Coco: A Look into Mexican Culture in the Midst of Political Turmoil

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Like the release of almost every Pixar film, children and parents alike waited anxiously for the debut of the alluring film Coco on November 22 after an eye-catching trailer full of fantastic animation.

Following the life of a young boy, Miguel, the audience travels through a traditional Latino family who, due to his great-great-grandfather betraying his family to pursue his musical passion, banned music forever, leaving them “the only family in Mexico that hates music,” as Miguel puts it. However, Miguel’s love for music and fondness of Ernesto De La Cruz, the most beloved singer in Mexico, forces him to practice in secret and he plans to show his family his talent, and love, for music at the Day of the Dead Talent Show. However, in a turn of events, Miguel is sent into the afterlife where he can finally interact with the family members and friends who travel over to the human world on this special day, Días de Los Muertos, to enjoy their favorite foods and watch their family. With the help of a friendly but clever Hector, Miguel explores the afterlife searching for De La Cruz in order to return to the human world.

Coco, like most modern animated films, is one for all ages. The bright colors, detailed animation, and laughable comedy attract even the underwhelmed parents into the theater. Miguel’s home life with his extended family is typical of a Mexican household, and the constant food they offer is comforting. He plays in the city square, where music, dancing and singing constantly take place, bringing a soft-smile to every face in the audience. Possibly most important, Miguel’s interactions with skeletons in the afterlife who are nearing ‘the final death’ as they are forgotten in the human world stresses the importance of Dia De Los Muertos and family, a huge aspect of Mexican culture. As Miguel and Hector venture through the colorful afterlife full of marigold trees, the borderline musical strikes a deeper chord in each parent’s heart as their child sits singing along to the music. Memories of all of the loved ones that have passed and the thought of them being forgotten bring even the strongest to tears and inspire an interest in learning more about our southern neighbors than what is heard in the media.

Although presenting the traditional appeal to family, pursuing one’s dreams, and bravery, as each Pixar film is famous for, Coco represents a stronger role than merely teaching children a lesson with lovable characters and sly comedy. The new film displays important aspects of Mexican culture, from the opening papel picado to the detailed animation, giving the viewer an inside look amid continuous immigration debate in the United States. Aside from the unavoidable multi-year process of an animated film, Lee UnKrich, the producer, wanted Coco to truly reflect the Latino community in the best possible light amid horrible stereotypes Trump has given them in an attempt to raise support for his wall between the United States and Mexico. Originally pitched in 2010, Coco writers ignored the typical hush-hush attitude of Pixar films and took extra care in bringing in outside consultants to view clips of the film and edit cultural references throughout the movie. In Mexico, the movie had its debut on October 27, giving Latinos an early look as writers held their breath waiting for approval. Their attention to detail paid off: In just 20 days, Coco became the highest grossing animated film of all time in Mexico and is considered “a love letter to Mexico.” With a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes in America, the film promises to be one of the most popular animated movies of the year and with a little hope, could be the mere beginnings of a greater understanding and union between our two nations.