Arts and Culture

Roma: An Uneasy Focus On Class, Ethnic, Race Divisions

The critically acclaimed film “Roma,” with 10 Oscar nominations, including the history-making Best Actress nomination, a first for an indigenous woman, was a big winner at the 91st Academy Awards. Alfonso Cuarón won for Best Director, the second for the Mexican native, after winning in 2014 for “Gravity.” Cuaron was quick to thank Roma’s star, Yalitza Aparicio, saying that she and Marina de Tavira, “they are the film.”

For all of its accolades, the film based on Cuaron’s childhood memories in 1970s Mexico City, centering on an indigenous live-in maid, has ignited the conversation/debate about exploitation and discrimination. An issue Cuarón addressed in his acceptance speech: “I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman. One of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, she’s a character that has historically been relegated in the background. As artists, it is our job to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away.”

Aparicio, with roots in the Mixtec and Triqui indigenous communities, is part of the nearly one-quarter of Mexico’s population of some 120 million people who are indigenous, according to government data. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the actress recognized the weight of the visibility her fame is bringing. “I know that everything that I am doing — if I do something wrong, they might think we are all that way. So I have to take good care of that image, our image,” she said.

For more on Carolina A. Miranda’s revealing interview with Aparicio, read ‘Roma’ star Yalitza Aparicio is so much more than her Oscar fairy tale
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