Entertainment

Yalitza Aparicio Didn’t Win The Oscar But Her Fame And Success Are The Real Award

There are reasons to celebrate Mexican cinema today! Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” was nominated for all the main categories in the 2019 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language film. Among the film’s many nominations perhaps the most important was the Best Actress nod given to Yalitzia Aparicio, a first-time actress who gave us a performance for the ages as Cleo, a caring and amazing domestic worker who is the cornerstone of a middle-class white Mexico City family. Her gaze is tender but powerful, and her body language is that of an experienced actor. Who would have guessed this is her debut on the big screen.

Yalitza Aparicio is the first indigenous woman nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Aparicio lost the award to Olivia Colman for “The Favourite.” The win in the category came as a surprise as all eyes were on Aparicio, Lady Gaga, and Glenn Close and the forerunners.

One of the most adorable moments of her Oscars appearance was her mother meeting Diego Luna.

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Not only is Aparicio so proud to see her mother meeting one of Mexico’s biggest stars, but her mother’s pride in her daughter is also palpable. How can you not fall in love with this mother-daughter duo.

She has savaged racist stereotypes of beauty.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Since the Netflix film debuted at the Venice Film Festival in early 2018, Aparicio has been gracing magazine covers worldwide. This cover for The Hollywood Reporter, where she looks amazing, smashed all the glass ceilings for Latinas in Hollywood, particularly considering the political climate in the U.S.

She is an icon for indigenous women.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

We are sad to admit that Mexico City’s society can be, well, pretty racist. Indigenous women who migrate from the countryside often face discrimination and try to “blend in” by hiding their heritage. Not our Yalitza, who owns an amazing self-confidence that we should all learn from.

She is a proud indigenous woman with Mixtec and Triqui heritage.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Aparicio hails from the state of Oaxaca, a region that has historically struggled against colonial forces that steal land, as Aparicio’s character in “Roma” tells us. This region has a long history of struggle and political involvement.

She is bilingual.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

As shown in “Roma,” Aparicio is bilingual. She speaks Spanish and Mixtec, an ancient language that you can hear in Mexico City if you pay close attention. She was coached by her best friend during production to better learn the language.

She was studying to be a school teacher.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Alfonso Cuaron was growing frustrated with his search for the perfect Cleo. Hundreds of candidates paraded before his eyes until a student by the name of Yalitza showed the depth and fortitude he was looking for. If she hadn’t been chosen, those kids would have been lucky to have a teacher as awesome as her.

Her Vogue Mexico cover received some racist backlash.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Aparicio’s sudden success in “Roma” and across the world has upset many white Mexicans. Her Vogue Mexico cover was attacked by people mocking her for her skin tone and her indigenous roots. Meanwhile, she looked gorgeous on the red carpet and made sure she waved at the camera as she, the first indigenous woman nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, walked the red carpet with the biggest names in movies.

She is only 25.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

She recently celebrated her 25th birthday with the “Roma” family while the cast and crew were doing the festival and awards circuit. The sky is the limit for this awesome actress!

She didn’t want to attend the casting call.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

She was just coming along with her sister, and she auditioned just out of curiosity. She was suspicious of whether the casting call was real, as sometimes women get lured into fame and fortune to be abducted and possibly sold.

She has become a Mexico City icon.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

“Roma” has become the epitome of the Mexico City movie and has hit hard on the chilango nostalgia. Here we see Aparicio on the cover of Chilango magazine, which chronicles the cultural and social life of the city.

Time magazine says Aparicio had the best performance of the year.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Aparicio has wowed audiences and critics. Time magazine chose her as the best actor of 2018, over established names like Ethan Hawke. What they say: “Her performance is the kind of jewel a filmmaker could seek forever and never find.” Cuaron is one lucky dude.

The New York Times has named her the discovery of the year.

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It is not often that a woman of color convinces American media that she is the real deal, let alone someone of indigenous origin. Aparicio had never acted before auditioning for “Roma.” It is one of the most incredible stories from Hollywood in recent history to watch an indigenous woman get nominated for an Oscar in her first role.

She doesn’t consider herself an actor.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Her life has made a 180-degree turn in the past few months. She is still humble and proud, and not blinded by the glitz and glamour. She told The Guardian: “I don’t think I am an actor because I haven’t studied to be an actress.”

She had no idea of who Cuaron was.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

When she attended the casting call, she faced a guy who was just any other guy to her. She has told The Guardian: “It was only when I went to my final casting that I got to meet Alfonso, although it didn’t make any difference to me because I didn’t have a clue who he was or his role in the film industry.” Perhaps her innocence is what made her shine during the audition.

She has inspired activists north and south of the border.

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Her role as Cleo has inspired those who fight for the rights of domestic workers in the United States and in Mexico. By highlighting how workers can have a fundamental emotional role in the family dynamics, “Roma” speaks the truth to thousands of employers and employees.

