For Yalitza Aparicio, Oscar nominated star of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, the answer to the question “Why does art matter?” is intimately tied to her life since she nabbed that coveted role. As she outlines in a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times as part of that paper’s The Big Ideas series, Roma let her see firsthand how representation on screen can effectively lead to social and cultural change.
The piece, which the actress wrote in Spanish and has since been translated into English, speaks about how important it’s felt to be part of a film that shed light on underrepresented characters. “In the movie,” she writes, “two Indigenous women, Nancy Garcia and I, even spoke Mixtec, one of the 68 languages currently spoken in Mexico, aside from Spanish. Nancy is a speaker and advocate of this beautiful language, a language that she has been teaching me, a clear example of the cultural plurality in Latin America that we don’t often see reflected in cinema.”
But the impact of Roma spans further than such depictions. The film sparked conversations both about racism against Mexico’s indigenous communities (much of it aimed at Aparicio following her Oscar nomination) and about the unfair treatment of domestic workers in Mexico. Indeed, as Aparicio details in her opinion piece, “Mexico’s Congress unanimously approved a bill granting the two million domestic workers in the country rights to social protections and a written employment contract, along with law-mandated benefits such as paid vacation days, Christmas bonuses and days off” not soon after Roma‘s Oscar wins.
Her career may have started with Roma but as the essay details, Aparicio has no plans to stop her activism any time soon.