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Coco and the Day of the Dead

Lupita Leyva, Senior Librarian, Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library,
Pixar

One of the most popular family movies currently is Disney Pixar’s Coco. The movie is based on the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which has become extremely popular among the communities of Southern California. Día de los Muertos is a product of the cultural and religious syncretism that emerged after the colonization of Latin America.

The current version of this festivity takes important aspects of the indigenous cultures of the american continent, specifically the belief that death is not simply the end of life but actually a journey taken by those who have passed on to another world named Mictlán, commonly translated as “city of the dead.” It also takes certain aspects of Christianity brought by the European conquistadores, or more precisely the religious festivals of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and blends both traditions resulting in the celebrations we find today.

It is primarily because of its faithful representation of this tradition and the culture it’s a part of that the movie has become so popular. Media as diverse as the New York Times, NPR, and even Teen Vogue have made reference to the mostly accurate and positive representation of Mexican culture, something not always seen on the big screen. But this shouldn’t be a surprise, since the movie’s creators traveled to Mexico on several occasions with the purpose of studying the culture. In addition several experts were involved; members of the Mexican and Mexican American community shared their opinions regarding the movie with its creators throughout its production. The effort was definitely worth it, since among other publications Vanity Fair and Fortune have reported that Coco is the highest box office grossing movie in Mexico's history, a milestone reached before its general release in the United States.

It must be remembered that the principal message of the movie is the importance of family and of knowing and honoring the history of our forebears. At the end, the movie invites moviegoers to visit their local library to find out more regarding Día de los Muertos and Mexican culture. On behalf of the Los Angeles Public Library, we invite you to visit one of our branches or to browse one or more of our e-resources to enrich your knowledge or appreciation of the tradition on which this successful movie is based, as well as much more.

Here you will find a list of our recommendations.


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