The Power Behind Indigenous Language Usage in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

The Power Behind Indigenous Language Usage in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Belatina latine
Credit: Disney/ Marvel Studios

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is more than just another successful Marvel movie.

Cultural representation plays an important role in this film, and I never thought my eyes would get to see Indigenous references, especially Mayan and Aztec elements, in modern Hollywood movies, considering Hollywood’s current track record. 

I went to school in Mexico, and my knowledge about these two civilizations is above average thanks to the history classes I took during my elementary and middle school days. (It’s one of my greatest flexes.) However, when my academic environment changed in the United States, I noticed that prehispanic cultures are rarely highlighted beyond history books.

Marvel’s newest “Black Panther” production not only puts Mexican history in the spotlight but also paves the way for Indigenous portrayal in the film industry. And this is powerful for all cultures, especially the Indigenous community, who’ve always been known for taking pride in their roots – and make a large part of our Latine community’s DNA. 

Let’s not forget that the term “Latino” –  and Latinidad, overall – is entrenched in colorism and an attempt to erase our Indigenous prominence. This is why there is so much pride in seeing Indigenous language showcased in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

In addition to having a Latine cast – and using accurate visuals to represent the Mesoamerican people – the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” creators worked alongside actor Josué Maychi, a native Mayan speaker who coached the actors, producers, and screenwriters on the correct usage of the language. He also portrayed a shaman in the movie. 

Mayan language as an empowerment tool

“The Mayan language lives and sounds, Ku kíilbal maayat’aan. Thank you for such a beautiful opportunity! I’m so happy to see Mexican actors with skin like mine shining on the screen,” Maychi wrote in an Instagram post. “Projects like this fill me with the hope that in the future we will also have indigenous people represented not only in the past but also in the present.”

The word “Talokan,” which is Namor’s kingdom in the movie, might be related to the real word “Tlalocan,” which derives from Tláloc, a Mesoamerican deity that represents rain

On the other hand, the Mayan language was not only used in the movie itself, but was also part of its soundtrack. Rapper Yaalen K’uj featured the song “Laayli’ kuxa’ano’one,” sung in Mayan. 

Whether you enjoyed the movie or not, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a matter of celebration and pride for Latine cultures. 

What a time to remember, honor, and praise our antepasados – and remind the world that Indigenous communities continue to thrive!