Mexico City (AFP) – A year after the movie “Roma” catapulted her from obscurity to an Oscar nomination, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio is using the spotlight to promote causes close to her heart: indigenous and women’s rights in her country.
Taking a break from film sets, the 26-year-old from the Mixtec community in the southern state of Oaxaca is dedicating this year to working as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for indigenous peoples.
In her new role, Aparicio — the first indigenous woman ever nominated for a best actress Oscar — returned to school this week to give a talk at Harvard University’s Mexico Conference 2020.
In an interview with AFP in Mexico City, she said she understood that fame and her career would be “a series of ups and downs.”
“So the thing is to use this current high to lend visibility [to indigenous communities] and to explain to more people the things that I have been concerned about,” she said.
“It’s been gratifying.”
Aparacio became an inspiration to many Mexicans when she earned rave reviews for her role in “Roma,” by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron. The film ended up winning three Oscars.
Her “Roma” character Cleo is a domestic worker inspired by Cuaron’s own childhood nanny.
The film’s success not only brought her international plaudits, but she ended up doing interviews and photo shoots for top magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair — where indigenous faces are rare.
Of course, the praise was accompanied by some vitriol on social media.
Many with indigenous roots in Mexico have experienced discrimination, in a society that has been reluctant to acknowledge its own racism.
“We are not new faces, we are simply the people we always were, but who nobody had ever bothered looking at before,” she said.
“May we never again be afraid to say, ‘Enough! We exist too!'”
– ‘I am a feminist’ –
On the back of “Roma,” Aparicio connected with many ordinary women in Mexico, and pushed celebrities to lend their support to the Latin American feminist movement.