Yareli Arizmendi

Princess Grace Award:
Theater Scholarship, 1990

Additional Grants:
• 1995 Princess Grace Status
• 2013 Professional Development Grant

A fan of writer Anais Nin, Yareli ascribes to her dictum “The function of art is to renew our perceptions. The role of the artist is not to say or show what we can all speak or see, but that which we are unable to reveal.

Yareli plays ‘Virginia’ to Damian Alcazar’s ‘Ramon’ in the film Don’t Let Me Drown by Cruz Angeles which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival 2009 and competing in the ‘dramatic competition’ section. Yareli is co-directing the documentary based on the Juan Gonzalez’ book Harvest of Empire.  “We are here, because you were there, remember?” Is a phrase that sums up the attitude of this immigration documentary which uses the genre of political cartoon and satire to link the history of US empire-building in Latin America, to today’s immigration reality. She is working on her book – I am American with an X: A Declaration of Identity for the 21st Century (working title).  This is a description of how growing up bi-lingual, bi-national and bi-cultural turned out to be a ‘good thing’.  How it prepared her to wage battle in a world spilling over its human-made borders. How inventing a word to name oneself is the code to the gates of empowerment. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, Yareli participated in the Obama campaign with an internet spot called The Devil We Know.  This was part of a fantastic effort of Latina women actors entitled Si Se Puede.  Rush to YouTube and enjoy it! She played the recurring role of Meena Kalid on the TV series State of Mind for Lifetime with Lily Taylor.  Yareli enjoyed playing ‘Macuca Reina’ – the A&R of a record company – in Sergio Arau’s Plan B — a mockumentary more or less based on the real facts – about the 1980’s legendary rock band Botellita de Jerez. Yes, it was Yareli as the Guatemalan Curandera on Heroes. Yareli played ‘Aida Aziz’, Fatima’s Palestinian mother, in the film David & Fatima, a Romeo & Juliet placed in Jerusalem. Yareli collaborated on Fast Food Nation directed by Rick Linklater based on Eric Schlosser’s book by the same name.  She worked on the film as an actress, dialect coach and script consultant/translator. Yareli has participated in Voter Registration campaigns and has lent her talents to PSA spots on TV and radio hoping t promote Latino participation in the electoral process.   Among the scripts in development Yareli is working on, are: The Mayor of Arvin, a contemporary political western featuring “a Mexican who speaks American” and Lizzie, an urban comedy based on a Greek classic. In 2004, Yareli co-wrote the screenplay A Day Without a Mexican with her director/musician husband Sergio Arau and played the lead role of Lila Rodriguez. Audience acceptance exceeded expectations in domestic box office and in the word-of-mouth that followed. ADWAM went on to become 2004’s number one box office hit in Mexico and a DVD rental-dream, bringing in 12.9 million dollars in its first month and half of US release.

As an actor, Yareli reminds one of the quotation, “If all the women in Hollywood are peaches, Yareli is the apple you yearn for every once in a while! Known for her role as “Rosaura” in Alfonso Arau’s Like Water for Chocolate, Yareli has consistently worked on American films and TV. Yareli’s most recent guest stars include HouseMediumSix Feet UnderThreat MatrixLAXCentury CityThe Agency and 24. She has starred in various American productions such as A Day Without a MexicanFast Food Nation, The Big GreenBloody ProofGunfighter’s Moon, and Up Close and Personal plus other independent film projects. Her one-woman show – Nostalgia Maldita: 1-900-MEXICO, was featured on PBS’ Heritage series.

Yareli narrated both the English and Spanish versions of the book Like Water for Chocolate. Other titles include The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho and another Laura Esquivel novel The Law of Love. In collaboration with National Public Radio and The Worlds of Music Institute she has completed a 13-part program, “The Universal Language Spoken in Local Dialects” featuring music from around the globe. Yareli has lent her voice to many products such as IKEARossClairol, among others. She’s most proud of her work with public awareness campaigns against Child Abuse, AIDS, and Lead Poisoning.  Yareli translated the screenplay version of Like Water For Chocolate so Alfonso Arau, director and producer, could travel the world finding money to make the film. In 1991 she auditioned for the role of Rosaura and got it! During the shoot of Like Water for Chocolate in Northern Mexico, Yareli was working on her Master’s thesis “Whatever Happened to the Sleepy Mexican: Four Ways to Be a Contemporary Mexican Artist.” She graduated in 1992 and became a professor at Cal State San Marcos. She was a founding member of the Theater Arts component of the Inter-Disciplinary Arts Program. Her one-woman show — Nostalgia Maldita: 1-900-MEXICO, which PBS featured on their “Heritage Series” is an ironic look at living a bi-national, bi-cultural reality. Yareli’s character spends the duration of the show on a Stairmaster machine as a “punishment from the gods” for defying her destiny and crossing the Mexican border in search of Donny Osmond. Committed to social change she worked with Luis Valdez and Teatro Campesino, toured with Teatro de la Esperanza to Nicaragua and participated with the Border Art Workshop in countless performance events and exhibits. She developed the Watcha! Stage Café, a social satire cabaret, at the Centro Cultural De La Raza in San Diego. In 1998, Yareli and her director/musician husband, Sergio Arau, wrote and produced A Day Without a Mexican – a mockumentary.  The 28 minute short tells of the day all Latinos disappear from the State of California!  Commissioned by the Mexican Fine Arts Museum of Chicago, the short was very well received in the domestic and international festival circuit — Argentina (Audience Award), Puerto Rico (Best Short at the San Juan Cinefest), New York, Chicago, Taos, Los Angeles, and Mexico. Yareli received the Princess Grace Achievement Award.  Earlier in her career, she was the recipient of the Princess Grace Scholarship towards completion of her MFA in Theatre at UCSD. While in college, she worked at The Old Globe Theatre with their bilingual theatre project: Teatro Meta.  During her tenure she translated and staged Latin American plays, as well as develop the bilingual In-Schools Program. Other theatres she worked with during that time include La Jolla Playhouse, the San Diego Rep, and Sushi Gallery. Born in Mexico City, Yareli has resided in California since 1983.  She received her BA in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego and her MFA in Theater Arts from the same institution.