This presentation explores the representational work and institutional reception Yalitza Aparicio, an Oscar nominated indigenous Mexican actress and activist. Through a hemispheric cross-media analysis of Aparicio in both English-language and Spanish-language media outlets, I argue that Aparicio disrupts the dominant trope of racial ambiguity circulating in transnational media representations of Latina womanhood. In doing so, her visibility ruptures hegemonic racial ideologies embedded in colonial regimes, particularly in Aparicio’s self-fashioning in digital media. The presentation will also explore how Aparicio is received by various media outlets in order to understand how racialized representations of indigeneity and Latinidad register within current racial formations in the Americas. The analysis reveals that in defying binaries of the traditional/modern Mexican indigenous gendered subject, Aparicio performs both legible and illegible representational labor. On the one hand, Aparicio’s Hollywood cache and her activism broaden the contours of how Latinidad is depicted globally. At the same time, her presence as an indigenous woman is deemed illegible or threatening depending on the media context.
Jillian Báez is Associate Professor of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College. She is also an Affiliated Faculty member at the CUNY Mexican Studies Institute and the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the CUNY Graduate Center. She earned her doctorate at the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her bachelor’s degree at Hunter College with a double major in Black & Puerto Rican Studies and Media Studies.
Trained as a media studies and cultural studies scholar, her research expertise lies in Latinx media and popular culture, transnational feminisms, and issues of belonging and citizenship. She is the author of In Search of Belonging: Latinas, Media, and Citizenship (University of Illinois Press, 2018). Dr. Báez’s research has also been in published in numerous peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Centro: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Chicana/Latina Studies, Critical Studies in Media Communication, and Communication, Culture & Critique) and anthologies. Her research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, Tinker Foundation, and Social Science Research Council among other institutions. Dr. Báez is currently Co-General Editor of WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly published by the Feminist Press at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Prior to her appointment at Hunter College, Dr. Báez was a faculty member at the University of Michigan, Williams College, and the College of Staten Island-CUNY.