Aparicio wrote in a New York Times about how the phenomenon of "Roma" changed their lives and the world.
Alfonso Cuarón's "Roma" was a global phenomenon in 2018 that made a black and white Spanish-language Netflix film a must worldwide, won three Academy Awards and rarely brought light to a pocket of Mexican life seen on screens. But it wasn't always an easy path, as film star Yalitza Aparicio recently recalled in a New York Times commentary released on Saturday as part of the newspaper's Big Ideas series, which dealt with the value of art.
"I never thought that a film alone could lead to social awareness and change," Aparicio wrote, adding, "that's exactly what happened. Suddenly, people in my home country Mexico were talking about issues that have long been taboo here – racism , Discrimination against indigenous communities and especially the rights of domestic workers, a group that has been historically disenfranchised in Mexican society. "
Aparicio said however that the kind of prejudices challenged by the film in which she acts as a Mixtec maid for an upper middle class family in Mexico City plagued her in real life when she was nominated for a milestone nomination for the Best Actress Academy Award.
“Although discrimination is not widely spoken in Mexico, this is a very real problem. According to a survey by the National Statistics Office of Mexico in 2017, 65 percent of Mexicans believe that little to no rights are respected by our indigenous communities, ”said Aparicio.
Aparicio is the first indigenous American and the second Mexican after Salma Hayek for "Frida", who received an Oscar nomination for best actress.
“I have first-hand experience with this type of discrimination. After I was nominated for an Oscar for portraying Cleo, racist comments circulated on social media. Commentators asked me why I was nominated and referred to my social and ethnic background, ”said Aparicio. "An indigenous woman was not a worthy representative of the country, some said. It was difficult for me to see and hear such statements. "
Still, Aparicio said that the film's experience was a salvation that focused on the indigenous peoples and eventually led to legislative changes. “But because of [racist statements] real conversations took place. Ultimately, these discussions highlighted the cultural and political importance of diversity in society, art, and the media, ”she said. Aparicio also recalled that the Mexican Congress in May 2019, just a few months after the Oscar award ceremony, passed a bill granting rights, protection, and benefits to two million domestic workers.
"Cleo had a very profound impact on my life, and playing it brought me on my current path: I use my newly discovered activism to improve social conditions in Mexico, to promote gender equality and to promote diversity, wherever I can, "said Aparicio. She is currently taking a break from working in films and is instead acting as a UNESCO Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples.