The Paris-based organization said Friday that Aparicio, who was born in the poor Mexican state of Oaxaca, was chosen for her commitment to fight racism and advocate for gender equality and indigenous rights.
Aparicio said she felt "proud to be an indigenous woman" and hopes "to go hand in hand with UNESCO in the best way, to be able to support these indigenous communities." She said indigenous communities also can pass on their traditional wisdom.
"As my grandparents used to say: 'You have to take care of the land because you eat it'. So hopefully we learn this part," she said. She will help the UNESCO's work alongside indigenous peoples across the world, including preserving their cultural heritage and environment knowledge and fighting for equal access to education.
Aparicio also drew attention to problems faced by some indigenous people in legal cases. "There are several cases where there are indigenous people who are judged in a foreign language, without the right to have a translator and I think it's something that we should take action on", she said.
UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay said "she brings on something special, she is showing us that indigenous people are not yesterday's people but people of the past and future. And with her own path and her commitment, she shows us the amplitude of the possible."
Sylvie Corbet contributed to the story.