“Roma” film sheds light on Mexico’s poor working conditions

Latin America

The Oscar-nominated movie ‘Roma’ tells the story of a young woman from an indigenous background working as a maid for an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City in the 1970s.

CGTN’s Giles Gibson filed this report on how activists are still working to protect domestic workers from abuse and poor working conditions in 2019.

Martha Pozos Muñoz started working when she was just nine-years-old. Her parents were poor and needed her salary to help feed her eight brothers and sisters. However, leaving home at such a young age left Martha dangerously exposed.

“When I was 10-years-old, a man who I worked for started to put his hands on me, and I shouted to his wife for help,” Muñoz said. “She came and helped me. But then she called my mother and said that she didn’t want her husband getting into trouble, because I was provoking him.”

In the film ‘Roma,’ Cleo, the main character, represents countless domestic workers who toil away for a meager paycheck and lack basic rights, like healthcare and a safe working environment.

Visitors can find the house that appears in the film down a quiet side street in the real Roma neighborhood. Activists have said the problems depicted in the film are also still found in modern-day Mexico.

Marcelina Bautista spent 14 years working for Mexican families, cooking, cleaning, and helping to raise children. She now leads an organization that’s fighting for domestic workers’ rights, and insists very little has changed since the era depicted in the movie ‘Roma.’

“It’s set in the 1970s, but in 2018 or 2019, domestic workers are still suffering from the same injustices,” Bautista said. “We’re there, but the people who we serve don’t see us. They demand things from us but they don’t see our problems.”

In a landmark ruling last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court declared domestic workers would have rights to access social security benefits in the country. However, after more than 50 years of sweeping and scrubbing, Muñoz maintains much more needs to be done to protect them.

“Many of the employers are very bad, they abuse people. They think that because we have to work, they have the right to abuse us. It’s not okay, it’s not right,” Muñoz said.

After all she’s been through, Muñoz still uses an old Mexican phrase: “In life, we suffer, but we learn.” While she believes it’s probably too late for her, she hopes workers today won’t have to suffer as she did.