particular this terrible sentence of parents wishing to marry their daughter to a white man for – according to the popular expression – “improve the breed”. In favor of laws against racism, he does not comment on the politics of the ruling leftist Movement for National Regeneration (Morena), who claims “rehabilitating the dignity of indigenous peoples” .
Indigenous minority of Mexico
“I believe that the demands of indigenous peoples have not been met. But it is a subject that does not concern me, because I am not indigenous”, he replied to AFP on Friday during the presentation of his book. “As a simple external observer, I believe that we could do more and better”.
“In Mexico, there are 23.2 million people over the age of three who self-identify as indigenous, representing 19.4% of the total population”according to a press release from the National Institute of Statistics (Inegi) dated August 8, 2022.
In total, 20.7% of Mexicans aged 18 and over said they had experienced discrimination in the year preceding the first national survey on the subject in 2O17. And 3/4 of the natives have the feeling of being undervalued by Mexican society. “We are a new link in a chain that dates back 500 years. All struggles have been the same for 500 years,” concludes Tenoch Huerta, referring to the conquest of Tenochtitlan-Mexico by the Spaniards, in 1521.