Coco celebrates Mexico’s cultural side

Anna Masciandaro, Web Editor

Recently, Mexico’s reputation has taken a lot of hits. In television shows, Mexico is often portrayed as filled with drugs, violence and criminals; and it didn’t help that during the 2016 election, President Donald Trump called Mexicans “rapists” and ordered for a wall to be built along the Mexico-U.S. border. While Mexico is in the middle of a drug war, all the negative press the country has been receiving shouldn’t define it, and Pixar’s new movie Coco shows that there’s more to this country than the news media depicts.

Even though the movie focuses on a young boy named Miguel (played by Anthony Gonzalez) and the conflict between him and his family, the whole movie is really about the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. On this day, Mexicans celebrate those who have passed by decorating ofrendas, or altars filled with photos of family, candles and flowers, and by placing offerings at graves.

Coco is a much-needed contrast from the Mexico that is commonly shown in movies and TV shows. It illustrates another side of Mexico—the Mexico filled with life, colorful characters, unbreakable family bonds, music and art.
Because the movie is centered around Dia de los Muertos, it makes sense that one of its central themes is family. Coco is filled with valuable lessons for children. The most important of these lessons is that no matter what, your family has your back—even if they don’t like what you’re doing.

Music plays an integral role within the Hispanic community. Through its amazing soundtrack and musical numbers, Coco reminds us that Latin American countries have produced amazingly talented musical artists like Camila Cabello, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin.

Though American viewers may know that Mexico was the birthplace of world-renowned artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, they may be less aware of the country’s rich tradition of folk art. Coco features several different kinds of alebrijes, brightly-colored sculptures of whimsical creatures that are often sold to tourists as tchotchkes, but are actually deeply rooted in Mexican culture. In the movie, they’re utilized as spirit guides for humans. In addition, throughout the entirety of the opening scene, computer-generated papel picados, or pieces of colorful paper cut into intricate designs that are hung up in celebration of various holidays, can be seen flapping in the light breeze.

Another key aspect of the movie is the integration of Spanish phrases and the occasional strictly-Spanish lines void of subtitles. This addition to the film acknowledges the Hispanic community within the U.S. and provides a learning opportunity for all kids.

Coco joins the slow-growing list of American animated movies that celebrate a non-American culture. Examples include Disney’s Moana (2016), a film centered around Pacific Island culture, and 20th Century Fox’s The Book of Life (2014). Like Coco, this movie features Mexican culture and Dia de los Muertos.

Movies like Coco depict the underappreciated and overlooked sides of cultures and also spotlight ethnicities that are otherwise underrepresented in Hollywood.

Today’s society needs more movies like Coco not only because they’re lighthearted and fun (something the world sorely needs), but also because they’re filled with hope and diversity.