Photo: Starfrenzy/Bigstock

Yalitza Aparicio is a household name given her instant rise to fame due to the spellbinding success of Netflix’s Roma and its multiple award victories: Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, a BAFTA for best film and three Oscars. For a first time actor, Aparicio exceeded all expectations and scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Not to rest on her laurels, the star of Mexican heritage has decided to strike the iron while it’s still hot. While most would have focused on the continuation of their success, Aparicio has taken the floor to stand up for domestic workers, a position she knows too well as it is the role of a maid that garnered her the fame that has led to her speaking at an International Women’s Day discussion in Geneva which was met with a standing ovation. She is a bonafide actress, and as an activist, she champions the rights of domestic workers and indigenous women around the world. She explains, “I am glad that this film has managed to open the eyes of many people, there are many professionals who do important things, but behind them, there are people who are responsible for the running of their homes, looking after their children and it is fair to recognize that work.”

Photo: Carlos Somonte/Netflix 

Yalitza finds great delight in being the first indigenous woman nominated for an Oscar for her role as Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez, the lead actress in Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece Roma, a semi-autobiographical on the director’s own life as well as an analysis of 1970s Mexico City that highlights the trials and tribulations of women as well as domestic workers. The actress confirms that she represents another demographic along with domestic workers in her celebrated portrayal and that happens to be indigenous women victimized by systematic discrimination. On International Women’s Day in front of a global audience, this indigenous woman proclaimed, “I am a woman who has always valued herself, I love my skin color, my roots, but unfortunately society sometimes leads some to want to hide this pride.” In a poignant scene in the film, Signora Sofia (Marina de Tavira) tells Cleo that “We are alone. No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone”, but countless indigenous women and domestic workers are not alone anymore, thanks to Yalitza Aparicio, a star, a Mexican star, an indigenous star who is here to be seen and command others are seen as well.

Photos: Yalitza Aparicio in Roma. Carlos Somonte/Netflix

Yalitza’s Cleo is an in-home maid who struggles with her problems and cares for her boss’s family that have been deserted by their father, inspired by the maid who lived with Cuaron’s family. Cuaron wrote, directed, produced, shot and co-edited this cinematic epic which was close to his heart and Yalitza on her part played her role with a subdued dignity which was present even when words were absent. Being dignified comes naturally to her, as was seen when she spoke on gender equality using the platform at Geneva to demand dignified employment conditions including the right to strike. Aparicio stated, “ My mother IS a domestic worker, I know many domestic workers, so I did have a concept of how that work shapes up, how that person participates in the family.”

Aparicio, 25, had just completed teacher training when she was cast in the film named after the neighborhood the director grew up in. Thus, it is of no surprise that she continues to apply the mission of a teacher but on a larger scale, as she asserts, “My passion has always been to educate people, to teach them, throughout my career people have told me I haven’t stopped teaching, I opted for acting but constantly try to teach the community. It is possible to demonstrate that one can achieve many things though society might say no. If you are a woman and are told ‘no’, try again … continue insisting because at some point in time you will be a success.”

Photos: Yalitza Aparicio in Roma. Carlos Somonte/Netflix

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