Yalitza, tearing down walls

The film is not a mere childhood memory, it also explores inequality, social classes, and the treatment of domestic workers

Yalitza Aparicio, the Indigenous woman tearing down walls
Yalitza Aparicio - Photo: Taken from her Instagram account
English 23/01/2019 16:35 Newsroom Mexico City Gretel Morales Actualizada 18:07
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Yalitza Aparicio, the start of Alfonso Cuarón's "Roma" has made history in more than one sense. Indigenous women are never the protagonists of films, but this time, Yalitza is not only the protagonist, but she also took over the film industry, the critics, the award ceremonies, social media, and media outlets. 

Yalitza plays Cleo, Cuarón's nanny, whose real name is Libo. Cleo is an indigenous woman, she is poor, and a migrant. It's uncommon for a woman of this background to become the heroine of a film

Cuarón has said that his film pays homage to the women in his life: his mother and his nanny. But the film is not a mere childhood memory, it also explores inequality, social classes, and the treatment of domestic workers. 

Unfortunately, some Mexican viewers didn't, didn't want to, or simply can't look past the first layer of the film, many of them branding the film as slow or boring. To understand "Roma", you need to read between the lines. Cuarón's intention might not have been to make a political film denouncing the treatment of domestic workers or the hardships faced by indigenous women, but after watching the film, it becomes inevitable to start analyzing how Mexican society treats Indigenous people and domestic workers. 

In a country where poverty and inequality prevails, where Indigenous people are erased from the narrative, Yalitza's success is a breath of fresh air. She has challenged the Mexican ideal of beauty, she landed a role in a major film, she has been awarded at international film festivals, and has landed the cover of numerous magazines

But all this success has also had a negative effect. She has been attacked by people on social media for wearing designer clothes, she has been mocked for her skin color, she has been attacked for her economic status. 

Now that "Roma" has been nominated for 10 Oscars, with an Indigenous woman from Oaxaca as its leading actress, Yalitza is set to become an empowering figure in Mexico. In a recent interview, Caurón said "what I like the most and makes me proud the most is that this is the first (Oscar) nomination for an Indigenous woman, mainly because of the historic moment we're in. Not only because of what is happening in the U.S. society, with the tantrum about the wall in the border, also a call for change in our Mexican society, and I think this has to be linked with those other walls, the invisible ones, the class an ethnic walls." This is exactly what Yalitza is doing, by starring in an internationally acclaimed film, she is challenging the status quo. 

Yalitza and "Roma" have brought different issues into the discussion: inequality, racism, the treatment of domestic workers, poverty, the importance of representation and inclusiveness

Yalitza is here to stay, and she has vowed to give voice to those who need it.



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