Coco: Mexican Cultures & Real-Life Inspirations Explained

Coco: Mexican Cultures & Real-Life Inspirations Explained

A film can be a great media to introduce and appreciate any culture in the world. One example that best presents the statement before is Disney Pixar's "Coco" (2017), a relatable and endearing story about family and self-discovery. It is an example of a great portrayal of traditions and cultures, in this case, Mexican culture. Let's break down some of the many distinct cultural references in Coco. 

Coco portrays the topic of death which is valued by the Mexicans. Its plot revolves around an annual event in Mexico, the Day of the Dead (El Dia De Los Muertos). Miguel Rivera, the main character who lives with his family, celebrates this festivity by building altars (ofrendas) as a form of respect for their deceased family members. They decorate it with pictures of the deceased along with many offerings, such as candles, flowers, and their family members’ personal possessions.


The family in Coco. Source: Google. 

Coco somehow makes the viewers experience a musical journey through the screen and, of course, audio. It started when Miguel dreamt of becoming a great musician like his idol, Ernesto De La Cruz. Since that, music took a huge role in this movie; not only to set the mood, but also as a part of the plot itself. Further, Coco creates the sense of cultural relevance and authenticity throughout the film by showcasing the wide range of Mexican music genres. For instance, “Remember Me,” which is often considered as the most emotional song in Coco, is written as a lullaby back in the story. Although this song is originally composed by Kristen Anderson Lopez, the one behind “Let It Go” fame, “Remember Me” still can be inferred as the local lullaby.

Dante the dog. Source: Google.

Coco features other Mexican cultures in smaller details as well. For example, it displays Mexico’s magical folk creatures, Alebrijes. They are brightly-colored sculptures in many forms of a mixture of animals. When Miguel enters the land of the dead, the audience can see these Alebrijes coming back to life as the dead people’s personal spiritual protectors. Alebrijes can use any kind of form, such as a flying dog and a winged jaguar. It turns out, Miguel has his own protector, which is Dante, his dog from real life. Dante is a Xoloitzcuintli or Mexican hairless dog that indigenous people believe to be a spiritual protector. Furthermore, into the land of the dead, we can also find Mexican skeleton art as the representation of those who have died. Hence, Miguel needs to draw his body black and white to blend with the ‘skeletons’ there. There are also some famous Mexican figures depicted in this movie. Coco pays respect to the famous Mexican portrait artist Frida Kahlo by putting her appearance as a character in the film.  

Frida Kahlo in Coco. Source: Google.

With a great depiction of Mexican culture, Coco has become a box office hit in Mexico–yielding over $50 million at the Mexican box office and around $731 million worldwide. Coco is indeed a heart-warming and tear-jerking film by framing the Mexican cultures; a great form of appreciation, exposure, and a true representation for Mexican people themselves. Lastly, it highlights the value of a family and how crucial it is for us to chase our dreams despite the obstacles laid in our way. (*)

Writer: Ias Aprilia

Editor: Wahyuningtyas