Even if Wakanda is the focus of Marvel’s Black Panther franchise, that doesn’t stop Wakandans from traveling around the world.
In the long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Black Panther, titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the film seems to take place partially in rural Mexico. And fans are speculating the location will be the entry for one, maybe two, new heroes to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What Happened? — On September 22, Tammy Smith Casting, an extras casting agency based in Atlanta, Georgia, posted a call on its Facebook page for “HISPANIC VILLAGERS” for a “traditional Mexican village scene” for the new Marvel movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
The casting call is looking for men and women ages 18 to 65, elderly ages 65 to 85, and children from six to eight years old.
Little else is known about the scene or its context in the story. But the casting call is enough to get Marvel fans on Reddit speculating the significance of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever going to a Mexican village.
As of now, two potential possibilities stand out.
Namor’s Flood— In November 2020, The Hollywood Reporter reported Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta was, at the time, “in talks” to play one of the film’s antagonists, a role which was left unnamed.
Widespread speculation then and now is that Huerta’s role in Wakanda Forever will be Namor the Sub-Mariner, the prince of Atlantis who, unlike the noble DC superhero Aquaman, is a more abrasive anti-hero who teeters between hero and villain depending on the story. He has also been a frequent foil for T’Challa/Black Panther. In one famous moment in the comics, Namor flooded Wakanda, and both Namor and Black Panther have been at each other’s throats since.
The MCU has also teased the arrival of Namor. In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, Okoye (Danai Gurira) briefly mentioned an anomalous “earthquake under the ocean,” which got fans thinking Namor was making literal rumblings before formally entering the franchise.
Further fueling the “Tenoch Huerta is Namor” theory, another Mexican actress, Mabel Cadena, has also joined Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in a role that Murphy’s Multiverse reported in August 2021 to be Namor’s cousin, Namora.
Perhaps to ground its version of Atlantis in a unique cultural flavor and stand out from DC’s Aquaman (which grossed a billion dollars in 2018), the MCU could be reimagining its Atlantis as an indigenous Mesoamerican civilization, like the Aztecs or the Mayans. Suppose Tenoch Huerta and Mabel Cadena are, in fact, Namor and Namora, respectively. In that case, it indicates the MCU is looking to reinterpret the myth of Atlantis into something it hasn’t been seen before in popular media.
But there’s another possibility for exploring a Mexican village in Black Panther.
Tiger vs. Panther — The Black Panther isn’t the only wildcat with a color adjective in the Marvel Universe.
There also exists the superhero White Tiger, an identity assumed by at least five different people — one of them a close associate of T’Challa.
In its original form, the White Tiger was Hector Ayala, who possessed ancient Jade Tiger amulets that gave him enhanced superpowers and martial arts abilities.
Hector Ayala/White Tiger was historically the first superhero of Puerto Rican descent in the Marvel Universe, making him a significant milestone in ethnic minority representation in mainstream American comics like T’Challa and Shang-Chi.
The Jade Tiger amulets have since been passed down the Ayala bloodline, including Hector’s niece Angela del Toro, an FBI agent, and Ava Ayala, Hector’s teenage sister featured in the teen ensemble comic book Avengers Academy.
But the Ayalas haven’t been the only ones to become White Tiger. In the 1996 comic book series Heroes for Hire, a literal white Bengal tiger from India was magically transformed into a human woman, allowing her to become another individual to use the “White Tiger” identity.
But there was yet another White Tiger in the history of Marvel Comics that had nothing to do with magic or amulets. In Christopher Priest’s historic run on Marvel’s Black Panther comics, Priest introduced the half-Black, half-Jewish police officer Kasper Cole.
An aspiring vigilante hoping to clean up his corrupt precinct, Kasper Cole initially imitates the Black Panther. But in the short-lived comic book series The Crew, he christens himself the new White Tiger, using a vibranium catsuit similar to Black Panther’s. Kasper later befriends T’Challa, who seeks to train him using a new identity properly.
The White Tiger’s comic book connections with Black Panther make him a compelling character to introduce in Wakanda Forever. While tigers are not native to Mexico, tigers endure as figures in Mexican culture. The Jade Tiger amulets could originate in Mexico but fall into the hands of ethnically Puerto Rican characters like Hector, Angela, and Ava.
The Inverse Analysis — Amidst all the speculation, there’s still a chance that a scene set in a Mexican village won’t actually matter when it comes to new characters in the MCU.
Like the scenes in South Korea in the first Black Panther, they could merely be part of the plot. Perhaps the film has Wakandans briefly going to a village as part of some reconnaissance mission. Or maybe it’s a flashback, like the first movie’s scenes set in Oakland.
Whatever the case, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting bigger. Even if these scenes at a Mexican village don’t result in a new superhero (or villain), it doesn’t mean there’s not something important waiting there.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters on July 8, 2022.