Oscar-nominated actress in film ‘Roma’ says domestic workers need recognition

Agencia EFE

The lead actress in the Mexican film “Roma,” a semi-autobiographical analysis of 1970s life in a neighborhood of Mexico City that highlights the difficult conditions in which a vast majority of domestic workers live, said International Women’s Day on Friday was a valuable platform from which to demand dignified employment conditions including the right to strike.

Yalitza Aparicio, who plays Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez, a live-in household worker in the film written, directed, produced, shot and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, told EFE in an exclusive interview that she was happy it had helped to reveal to viewers what such an existence was like.

“I am glad that this film has managed to open the eyes of many people, there are many professionals who do important things, but behind them, there are people who are responsible for the running of their homes, looking after their children and it is fair to recognize that work,” Aparicio said.

Her role delves into the life of an employee of indigenous origin who works for a middle-upper class family in the Mexico of 1970-1971, a situation with autobiographical references for director Cuarón.

Aparicio was in Geneva to take part in events to commemorate International Women’s Day where she is set to be one of the speakers in a panel on gender equality within the world of work and in which she intends to bring to bear her experience regarding the situation of domestic workers.

“The film has brought forward many debates, including exactly how valuable domestic workers really are,” she said.

“If employer began to acknowledge the value of their domestic workers and if they recognized the support they provide, those employees would also begin to comprehend their contribution and begin to esteem themselves more highly, leading to a general advancement,” the actress, who is also a teacher, said.

Aparicio said that she not only represented domestic workers in “Roma,” but also indigenous women who have historically been victims of systematic discrimination.

“I am a woman who has always valued herself, I love my skin color, my roots, but unfortunately society sometimes leads some to want to hide this pride,” she said.

She laughed shyly when reminded that a European magazine had manipulated her photograph on its cover, making her skin lighter and her figure appear thinner.

She said that such stereotypes of Western beauty which are predominant in Latin America as well as around the world, have to a large extent been pushed by the media.

Such a reality did not help because it transmitted information that did not help individuals to value themselves, “subliminal messages that tell you that you cannot belong aesthetically to them.”

Aparicio said she retained hope for the future.

“I hope this changes because the diversity that exists not only in Mexico but around the world contains many faces, such as mine, that have yet to be seen,” the actress who has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress said.