Actress' comments reignite long debate on racism in Mexico
By Noe Torres
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - "How dark! No! How ugly!" exclaimed a Mexican social media star after accidentally using a filter that darkened her face during a live broadcast on Instagram and kicked off the country's longstanding debate about racism.
The comments of Barbara de Regil, a popular actress in films and soap operas, came when the Mexicans had their own talks about racism in the United States under the knee of a white policeman after the death of African American George Floyd.
In Mexico, the debate focused on discriminating against indigenous groups who have long suffered from poverty, isolation and lack of representation in politics and popular culture.
Since many Mexicans from the coronavirus pandemic are still confined to their homes, the discussion has largely taken place online.
Amid the backlash from de Regil's statements, some fans rushed to their defense, saying that they had made an innocent mistake. Others asked people to stop following her on social media.
"We will not tolerate any further racism. Neither in Mexico nor in the world," wrote a user on Twitter and said the actress was "CANCELED".
The video is no longer available on de Regil's Instagram page. Neither de Regil nor Instagram replied to a request for comment.
The success of Yalitza Aparicio, the indigenous Mexican star of the 2018 Oscar-winning film Roma, has helped bring conversations about race and ethnicity to the fore. It is in stark contrast to the pale women and men with European characteristics who dominate Mexican television and film, even though they represent only a fraction of the country's predominantly mestizoist and indigenous population.
The actress, belittled by a raw and racially charged telenovela actor when she was celebrated during last year's award ceremony season, has spoken in recent days about the importance of enhancing indigenous voices.
"Our voice is less audible due to the color of our skin," she said on Thursday in a virtual event organized by GQ magazine.
About a quarter of the Mexican population is indigenous, and according to official figures, at least 7 million people speak an indigenous language.
The isolation and poverty of the indigenous people became internationally known in the 1990s through the left-wing Zapatista uprising. However, little progress has been made.
A recent study by the global aid agency Oxfam found that Mexicans who identify as indigenous and have darker skin tones have greater disadvantages.
Many Mexicans also face discrimination based on their clothing, weight, height, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, experts say.
According to a 2017 survey by the National Statistics Institute and the National Council for Prevention of Discrimination (Conapred), 20% of respondents said they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months.
"As in the United States, there is a lot of discrimination and racism in Mexico. Nobody is free from discrimination here," said Susana Reyes, who took part in a small demonstration in Mexico City last week about Floyd's death.
(Reporting by Noe Torres; Additional reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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