Latinos Score Wins at 91st Academy Awards

Created: 26 February, 2019
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Marielena Castellanos

Some nail biting took place in Mexico and in the United States this past weekend from fans of first-time Oscar nominated actress Yalitza Aparicio in the moments before the winner of the Best Actress category was named during the recent Oscar awards ceremony.

While Aparicio, who plays domestic worker Cleo in the film “Roma,” did not win the award, that didn’t stop residents in her hometown of Tlaxiaco from celebrating the nomination. Olivia Colman won Best Actress for her role in “The Favourite.”

Aparicio is only the second Mexican woman ever nominated for the Best Actress academy award, and the first indigenous woman to be nominated for the very-coveted award. The historic nomination was met with racist comments online in Mexico, and even Sergio Goyri, a Mexican telenovela actor, was caught on video using a racial slur criticizing Aparicio’s nomination.

Her nomination was a victory for indigenous communities in Mexico and the U.S. The achievement could open new doors for new generations, and potentially move forward conversations as Aparicio’s nomination brought issues of racism, and skin color along with stereotypes of how beauty is defined, and anti-indigenous attitudes to the forefront.

Alfonso Cuarón, the visionary behind the film “Roma,” was inspired by the housekeeper that helped raise him. Roma scored three Oscars and 10 nominations, including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.

“I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights. A character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema. As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times where we are being encouraged to look away,” Cuarón said during his acceptance speech after winning his third Oscar of the night for Best Director.

Spanish was also heard throughout the night at the 91st Annual Academy Awards from presenters including Mexican actor Diego Luna, Spanish actor Javier Bardem and from Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer and film editor Alfonso Cuarón during his acceptance speeches.

“Ya se puede hablar español en los Oscars. Ya nos abrieron la puerta y no nos vamos a ir,” Luna said in Spanish onstage which in English means “It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now. They opened the door for us, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Bardem, who was one of the presenters for the Best Foreign Film award, switched into Spanish during his remarks and said, “No hay fronteras, no hay muros que frenen el ingenio y el talento. En cada región, en cada país, en cada continente del mundo, hay historias que nos conmueven.” His statement translates to, “There are no borders or walls that can stop ingenuity and talent, in each region, in each country, in each continent of the world there are stories that move us.”

Bardem’s comments weren’t the only reference to walls and borders. After iconic rock band Queen sang “We Will Rock You,” and “We are the Champions,” at the beginning of the Oscars, comedic actresses Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rodolph, the first group of presenters took to the stage.

“There is no host tonight. There won’t be a popular movie category, and Mexico is not paying for the wall,” Rudolph said.

One of the nights other big winners was Cuban-American Phil Lord, who was a co-writer and co-producer along with Christopher Miller for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

The family film examines different universes where other versions of Spider-Man exist, centering on 13-year-old Brooklynite Miles Morales and how he becomes Marvel’s half black, half Latino Spider-Man.

“When we hear that somebody’s kid was watching the movie and turned to them and said, ‘He looks like me,’ or ‘They speak Spanish like us,’ we feel like we already won,” Lord said during his acceptance speech of the film which has already won a number of other top awards.

Spanish-born Celebrity chef José Andrés, a frequent critic of President Trump, who has helped provide disaster relief with free meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and also in Tijuana to help feed Central American migrants from one of the recent caravans, paid tribute to immigrants at the Oscars when he introduced the film, “Roma.”

“Gives a voice to the voiceless, reminds us of the understanding and compassion that we all owe to the invisible people in our lives, immigrants and women who move humanity forward,” Andrés said.=