A world redrawn: 'Stand together,' says actress Yalitza Aparicio

Mexico City (AFP) –


The coronavirus crisis has kept Oscar-nominated Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio from returning to work.

But the star of Alfonso Cuaron's critically acclaimed film "Roma" is using the time away from her job to best advantage, pursuing her activism on behalf of indigenous peoples.

After spending several weeks in her hometown of Tlaxiaco in the southern state of Oaxaca, the 26-year-old -- herself a member of the Mixtec community -- is now back in Mexico City.

She has launched a public service announcement video in indigenous languages to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Aparicio, a teacher by training who serves as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for indigenous peoples, shared her thoughts with AFP about the ongoing global health crisis.

The first indigenous woman ever nominated for a best actress Oscar said she hopes that the pandemic will show that "we are not so different from each other" and teach people to "stand together" in tough times.

What follows are extracts from the interview, edited for clarity.

Q: What did you enjoy doing the most during this time of lockdown and how have you gotten through it?

A: "At the beginning, it was complicated because I had a pretty crazy pace to my life, I was on the move all the time from one place to another, and suddenly, I was told 'You have to stay at home.' (...) I felt a bit like I was suffocating, being stuck inside. But I started doing things I've always loved doing, like painting and reading, which helped me to reconnect with the Yali I used to be."

Q: What is this pandemic teaching us?

A: "It's teaching us to be united and not just physically... It's teaching us to stand together, to think of others, and to not be so self-centered. I think that's the most beautiful thing to come of all this, that we are supporting each other."

Q: How has this crisis changed us?

A: "I don't know how we're all going to act, but we should do our best, by taking certain precautions, notably in terms of our health. It's not because this pandemic is eventually going to pass that everything should go back to normal, to how it was. Some reports have said that the pandemic is allowing the world to breathe. We're realizing that it's true -- when we look up at the sky, it's less polluted... It's true that we (humans) are destroying the Earth."

Q: Has this health emergency set your career back at all?

A: "In my role as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador, no, happily, it hasn't. I haven't stopped because this time has been useful to me, to keep myself informed. Of course, in terms of films, yes, several projects are on hold. We may be unable to work for a while, but we will pick up where we left off later on. We'll see how we come out of this pandemic, and what happens next."

Q: How did the idea for a video featuring messages about coronavirus in indigenous languages come about?

A: "The goal... was to show the world that we are not so different from each other, but in fact to the contrary, we are all part of this world and as such we all have to work together. Everyone (who worked on the video) agreed with this message. (...) Some people only speak their native language, they don't speak Spanish, and so these (prevention) messages are not reaching them."