Yalitza Aparicio of ‘Roma’ and the Politics of Stardom in Mexico
In December, Aparicio appeared on the cover of Vogue México, a milestone for a woman of Indigenous descent in the magazine’s 20-year history. Aparicio isn’t satisfied to be an exception; she wants to use her emerging star power to create a more inclusive future for her country.
“It shouldn’t matter what you’re into, how you look — you can achieve whatever you aspire to,” she said.
Even before the movie began showing on Netflix in December, there were signs of change: That month, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the 2 million-plus domestic workers, the vast majority of whom are women, must have access to the country’s social security system. The new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has vowed a special focus on alleviating the oppression and poverty Indigenous peoples face.
Though Cuarón didn’t set out to make a political film, he is embracing the result. At a premiere last month at the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, he welcomed a domestic-workers-rights advocate, Marcelina Bautista, to the stage. “All domestic workers in Mexico are Libo, we identify with her,” Bautista told the audience, referring to Cuarón’s childhood nanny, Liboria Rodríguez, on whom Cleo is based. “Mexico owes a lot to its women, and we must end the violence and abuse of power over women.”
Even as Aparicio is celebrated, she has become a target of racist attacks online. Aparicio said that while it initially upset her, she is now focused on the scores who have called her a role model and sent fan art. “I’m not the face of Mexico,” she added, since the country has many faces.
The editor in chief of Vogue México and Vogue Latinoamérica, Karla Martinez de Salas, said she witnessed the racist and classist reactions to photos of Aparicio in Vanity Fair, and worried that the Vogue images would meet a similar response. Rather, they were celebrated with the largest response the magazine has ever received on social media.