HerStory September 2020: Yalitza Arapacio

Representation matters. No one understands that more than our September HerStory honoree, Yalitza Aparicio. She is a Mexican actress who made her film debut in 2018’s Roma, which centers the Indigenous experience in Mexico. The film tells the story of a live-in housekeeper of Indigenous descent, who code-switches between the family she serves (with whom she speaks Spanish) and her co-worker, who is also Mixtec and with whom she speaks Mixteca. The film was critically acclaimed, not only for the beautiful story it told, but also for shining a light on the plight of the Indigenous community in Mexico. It inspired more focus and attention on Indigenous peoples, and a deeper commitment to activism for Aparicio.

Like much of the world, Mexico is currently experiencing a reckoning in regards to race and class, and particularly in the way Indigenous peoples have been treated. Roma helped to start lots of conversations about the struggles Indigenous people face, and the discrimination against them that is inherent in Mexican society. Colorism is a big problem in Mexico, and it’s long been perpetuated by Mexican media: dark-skinned people with Indigenous features are often relegated to the lower rungs of a society that is deeply classist, and are not represented in much of popular culture.

When people don’t have access to things like the cinema, they don’t pursue careers in things like the cinema, and therefore are not represented in things like the cinema. Aparicio works with organizations that aim to expand access to movie theaters, therefore exposing Indigenous folk to the possibilities, not only inherent in the stories that are told, but in the telling of the stories. Aparicio’s parents are both Indigenous; her father is Mixtec and her mother is Trique. Her casting in Roma was very deliberate: director Alfonso Cuarón wanted an recognizably Indigenous woman to play this role. This in itself was a revolutionary act, as lighter skin is held to a higher regard throughout Mexico.

Our Indigenous Excellence colorway celebrates the indigenous heritage of Yalitza Aparicio; each skein is a blending of the traditional regalia. We hope you’ll take some time to learn more about the indigenous people of your home country as you work with your September HerStory yarn, and maybe rent Roma while you’re at it.