Already a cultural phenomenon like few others in the history of Mexican cinema, Alfonso Cuarón’s universally acclaimed Roma is an epic of intimate proportions inspired by his childhood nanny Liboria “Libo” Rodríguez, a domestic worker who worked for the director’s family for several decades.
But before she was the life force behind a black-and-white movie about a Mixteca woman from Oaxaca working for an upper-middle class family in 1970s Mexico City, Libo herself appeared on-screen in Cuarón’s two other Mexican films. Her inclusion in small cameos speaks to the long-lasting impact her presence had for the lauded auteur.
In 1991’s Sólo con tu pareja, Cuarón’s satirical debut centered on a clumsy womanizer, she appears briefly half-way through the comedy when Tomás (a fresh-faced Daniel Giménez Cacho) is running up the stairs naked after picking up a newspaper, trying to make it back to his apartment. Before he gets to safety, he runs into a woman (Libo) combing a schoolgirl’s hair. Both react in disgust at the sight of the unclothed deviant. It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment, but a rather humorous one.
For the Oscar-nominated Y Tu Mamá También, Libo plays a housekeeper at Tenoch’s residence who actually has a few lines. In the scene, she walks up the stairs with a sandwich, with which Diego Luna (as Tenoch) stuffs his face, and answers the phone before exiting the frame. Her character’s name is listed in the credits as Leodegaria “Leo” Victoria which bears striking similarity to Roma’s Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez.
Carlos Cuarón, who co-wrote Y Tu Mamá También with his brother Alfonso, also pays tribute to Libo, if on an even smaller scale, by acknowledging her in the special thanks section of his second movie as a director Besos de Azúcar.
Her influence extends to another generation in the Cuarón family, as her voice is featured in Jonas Cuarón’s debut Año Uña (Year of the Nail), which was fashioned entirely out of black-and-white still photographs and voice over. Alfonso Cuarón’s son doesn’t specify which part Libo lent her voice to, but she is included in the scroll as one of the additional voices.
With Roma, his intention to have her be part of his stories comes full circle. Represented through a fictionalized version of herself, Libo is at the center of what many are calling Cuarón’s masterpiece, one that wouldn’t exist without her.