MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Cheers echoed through Mexico City’s Roma district when the eponymous film by Alfonso Cuaron won three Oscars on Sunday, but revelers let out a disappointed sigh when best actress didn’t go to the indigenous star of the ode to 1970s life in the capital.
In a payback for Cuaron’s black-and-white tribute to growing up among 1970s Roma’s handsome villas and apartment blocks, city officials set up giant screens in a park to watch the live broadcast from Los Angeles.
Whoops went up among hundreds gathered when Cuaron won best director and best cinematographer. “Roma” also won best foreign language Oscar – a first for Mexico.
Many prayed best actress would go to Yalitza Aparicio, who was the first indigenous woman to be nominated for the honor and had won hearts in Mexico on and off screen. Faces showed dejection when the award went to Britain’s Olivia Colman.
“It’s a shame Yalitza didn’t win, for what she represents as an indigenous woman, for the role she has in the film, but we are all super happy, and I think I speak for all Mexicans, that Cuaron won the Oscar,” said Damian Ordóñez, 26, a biology student.
Best director has been given to Mexican filmakers in five of the past six years. Mexican actor Damian Alcazar said “Roma”‘s success was in part a Hollywood rebuke of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Mexico, which he has cast as a hotbed of crime, illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
When “Roma” did not pick up best film, the park in what one attendee described as a magical neighborhood quickly emptied.
Cuaron’s depiction of growing up in a rambling, upper-middle-class Art Deco villa nearby under the warm, unassuming gaze of the family’s live-in domestic worker, Cleo, played by Aparicio, raised difficult questions about the divides in Mexican society.
It also captured scenes of Roma as a well-heeled district in a city bursting with modernity, with shiny new cars and sparkling hospitals, set against a backdrop of turbulent politics that included a brutal crackdown on a student protest.
A block away from the park, down Avenida Alvaro Obregon, a central artery of Roma that today is crowded with cafes and bookshops, people wove through a nostalgic photo exhibit depicting scenes from the same streets and era as the movie.
As if they were outtakes from Cuaron’s set, the photos from a 1970s magazine caught scenes of a woman in curlers climbing into a large American car, balloon sellers, and a lone skyscraper among a sea of block edifices.
Both “Roma” the movie and the neighborhood carried echoes of the city’s past and evolution, said Carlos Solar, a shopkeeper, standing beside a placard in the photo exhibit about Aparicio.
“The colonia Roma is emblematic in the context of Mexico City. It’s an old quarter, more than a century old,” said Solar. “It’s significant, it’s symbolic. It carries for us very painful memories, like the earthquakes, especially 1985.”
Built on a spongy part of former lake bed, Roma was particularly hard hit by major earthquakes in 1985 and 2017 and still bears some scars. Many of its wealthier residents moved out in the 1980s, and it became poorer and more bohemian.
Solar’s eyes welled with tears of pride as he spoke of Cuaron as “Alfonso,” who he said was a university classmate.
Patricia Ramirez, 33, a sociologist, said she came to witness the reception of the movie in Roma itself, which has gentrified again in recent years.
“Many people have a false perception of the district” as an exclusive enclave, said Ramirez, who grew up on the “other side of the tracks,” surrounded by trash and blue-collar laborers.
Roma, she said, laughing, had in effect democratized in parallel to the country.
Reporting by Delphine Schrank; additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Dave Graham; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis