Yalitza Aparicio, the Oscars’ First Indigenous Actress Nominated for her role in Alfonso Cuarón “Roma” was called a “fucking Indian” by a fellow Mexican actor whose name I rather not even publish. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. She has been met with racism and a lot of envy by actors in her home country who don’t accept that “an Indian”-as ignorants call the Native American population-who never went to an acting class is suddenly the face of Mexico.
But more than Mexican, Yaltiza represents the Indigenous woman of America. Women who are usually discriminated because of their looks and race from south to north. The International media was pleased to see a face like hers representing a film nominated for the Oscars.
Her deserving Oscar nomination was a slap in the face to Latin-American media that for years have discriminated against the Indigenous population.You would think Indigenous people don’t exist if you put the tv on in Mexico, if you go to the cinema, or watch Latin-American soaps.
The racist reaction in her home country, didn’t surprise me at all. A few years ago, a white Mexican actress I met in London, questioned the nationality of an Indigenous friend of mine from Mexico whom I worked with in a film called “The Invisible Man”. She was your usual classist actress with an acting degree from the US and as far as I could see, zero charisma and a lot of complex “he says he is Mexican but Mexicans don’t look like that”-she told me- The problem was that my friend was not only indigenous but also utterly broke getting by in London doing £5 an hour cleaning jobs.
I’ve heard these insults before as people think it is okay to say them in front of fellow white people. However when I tell them I’m the daughter of a Native American from Bolivia and that therefore they are also insulting my dad and myself being half Aymara, then I get the pleasure of seeing their faces go red in shame.
Salma Hayek, nominated for best actress in 2003 for her role as Frida , made it all about herself by saying publicly Yalitza was the second Mexican actress to be nominated, ignoring the fact that she is the first Indigenous woman ever to be nominated for an Oscar. The term “Fucking Indian” is unfortunately widely used all over America at all levels of society. Native American people are in general deemed inferior by mestizos or people of European origin. They are also deemed “ugly”. The times of derogatory racial slurs to hurt people are well and truly over and anyone heard making comments like that should hide in shame or pay a fine.
The film Roma is at least breaking stereotypes and her nomination will hopefully encourage other girls and women to feel proud of their origins and looks. Hollywood did get it right nominating her, it is indeed a significant moment of representation.