ALBUQUERQUE, NM – First-time actress Yalitza Aparicio in "Roma" finds strong support among Mexican-American women, who, despite their setback in Mexico, identify with their indigenous roots.
Some Mexican-American women say they are glad that Aparicio's high profile role calls into question typical images of fair-skinned Latinas in Spanish-language films and television programs, and they are proud to be the first indigenous woman they are nominated for best actress at the Oscars.
US Latina Aparicio fans host Oscar wax parties, enthusiastically comment on each other, and share all the steps Aparicio has taken in social media.
"She's brown girl magic," said Jennie Luna, a professor at the California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, California. "My students can not stop talking about them."
The praise of fans of Mexican descent north of the US-Mexico border comes about as Aparicio, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico, is exposed to racist attacks online in her homeland and is scorned by some Mexican actors. Recently, Mexican actor Sergio Goyri was amazed by a video in which he criticized Aparicio's nomination and described it as a racist slur. Later he apologized.
After appearing on the cover of Vogue México last year, Aparicio was struck by a tirade of racist online comments that criticized her looks.
"I'm proud to be an indigenous Oaxaca woman It saddens me that there are people who do not know the correct meaning of the words." Aparicio, descended from Mixteken, said in a statement earlier this month.
In "Roma", Aparicio plays the domestic worker Cleo Mexico City's middle-class family in the turbulent early 1970s. She speaks in a native dialect and in Spanish and works to navigate the different worlds for her own survival.
Aparicio, a 25-year-old primary school teacher, is nominated alongside Glenn Close, Lady Gaga, Olivia Colman and Melissa McCarthy on Sunday at the Oscars.
Astrid Silva, an immigrant rights activist in Las Vegas whose parents came from Mexico, said many Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants in the US see themselves in Aparicio for various reasons.
"She's dark Woman with skin color (who) comes from a poor region in Mexico like many of our families," said Silva. "It not only challenges old notions of beauty, which always involved blond hair and fair skin, and threatens them."
Aparicio's popularity is particularly strong in California, where many Mexican Americans can trace their roots back to migrants from the southern Mexican states of Mexico Oaxaca, Michoacán and Guerrero. These states have vibrant, diverse indigenous populations that have experienced discrimination in Mexico in the past.
"We've been working to rediscover our indigenous roots, and Aparicio's presence shows we matter," said Lilia Soto, a professor of American studies at the University of Wyoming, who grew up in Napa, California. "The racism that she faces in Mexico is also an attack on us."
Soto said Aparicio is also popular with Mexican immigrants in New York, mostly from Puebla – another Mexican state with an indigenous population.
When Aparicio visited New York City last year and was welcomed by the Mexican immigrants she met.
Silva said she did not intend to see the Academy Awards until she heard of Aparicio's nomination and the best image nod of "Roma".
"It's hard to describe, it's not just pride that we feel," Silva said. "Yalitza is just … we."
Russell Contreras, Associated Press writer, is a member of the Associated Press's Race and Ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras