‘Life goes on’: Mexico City house featured in Roma up for sale – The Guardian

Save for the small metal plaque affixed to its facade, 22 Tepeji Street, looks like almost any of the older houses in the unfashionable part of Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood: painted stucco, a wrought-iron grille over the front windows and its flowerpots, thin metal slats arrayed geometrically over the frosted glass of the garage door.

But the plaque commemorates the most celebrated Mexican film in decades: Roma, a tapestry of memories woven by director Alfonso Cuarón that enfolds the viewer in the dense images and sounds of the Mexico City of his childhood.

In the 2018 film, 22 Tepeji stood in for Cuarón’s boyhood home, and its facade and patio featured in some of the most memorable scenes.

And now it is up for sale.

“Life goes on,” said Adriana Monreal, the third of four generations of the family that has lived in the two-storey house for more than half a century.

Cuarón spent the first years of his life in the house across the street, 21 Tepeji, but preferred the light in the house opposite to shoot his film and the Monreal family agreed. The production designer, Eugenio Caballero, changed the window grilles and retiled the patio, which serves as the set piece for the film’s first scene introducing the film’s protagonist, Cleo, the family’s maid, as she washes dog mess from the floor with soapy water.

A still from Roma.
A still from Roma. Photograph: Carlos Somonte/Netflix

Cuarón and Caballero reproduced the house’s interior on a set, painstakingly recreating the details of Cuarón’s memories. In a Netflix documentary about the making of the film, Cuáron describes how he tried to find as much of the original furniture as he could, contacting relatives across Mexico to ask them to borrow pieces.

The Monreal family welcomed tourists when Roma was nominated for 10 Oscars (it won three, including one for Cuarón as best director) and film buffs tracked the movie’s locations through Roma and the rest of the city.

Monreal’s grandparents moved into the house when her mother, Gloria Silvia Monreal, was a child and raised her along with five brothers and sisters there.

Soon after Adriana Monreal was born, her mother moved back home with her parents and raised her only daughter in the house. She recalls a houseful of people as her aunts and uncles returned for visits. Now she lives there with her mother, her husband and two young children.

A woman walks her dog past the childhood home of director Alfonso Cuarón, who lived here in the 1970s, on Tepeji Street in the Roma Sur neighborhood of Mexico City on 20 December 2018.
A woman walks her dog past the childhood home of director Alfonso Cuarón, who lived here in the 1970s, on Tepeji Street in the Roma Sur neighborhood of Mexico City. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

“It hurts,” said Monreal of the decision to sell the house, preferring to keep the reasons for the sale private. “It has given us great satisfaction, we love it. You can’t measure everything that we have lived through here, everything this house has given us: shelter, closeness, a united family.

“We love it and we will love it always.”

Citing rumors that have begun to fly over social media, Monreal would not share the asking price for the house. A listing for a four-bedroom house on the same street, which is only two blocks long and not much changed since the 1970s, cited an asking price of about US$760,000.

The Monreal family reflects the Roma that Cuarón portrays in his film, of middle-class families who live in the comfort that Mexico’s stratified society offered even though they were not wealthy.

A few blocks north, early 20th-century mansions and elegant squares have turned Rome Norte into a global hipster retreat filled with edgy boutiques and gourmet restaurants.

But in the section called Roma Sur, a few blocks from a community garden and the historic primary school where Monreal’s mother studied, the traditional neighborhood endures. It is a place where local shopkeepers still hang on against the odds, houses accommodate multi-generational families and evening walkers acknowledge each other with a nod.

When the Monreal family leaves, another hairline crack in that Roma will open.

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‘Life goes on’: Mexico City house featured in Roma up for sale – The Guardian

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