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YALITZA APARICIO IS the first indigenous woman to win an Oscar nomination, and the first to make the covers of such major fashion magazines as Vogue and Vanity Fair. EFE
YALITZA APARICIO IS the first indigenous woman to win an Oscar nomination, and the first to make the covers of such major fashion magazines as Vogue and Vanity Fair. EFE

Yalitza Aparicio is the face of Mexico

Her success as an actress and the exposure Alfonso Cuarón and "Roma" have given her, inevitably made Aparicio a trailblazer, a pioneer, a flag bearer for her…

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I must begin by saying that I strongly disagree with Yalitza Aparicio when she affirms she is not the face of Mexico.

Aparicio, the woman of Mixtec descent whose moving and convincing acting in the multi-awarded film "Roma" won her a nomination for an Oscar in the Best Actress category, has become an overnight international celebrity. Suffice it to say she has one million Instagram followers. At 25, her young face has already graced magazine covers, and TV entertainment and cultural programs across the globe. Contrary to what has happened to so many others, the sudden fame has not gone to her head.

“I’m not the face of Mexico, it shouldn’t matter what you’re into, how you look — you can achieve whatever you aspire to,” the 25-year-old former school teacher from Oaxaca, discovered by "Roma" director Alfonso Cuarón, told The Times.

A brave statement from an indigenous woman in a country where it is half- jokingly said that “ser rubio es una profesión” (being blond is a profession) and where the way you look and who you are matter very, very much.

Her success as an actress and the exposure Alfonso Cuarón and "Roma" have given her, inevitably made Aparicio a trailblazer, a pioneer, a flag bearer for her people who has pushed open doors unfairly closed to indigenous Mexicans for generations.

Aparicio is the first indigenous woman to win an Oscar nomination, and the first to make the covers of such major fashion magazines as Vogue and Vanity Fair, something she hopes will give visibility to her discriminated people.

One would think Aparicio’s talent and success would be celebrated by her proud compatriots. Yet, the young woman’s frank smile and unassuming nature have not been enough to overcome the racist attacks in social media and the disparaging comments by some Mexican entertainers.

According to Sin Embargo, a digital news site, in January some Mexican actresses initiated a campaign to prevent Aparicio from winning a Mexican Academy of Film Award, considered to be the “Mexican Oscars.” One month later, Sergio Goyri, a stereotypical mustachioed soap opera villain, was captured in a video calling the young woman a “pinche india,” which roughly translates to “damned Indian.” Others like the aging singer Yuri and actress Laura Zapata also joined the pitiful chorus of mediocre actresses and actors who have never risen above tacky telenovelas tearjerkers, and aging dyed-blonde singers and entertainers who, although never great, have seen better times.

For Goyri, Aparicio has some educational words: “I am not an Indian,” she said. “I am indigenous.”

Which takes me back to the reasons for my disagreement with Yalitza, which are, of course, the other side of the coin from the ones so despicably put on display by the racism and envy of fake blondes and cartoonish actors who hate themselves much more than they hate Aparicio. Lacking real talent, they were given ample opportunities thanks to the color of their skin and the multiple cosmetic surgeries to hopelessly try to erase any traces of their Mexicanness and with it their authenticity.

No, Yalitza, I disagree. Your young, serene, proud face is the face of Mexico.

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