On the story of her name… Yunuen is P’urhépecha. My family, we are part P’urhépecha—they are direct blood. The P’urhépechas are the culture that settled in Michoacan and parts of Guanajuato and surrounding areas. So my parents were in Pátzcuaro, and in Pátzcuaro there are these little islands: one is called Janitzio and the other one is called Yunuen. Yunuen means either “blue lagoon” or “half moon.” And they decided to call me Yunuen because my mom sings and she loves the song of that island, so that’s how she decided to name me. After me, all my cousins are named with native names, every single one, so we’re, like, 10 crazy family members with names like that. But I think it’s [a beautiful tradition] and if I ever have a daughter, I would name her something like that.
On home… I am from Mexico, from Michoacan. My entire family is from Michoacan and I really grew up all over the place, but I consider myself Michoacana. But I reside in Chicago now, though all of my family is in Mexico. In Chicago, I live in Humboldt Park/Logan Square—you know, that dodgy area that you don’t know where you are. But I go back to Mexico often; I really get homesick very easily. I spend three months here and then I try to go back. It helps that I’m also working in Mexico City and Guadalajara, so I go back as often as I can.
On Tingüindín… Tingüindín is the town my parents are from. Really, I was not there a lot as in living there because I was brought up in Mexico City, Cuernavaca and Guadalajara. But we would always go back to Tingüindín, every single holiday, so the town is just in my heart forever and it will always be. It’s a great little town with great people and great bread, and avocados.
On language… my dream is to learn to speak P’urhépecha, so this year for my birthday I asked my father to give me a book of P’urhépecha language so I could start learning. It’s beautiful. They have these songs called “pirecuas” and they’re just amazing. So that’s my intention; maybe one day I will succeed at it. But for now, the theater is taking over my life.
On life outside the theater… I dance Brazilian samba professionally. And I love cultures and countries and people from other places that are interesting, so I really like to learn from them. Brazilian samba has been like a door to another world. I love it. I’ve been dancing since I was six years old. All sorts of dances, actually—Hawaiian, Tahitian, belly dancing, jazz, modern, ballet… You name it and I’ve done it at least for a couple months. I’m also a nature lover. Before I became an actor, I was going to be a marine biologist or ethnologist. I love marine mammals and I wanted to focus on them. The ocean is truly my other passion; I love being there, feel alive there. If I ever had to stop acting, I would go back and finish studying marine biology. I’m an “Ecoloca.” Finally, I like creativity. I’m very crafty. So I do jewelry. I like bags. I can’t stop doing something, I’m crazy-creative.
On the violence in Mexico… It’s hard. It’s hard because I’m from Michoacan, Guadalajara and Cuernavaca, three places where so many things have happened. And I just fear for my family at some points and my family has gotten hurt in a very direct way. It’s a constant presence of danger. Nothing has happened to me or to my family directly, as in my mom or my dad. But there’s always that thought in your mind. That’s stressful. But it is Mexico, you know. It is my country, it is my town and I would not change my country for anything and I would not stop going for anything, either. My parents live there, how could I just stay here, you know what I mean. So we’ll keep going.
On El Nogalar… This play is important to have because it’s happening all around us. Someone asked if I was afraid of sharing these stories with people and I said, “No, people have to know these things and they have to know them the right way, because they just look at us as if we are all drug dealers, but we are human beings who need to be understood.”
On future projects… What are you doing in Mexico? The project you’re talking about is Las Alas Rotas Del Cuervo; it’s a movie by Victor Osuna, with great actors and actresses. It’s going to be shot in Jalisco in a small town. I’m going to be producing it; it’s a great opportunity. It actually started as a short film. We spent a long time working on it, and then all of the sudden we started getting so much attention and so much support from different people so it started growing. I thought, maybe we should just make it a feature. It’s a magical realism kind of story. It’s my favorite genre. So the film is about this crow that is like a magical crow and it’s related to karma. You follow these two characters, a little boy who learns to give out good energy, and the narco, who just gives out the bad energy. It’ll be out in the fall, hopefully.