Mexican Tenoch Huerta, left, with the cast of 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.' AFP

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has put a culture on display that is not often depicted in major blockbuster films: Mayan culture.

This culture is one of the many to come out of Mesoamerica, a historic region spanning modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This rich heritage has served as the inspiration for Marvel’s latest anti-hero Namor and the Talokan kingdom. Although the movie is fictional, there were several authentic elements.

Here are four ways in which “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” accurately depicted Mayan culture.

1. Use of jade

Mayans have always utilized the elements around them to create clothing, jewelry and tools. Jade was one of these essential elements that held more value than gold. The mineral symbolizes life and purity and has religious significance. Jade for Talokan is like vibranium for Wakanda. Jade was used as the basis for Talokan clothing, jewelry, weaponry and armor. It can be seen in the outfits of Namor’s soldiers and in the ears of Namor himself.

2. Elaborate jewelry and headdresses

In addition to jade being utilized in jewelry, the accessories and costumes worn by Namor and Talokans were intentional and reminiscent of how Mayans would dress. Namor, played by Mexican Actor Tenoch Huerta, adorns a large necklace with a two-headed serpent throughout the movie. Serpents were often used in Mesoamerican stonework and pottery. In an interview with Men’s Health, Ruth Carter, the woman behind the elaborate costume designs for the first and second Black Panther movies, talked about working with historians in order to make pieces that honored Mayan culture.

“We worked with historians who were experts on [Maya] culture to learn about what part of the trajectory of the ancient Mesoamerica area we would draw from,” said Carter. “And so we looked at beautiful sculptures of different scenes depicting the lifestyle of post-classic Yucatán, and the feathered-serpent figures were the ones that were the most powerful looking.”

3. Using the Mayan language

Authentic Mayan language was spoken throughout the movie between Namor and his people, Yucatec Mayan to be specific. Experts and historians were brought on set to help educate the cast. One of the experts included Mayan-Mexican actor Josué Maychi, who played a shaman and pulled double duty as a language coach. To further Mayan representation, one of the songs featured on the movie’s soundtrack “Laayli’ kuxa’ano’one,” was also sung in Mayan.

4. The true God Kukulkan

Kukulkan, also spelled, Ku’ku’lkán is how Namor is referred to by the Talokan clan. This does translate to “The feathered serpent god.” This is a God worshipped by Mayans and is also depicted in other Mesoamerican cultures. Some refer to him as Quetzalcóatl or Ehecatl. There are different versions of this God but universally across cultures, Kukulkan is regarded as the creator of rain and wind. Kukulcan was also the name of a 10th-century hero in Yucatec Maya history. To this day, the feathered serpent God remains a highly regarded symbol in indigenous Mexican culture.

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