'Together we fight': Ocasio-Cortez and Roma star Yalitza Aparicio team up for domestic workers' rights

André Wheeler
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the star of the Oscar-nominated movie Roma, Yalitza Aparicio, met in Washington DC on Wednesday to discuss domestic workers’ rights.

Both women have been fierce advocates for domestic workers.

In July 2019, Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would amend federal labor laws to include domestic workers. In announcing the bill, the US lawmaker from New York explained that her mother was a domestic worker during her childhood.

“My mom was a domestic worker – she cleaned houses to support our family,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Facebook and Twitter last summer. “As a little girl, I grew up reading books on other people’s staircases. I did homework on other people’s dinner tables. Today, as a Congresswoman, I’m proud to cosponsor the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights.”

Aparicio earned an Oscar nomination for her depiction of a domestic worker in the Mexican film Roma. Since the film’s release, she has used her platform to challenge the stigma around domestic work both in the US and Mexico.

The Alfonso Cuarón-directed film was praised for its delicate, nuanced portrayal of a live-in housekeeper, Cleo Gutiérrez, working in 1970s Mexico City. Aparicio was praised for her acting in the starring role and became the first indigenous women to receive an Oscar nomination for best actress. The Spanish-language film garnered 10 Oscar nominations, ultimately winning three (for foreign language film, director and cinematography).

Aparicio has since expanded the conversation on representation and diversity in Hollywood. She was the first indigenous woman to front the cover of Mexico Vogue. She serves as the Unesco goodwill ambassador for indigenous peoples. Recently, she expressed the desire to “to lend visibility [to indigenous communities] and to explain to more people the things that I have been concerned about”.

The National Domestic Worker Alliance reports there are over 2 million domestic workers in the United States, many of whom are women of color and immigrants. In 2018, Aparicio told the Guardian: “I don’t want my mom to be a domestic worker any more because it is so exhausting. My priority is to help my mom, and afterwards, we’ll see if I buy something for me.”

After the meeting, Aparicio posted a photo of her and Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez responded to Aparicio’s post, in Spanish: “It was an honor to meet you, @YalitzaAparicio. You are an inspiration for women and workers in the world. Thanks for the conversation – together we fight for the rights of domestic workers.”

Domestic workers, as a labor group, are increasingly shaping politics and collectively ramping up advocacy efforts.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, started in 2007, has pushed for the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in nine states and two cities. The group has won commitments from presidential candidates ahead of the 2020 election, with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg announcing support for a federal version of the bill.