As a film lover, you come across certain directors or actors that you just simply admire and will watch any projects with their names attached. Since I started my Latin American film journey, Tenoch Huerta quickly became an actor whose career I actively pursued after watching the incredible Mexican horror film Tigers Are Not Afraid. Needless to say, his introduction to the MCU as Namor in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has been one of the major highlights for me in 2022.
Having his name attached to such a huge and important franchise and sharing the screen next to legends such as Angela Bassett is a huge step for Huerta’s Hollywood career. It’s important to note that although this is Huerta’s biggest film yet, he has worked on American genre films in the past. And more importantly, his first two horror films produced by Blumhouse Productions examine the Mexican American experience in the United States.
The Forever Purge
Huerta is no stranger to major franchises as his debut into the United States horror genre was through The Forever Purge. Since the inception of the concept surrounding The Purge franchise, highlighting minority voices and struggles has always been prevalent. With each entry, the subtext evolves into the text and their thematic storytelling is overt within the screenwriting. But still, the audience fills up the seats as they prepare to watch an onscreen slaughter between classes, races, and social hierarchies.
Up until the fifth entry, The Purge franchise’s initial perspective has been putting Black characters within this American hellscape. This is extremely valid as Black people have been at the blunt end of the stick since the origins of the country. But now, The Purge franchise has shifted its lens and started to focus on other minority voices who have also experienced hatred and racism from America’s past. This time we see Indigenous and Mexican Americans, who both have Native ancestry, working together as white supremacy has officially declared a never-ending purge with the intent to turn America “pure”.
The film’s choice to add Mexican actors Tenoch Huerta, Ana de la Reguera, and Indigenous actor Zahn McClarnon adds so many layers to this already politically dense franchise. We see Huerta’s and Reguera’s struggles with America’s violent thirst through a xenophobic lens before the Purge officially starts. The intimidating factors led by the White supremacists induce a fear that is felt off-screen as a Brown viewer myself. Huerta and Reguera’s unequal fight against racism is unfortunately relatable to some viewers. But still, their characters never give up regardless of the unbalanced situations at hand. This is the most action-packed film out of the two films present. But its recurring theme of living in a county with racist ideologies continues with the next film.
In the same year that The Forever Purge was released, Tenoch Huerta starred in another film with similar themes. Madres follows two Mexican American migrants as they move to California with an opportunity to better their lives. Beto’s (Tenoch Huerta) recent job promotion allows for him and his pregnant wife Diana (Arianna Guerra) to purchase a new-to-them estate. Little do they know, the new building has a deadly past and a haunting entity eager to disclose the evils surrounding the new area.
This slow-burn haunted house film is a thematically spiritual successor to The Forever Purge as we see the first-generation migrant experience in the United States. Stepping away from the action from the aforementioned feature, Madres quietly dives into the struggles of assimilation in a country that sees them as less than human. But before the film gets to its sinister climax tied to America’s racist history, the majority of the first two acts surround Diana’s personal journey as a stranger in a strange land.
As a Mexican American coming from an immigrant family, I lie on this weird line between being too White for Mexico’s standards and too Mexican for the United States. Suffice to say, it’s extremely easy to feel like an outcast. These same emotions Madres brings to the forefront with Diana’s assimilation struggles. It doesn’t help that Beto’s hard-working ethics and will to learn English have helped him. His urge to learn the prominent language in the United States, and be successful with it, while Diana refuses to learn creates a barrier between the married couple. This further alienates and expands Diana’s feeling of isolation. Unfortunately, these emotions have generational longevity and the trauma can be passed on. While Madres is set during the 1970s, the issues surrounding Mexican American mothers can still be felt today.
Tenoch Huerta’s Presence In Genre Films
No matter your opinion on these two films from Blumhouse Productions, one thing is clear from the production company. Their attempts at inclusion are genuine and appreciated. Blumhouse Productions’ new relationship with Tenoch Huerta has been a ginormous win for the Latine community as we have gotten representation within the horror genre with The Forever Purge and Madres. The use of his characters and presence gives a Mexican American voice in films that filmmakers have underutilized until recently.
This is why his addition as Namor has gotten the Latine community to celebrate. To finally see a Mexican actor receive such high praise in an MCU film is glorious. I do ask one thing though.
While Huerta’s inclusion is called for honoring and festivities within Mexicans and Latines, don’t forget the true representation behind Namor’s addition. The Indigenous representation from Meso-America is at the forefront of Namor’s design and influence. At the end of it all, this is definitely a time to celebrate Tenoch Huerta and the supporting cast such as Maria Mercedes Coroy and Alex Livinalli in the MCU.