The plight of indigenous communities in Mexico can’t be relegated to history books. To walk around in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood (yes, the same one director Alfonso Cuarón has immortalized in his most recent film) is to see the after effects of centuries’ worth of prejudice and disenfranchisement at work. As directors Samuel G. Orozco and Maria Jose Sanchez show in their short documentary, Ñahñu, el viaje de grupos otomíes a la Ciudad de México. Chronicling the growing community of the Otomí people in Mexico’s capital, which has been pushed out of Querétaro and nearby lands into the urban jungle that is CDMX, the directors shine a light on the specific challenges indigenous people still face in the 21st century.
With roving camera following women in their traditional garb out on the streets and zeroing in on the cramped living spaces they’ve made their own, we get to hear testimonials about how Otomí women are often scolded for speaking their language and mocked for not wearing more “modern” clothing, and about how they are mistreated when leaving their homes. Interviewing several people on camera, including younger women who are pushing for the community to embrace modernity and older ones who voice the challenges that come with raising kids in the city, Orozco and Sanchez paint a portrait of a community that, decades in, is still struggling with assimilating to their new surroundings. In fact, the very issue of assimilation (its perks and its perils) is precisely what drives much of their short doc.
As Isaac Martínez, president of the la Coordinación Indígena Otomí puts it in the short, theirs is a community that will no longer be shamed for living in colonia Roma all the while keeping their traditions (and language!) alive. “We have a right to live here,” he says, “and despite a shrinking number of nieghbors that are against us, we’re here to show them that we’re not what you think we are, that we have a right to live here and take care of our own issues ourselves.” Take a look at the Spanish-language short in full below.