Like Water for Chocolate’s Award-Winning Actress Yareli Arizmendi and Filmmaker Sergio Arau Discuss Love and Mexico

While on a trip to Spain nearly 10 years ago, my now husband and I stopped in a little internet café in the small, picturesque town of Salou on the Costa Dorada, located about 70 miles south of Barcelona. Just hours earlier, Rick had asked me to marry him on the sidewalk overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. (Yes!) But as a comedian, he tells that part completely different. While checking his email, he received a message from his dear friend actress Yareli Arizmendi, who said she and her husband Sergio were in Barcelona.  What were the odds? Needless to say, that night we took the train up to Barcelona and met them for dinner to celebrate our engagement and the beginning of our future together. It was a great day with good friends.

Here’s a little background:

Award winning film and television actress Yareli Arizmendi is regarded as one of the most talented and respected actresses of the modern era. Arizmendi is best known for her stand out performances in Like Water for Chocolate (one of my all time favorite movies), A Day Without a Mexican and Emmy-winning television shows such as Six Feet Under, Heroes, House, The Agency, 24, Medium, NYPD Blue and Chicago Hope.

yareli arizmendi

Actress/Writer Yareli Arizendi

Celebrated filmmaker, artist, and musician, Sergio Arau was born in Mexico City. He is the writer/producer/director of the independent feature film “A Day Without a Mexican” for which he and Yareli have been the subject of national media attention for their roles in the controversial film. Sergio and Yareli have been written about in major print media such as the Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press and have been the subjects of stories airing on such major TV media as CNN and CBS News.

In this video, Yareli tells The MEXICO Report what she loves most about Mexico:

Following is an interview with Yareli and Sergio, who share background about their upbringing in Mexico and how, living in Los Angeles they incorporate both cultures.

Chamarra Luchador Rojo

Sergio Arau, Chamarra Luchador Rojo

Where were you born / raised?

YARELI: I was born in Mexico City and raised there ’til I was 14 when I was sent to Atchison, Kansas to Boarding School where a very different and wonderful growing up began.

SERGIO:  I was born in DF – Mexico City where I was raised for 41 years until love made me cross the border.

Where did you two meet?

YARELI: Sergio and I were ‘pushed’ together by Laura Esquivel – writer of Like Water for Chocolate.  I call her our fairy godmother of love!  I met Sergio’s dad, Alfonso, during the casting for the film and then Laura took me to one of Sergio’s rock concerts — I didn’t even know there was real, original rock ‘n’ roll in Mexico.  The funny thing was that Sergio actually knew my mother, had worked with her as an illustrator for the public education textbooks where she was part of the creative, writing team.

SERGIO:  Ditto.

What were you doing in your career when you met?

YARELI: I was in the second year of my MFA at UC San Diego.  Very involved with creating socially charged theatre in the San Diego-Tijuana area, as well as involved with the Old Globe Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse.

SERGIO: I had split from my original rock group, Botellita de Jerez and starting a new group Sergio Arau y Los Mismisimos Angeles.  I went back to painting and was preparing a large format exhibit.

Why did you come to Los Angeles?

YARELI: I was a professor at Cal State San Marcos and that had been exciting, because I was involved in the actual creation of the theatre department as an interdisciplinary program.  When Like Water for Chocolate came out in the U.S., I did feel that it was a now or never moment to pursue my acting and performer career. So, despite all my promises, we moved to LA.

SERGIO: The power of love made me cross the border to San Diego from Mexico City.  That was a big deal, because honestly I had never thought of leaving Mexico, never.  During those first two years in San Diego I was recording my new CD “Mi Frida Sufrida” with my group La Venganza de Moctezuma/ Moctezuma’s Revenge and spent a lot of time on  \the San Diego-DF-San Diego flights.  When the CD came out and I was due to promote it. Flying up my musicians from DF every time was getting costly, so I went looking for musicians on this side: in LA.  So my need to be in LA, as well as Yareli’s need to formalize her relationship to the ‘industry’.

Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi

Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi

How or why did you get into the entertainment industry?

YARELI:I started ballet at the age of 4.  I sang in the car, in the shower, on the way to school and back.  But I wasn’t just singing, I would act out the songs – sort of a modern dance interpretation of the emotions and if there were characters being defined or spoken to watch out, I would become each and every one of them.  I had quite a show going on!  To me it wasn’t about entertaining someone, it was always about making people see something they weren’t really understanding or seeing.  I think that holds true to this day for me.

Are you connected to any organizations (if so, why and what do they do and who do they help?)

YARELI: We support the William C. Velasquez institute and the Southwest Voter Education and Registration Project – long names for what basically is a Latino think tank making sure Latinos consider everything that goes on in the nation and world, and how they are a part of it.  We like the idea that it is a serious analytical tool to shape the future of the community it represents.  As for Southwest Voter I find one of the most American organizations – working hard to simply make people aware of their voting rights and responsibilities, doing the administrative work of actually registering them, and expecting them to exercise their voice any which way they truly feel.  Both of these organizations are about people shaping their future; I find that highly optimistic!  Of course I belong to many of the professional organizations in my profession and after A Day Without a Mexican we became highly involved with immigrant rights organizations as well.

Both with equally inspiring talents and contributions, Yareli and Sergio are positive role models both in the U.S. and Mexico and hold their Mexican culture close in their hearts, something I admire greatly about them.

For more information on Yareli Arizmendi, visit http://www.yareli.com.

For more information on Sergio Arau, visit http://www.sergioarau.com.

Mexico Today (Marca País – Imagen de México), is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and tourist destination. This program is designed to shine a light on the Mexico that its people experience every day. Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating content as an Ambassador for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Visit Mexico Today on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at info@themexicoreport.com

1 comment for “Like Water for Chocolate’s Award-Winning Actress Yareli Arizmendi and Filmmaker Sergio Arau Discuss Love and Mexico

  1. Charlotte Ortega
    2012-01-06 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Sue,
    Just wanted to reconnect…I attended your talk last year on blogging at the PVWG conference and have started a blog of my own All about Mexico. I would like to cultivate some income through advertisers and wondered how I go about earing a liveing from the blog?
    Happy New Year to you both I am still laughing about Rick’s stories…..especially regarding the Brits of which i am one,
    Jane Alabaster

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