By Polo Munoz, Managing Editor/Publisher,
I felt uncomfortable with “ROMA” from the first sounds, I recognized the work my auntie Juana and some of my cousins did for my more affluent family in the same town. A very small town in the state of Durango. The wealthy ones always played the situation off as a way to help family out and those poorest in our family, they lived in “jacales” with dirt floors and were always just trying to make enough for the day to feed family or to just have something.
Mexico has not changed much, wealthy families still do that to the rest of Mexico in probably the same way the wealthy treat the poor and indigenous in all of South America. I would venture to say it is directly a legacy of the Spanish conquest and destructive cultural essence they left and still use to gain influence and wealth in Latino America. Since the Catholic Church did not “allow” slavery, many of the Spaniards that came to Mexico from Extremadura, one of the poorest regions of Spain, they would rape the indigenous women and the children would be considered property, not family. The word “Don” which comes from the Latin word “Dominus”; owner or proprietor, was used to address the fathers of the children, father was not generally used and we still use it as a way to address those that we respect or should show respect to. The film does show this boundary very clearly, there is a familial specter that confuses the intentional deception of who is in charge and who is vulnerable.
That is the most plausible explanation of why the poor in Mexico continue to suffer and also attack the indigenous population daily. Their extreme prejudice has deep roots and is driven by a structure that is protected by the cultural and spiritual legacy of the church.
In this story, Cuaron celebrates two different cultures and one that is considered less than, but its not from the perspective of anyone other than that of Cuaron, and that is its beauty. Spoiler Alert: one of the most poignant moments of this film, which could be the underlying message is when the mother. Sra. Sofia arrives home drunk, the maid, Cleo, says “Estamos solas,” and her response is,”no matter what you are told, we (women) are always alone.” This may be the lesson of this film, if there is one.
The film allows for us to watch a perspective that is real and authentic, and personal. It allows us to consider the lives of others, the lives of those that seem to have what we share, but not one that we understand. It is beautifully photographed and the story is well told and at the end, “Roma” feels like an American film about a Mexican family produced in Mexico by an American filmmaker. Cuaron, as always, transcends culture and tradition, as expected and as hoped.