She was extremely shy before filming.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Aparicio did not like to be under the spotlight. In fact, she had to ignore the cameras while filming which is perhaps one of the factors that made her performance so natural and free.

Her mother was a domestic worker.

Credit: @alfonsocuaron / Instagram

For Aparicio, “Roma” was a tribute to her own mother, who was a domestic worker. She understood how bonds are created between employees and particularly the children they care for.

She wants to study acting.

Credit: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

This is not the end of Aparicio in the film industry. Now that she is a veteran of the Oscars and the awards season, Aparicio knows it is time to learn a bit more about the craft of acting. Guaranteed that we will see her for a long time to come.

The Oscar nomination is not her only one.

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This role has brought an avalanche of accolades. In addition to the Oscar, she has been nominated to awards such as the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Hollywood Film Awards, the Gotham Awards, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Satellite Awards, and the Women Film Critics Circle.

Hollywood is in love with her.

Credit: cdn-3.expansion.mx_. Digital image. La palabra del Caribe

Just look at Tom Hanks’ face when he met the nascent star. She has a power that few possess and her long list of award wins and nominations from her first role prove her worth in the industry.

Her parents fought for her name.

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Mexican officials said that Yalitza was not a common name and refused initially to write it down in her birth certificate. She told Flood magazine: “My mom really loved it and my dad stuck to his guns”. Good on them.

READ: 21 Reasons Why You Simply Must Watch Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar-Nominated ‘Roma’

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New Study Finds Taíno DNA Is Still Present Despite Paper Genocide Perpetrated By European Colonizers

Culture

New Study Finds Taíno DNA Is Still Present Despite Paper Genocide Perpetrated By European Colonizers

robertpairman / daka_manicatonaru / Instagram

The island now named Puerto Rico was once home to between 30 and 70 thousand people collectively known as Taíno. They all descended from various ethnic groups that settled on the island as far back in history as 3,000 B.C. In the 15th century, after the colonizers arrived, the official story was that a century of conquistadores wiped any trace of these indigenous peoples. They were thought to be extinct —or so said the official recordings.

A DNA study last year found that 61 percent of all Puerto Ricans and roughly a third of Cubans and Dominicans have Native American mitochondrial DNA.

Credit: @NatGeo / Twitter

It was a common belief —until now— that Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno people were exterminated shortly after the Spanish conquista took place in 1511. “[The indigenous people] show the most singular loving behavior… and are gentle and always laughing,” Columbus recorded. Conquistador Diego Velázquez’s arrival in 1511 would change that forever. Those Taíno who had never before been put to the sword or worked to death fell victim to smallpox, influenza, and measles. The diseases from Europe presented a biological attack the native people could not survive. Within 100 years of Columbus’ landfall, virtually the entire indigenous population – heavily concentrated in the fertile lowlands of eastern Cuba – had perished. Yet contrary to popular belief, Taíno bloodlines, identity, and customs were never completely extinguished.

The overall population of the Taíno people fell dramatically after being submitted to forced relocations, starvation, disease, and slavery. Colonizers killed off the population during the savage and brutal conquest of the New World. They even removed them from censuses. “Christian converts”, “Wives of colonists” and “other” were some of the categories they were put into. These official records and other colonial documents have reinforced the narrative that the indigenous peoples were completely extinguished. 

The tribe’s supposed extinction was a ‘paper genocide,’ according to experts.

Credit: audrey_has_tea / Instagram

Recently, people from all over the Caribbean have spoken out to National Geographic, declaring that they identify as Taíno and that their people survive to this day. Chief Jorge Baracutei Estevez, the head of the Taíno organization Huguayagua, describes the historical wipe-out of the tribe’s existence as a ‘paper genocide.’

According to Estevez, people were made to disappear on paper: “The 1787 census in Puerto Rico lists 2,300 pure Indians in the population, but on the next census, in 1802, not a single Indian is listed,” Estevez writes. “Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Spaniards who were reluctant to free their Indian slaves simply reclassified them as African on the census, Estevez writes.”

“We’re told our past is a thing that went extinct,” says Maria Nieves-Colón, an anthropological geneticist at Arizona State University, told The Atlantic.

Credit: higuayagua / Instagram

Growing up in Puerto Rico, the story was different. Her friends and neighbors would share oral histories about traditions that were passed down to them from Native ancestors, who must somehow have survived to share these customs. Over the past 10 years, Nieves-Colón has been working to collect tiny fragments of DNA from ancient remains. From three archaeological sites on the island, she and her colleagues acquired 124 skeletal remains, which all dated between A.D. 500 and 1300. They then searched teeth, bones, and dental plaque for genetic fragments—a difficult task, since DNA breaks down quickly and readily in tropical conditions.

Nieves-Colón was able to confirm through genetic research, that pre-Columbian populations share DNA sequences with modern-day Puerto Ricans. 

Credit: guaisaguey / Instagram

Her team managed to completely decipher the mitochondrial genomes from 45 precontact people, and partial nuclear genomes from two of them. These sequences confirmed that indigenous Puerto Ricans were strongly connected to Amazonian groups from Venezuela and Colombia, and likely originated from that region. They also contained genetic evidence connecting pre-colonial populations with modern ones.

