Yalitza Aparicio Makes History as the First Latin American Indigenous Best Actress Oscar Nominee

Yalitza Aparicio made history this morning by becoming the first Latin American indigenous woman to ever receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Lead Actress. She earned the nomination for her role as Cleo in the acclaimed Mexican film Roma by Alfonso Cuarón. 

“I’d be breaking the stereotype that because we’re Indigenous we can’t do certain things because of our skin color,” she told the New York Times.  “Receiving that nomination would be a break from so many ideas. It would open doors to other people—to everyone—and deepen our conviction that we can do these things now.”

Additionally, Aparicio became this morning the second Mexican actress to ever receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Lead Actress after Salma Hayek earned her nomination for the starring role in the 2002 biopic film Frida.

Born in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Aparicio had never acted before and was studying to become a school teacher. She was selected to play the leading role in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma after participating in a casting to which she originally attended accompanying her sister.

Aparicio also became the fourth Latina ever to receive a nomination for Best Actress and the first in 14 years after the Colombian Catalina Sandino in Maria Full of Grace, Hayek in Frida, and Fernanda Montenegro for Central Station.

The winners of the 91st annual Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 24. 

Correction update: An earlier version of this text erroneously credited as the first indigenous woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Lead Actress, that honor was for Keisha Castle-Hughes from New Zealand for her 2004 nomination for Whale Rider.