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‘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.

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