Modern-day Taínos have fought to correct the historical record and claim their identity.

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“Through marriage certificates, baptismal records and a scant few census reports, I was able to identify a few family members (in the mid-1700s) who were officially ‘identified’ as Negro one year, but categorized as ‘Indio’ just a few years prior,” Maritza Luz Feliciano Potter told National Geographic. “While I don’t deny my European or African ancestry, I deeply feel it’s long due that my family relearns, remembers, and reclaims our birthrights as Indigenous Boricuas [Puerto Ricans]. We Are Taíno! We are still here!,” she continued. The modern-day Taino have fought to correct the historical record by lobbying for accurate census categories that allow them to be counted.

This research provides the first concrete proof that indigenous ancestry in the Caribbean has survived to the present day.   

Credit: caona_choreto / Instagram

“This shows that there really are ties to populations that are indigenous to the island, and survived through colonization, and are present in modern peoples,” researcher Benn Torres told National Geographic. “This is something that some people have said all along, based on their oral histories and other ways of knowing.”

READ: Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

‘Roma’ Star Aparicio Is Named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador And Will Advocate For The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

Fierce

‘Roma’ Star Aparicio Is Named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador And Will Advocate For The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

Within a matter of just a year, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio has made a name for herself as both an artist and an activist. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old actress, born in Tlaxiaco, Mexico, made history as the first indigenous actor nominated for the best actress award at the Academy Awards for her breakout role in the film “Roma.” In the months after the film came out, the actress has worked hard to display her Mixteco language and heritage, financially support Oaxan students from her hometown, and combat any stereotypes or ignorant impressions you might have of indigenous people. For her work, the young actress is, once again, being honored. 

This time, it’s with a wonderful new role with the United Nations’ cultural agency United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a goodwill ambassador for indigenous people.

On Friday, UNESCO— a Paris-based organization— announced that they had appointed Aparicio to help them advocate for gender equality and indigenous rights. 

yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

In an interview about her newest role, Aparicio said that she felt “proud to be an indigenous woman” and would like to aim “to go hand in hand with UNESCO in the best way, to be able to support these indigenous communities.”

According to NBC News, the young actress also said that it was her hope that she would pass on the traditional wisdom of indigenous communities as well as combat racism. “As my grandparents used to say: ‘You have to take care of the land because you eat it.’ So hopefully we learn this part,” she said.

During her announcement of her new role, Aparicio said that it would also be her goal to shed light on the various legal complications that indigenous people face in the government systems around the world. 

yalitzaapariciomtz/ Instagram

“There are several cases where there are indigenous people who are judged in a foreign language, without the right to have a translator and I think it’s something that we should take action on”, she said.

There’s no doubt that based on the year Aparicio has had that she is a woman who understands first hand why advocacy for indigenous people is so important. 

yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

The Academy Award-nominated actress Yalitza Aparicio became the first Mexican woman to receive such an honor. However, despite the respect and esteem, she should have earned, it wasn’t uncommon for her to receive unwarranted racism from her community of actors in Mexico. At one point, telenovela star Sergio Goyri used racist slurs to say that he didn’t feel Yalitza Aparicio deserved an Oscar nomination. In a video posted to the veteran actor’s Instagram, he  commented that Aparicio should not have received a nomination for an Academy Award saying  in Spanish “Que metan a nominar a una pinche india que dice, ‘sí señora, no señora’, y que la metan a una terna a la mejor actriz del Oscar.

In English, his offensive and vulgar language translate to “That they nominate an Indian click that says, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am’, and that they put it in a shortlist for the best Oscar actress.”

Later the actor apologizes saying that it was “never my intent to offend anyone. I apologize to Yalitza, who deserves [the Oscar nomination] and much more,” the 60-year-old said on Instagram. “For me, it is an honor to see a Mexican be nominated for an Oscar.”

Staying above it all like always, Aparicio responded to Goyri’s offensive remarks by stating that she was proud of who she is and where she is from. 

“I am proud to be an Oaxacan indigenous woman, and it saddens me that there are people who do not know the correct meaning of words,” Aparicio said in a statement to The Guardian.

“Roma” director, Alfonso Cuarón, also came to the defense of Aparicio this week by saying that Goyri’s words should be a broader discussion as to why people, particularly in Mexico, have those feelings, and also why the media perpetuates stereotypes.

With all that Aparicio has experienced, we’re excited to see what she does for Indigenous people in her newest role.

Aparicio has continued to prove this year that she is nothing but a rising star on the scene. Despite the fact that English was not a language she knew fluently when she took up her first Hollywood film (and first film!) she continues to be the face of international success and proof that anyone can come from any circumstance and get to the top. We hope that her new role she will outshine any ignorance and cruelty that might come her way and that she will continue the fight for freedom for Indigenous people everywhere.