Diego Rivera’s mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central lives in the center of Mexico City, adjacent to the actual Alameda. You walk through the Alameda, and the mural comes to life.
This mural tells the history of Mexico, and pictured in the center of the mural is La Calavera Catrina, an icon for the Day of the Dead. Her placement in the middle of the mural is symbolic since at the core of Mexico’s identity lies Mexico’s reverence for death and the dead.
I had the privilege of visiting the mural this summer, and one of the scholars at the museum that hosts the mural described La Catrina’s pointed expression: She smiles and encourages you to live your life and enjoy it because at the end of the day, no one escapes her visit. It’s a liberating directive if you allow it to be. As a result, Mexicans playfully dance with the dead.
My mother, a Mexico native (Cd. Juárez Represent!), often recounted childhood stories of attending funerals as a way of life and looking forward to them. She and her siblings would catch rides on the back of pick-up trucks and catch loose change that was thrown during the funeral. As an adult, I visited my late cousin’s grave with my mother and her sisters, and I was struck by the playfulness with which they treated his final resting place. They all joked about my cousin’s new neighbors and how he should’ve just said he wanted to hang out with old people. I’d dismissed it at the time as a coping mechanism, but I recognize it now as straight up Mexican.
When I was living away from a Mexican-dominant city, my skull doodles provoked people’s genuine concern for my mental health.
The beauty of Disney Pixar’s Coco is that my mother’s penchant for funerals, her treatment of grave sites, and my drawing of skulls is no longer considered as other, weird, different, cause for concern. The nation that normalizes normal now respects and admires the reverence that Mexico has for death and the dead. Stripped down, it’s the tale of a little boy who just wants to play music, and Disney Pixar’s Coco humanized not just the Day of the Dead but large families, formidable matriarchs, super old grandmas not in nursing homes, border crossing, accents, mariachis, and even Frida Kahlo. Coco made me feel at home, and I’ve never been more proud to be Mexican. May this (finally) be the start of the film industry embracing our stories for the long haul.
All the times I cried:
- The Disney castle intro with the mariachi music. The movie hadn’t even started, and I was already bawling.
- The opening image with marigold flowers. I was DONE. And the dialogue hadn’t even started!
3. The opening monologue told through the paper cut outs. I literally thought to myself, “This is why representation matters.”
4. Okay, I’m obviously a big sap, so I won’t walk you through EVERY single time I cried because then I’d just be recounting the film in its entirety and ruin it for you. BUT at the end of the credits (spoiler alert!), when you think all your crying is done, they show pictures of all the dead loved ones on the movie crew and WATER WORKS. ALL. OVER. AGAIN.
5. OKAY, BYE. GO WATCH IT!
P. S. Un Poco Loco is the best track in the movie, and I will fight you if you think otherwise. kthanksbye.