For so long, the portrayal of a Latine family dynamic was missing from the big screen. That is until Coco came around in 2017.
One of the most touching moments of the movie was the role of Mamá Coco. Like many in our community would attest, she was the glue of the family – as abuelas usually are. In some way, many saw her as the embodiment of our own grandmothers, evoking a sense of warmth and familiarity. In some way, her fictional character became our collective grandmother.
Remembering the real Mamá Coco
But Mamá Coco was more than a character. She existed and her name was María Salud Ramírez.
Sadly, the Mexican grandmother who inspired Pixar’s character of Socorro Rivera — better known as “Mamá Coco” — in the Academy Award-winning film Coco passed away this Sunday at the age of 109.
According to media outlets from the Mexican Republic, the woman died in her native town of Santa Fe de la Laguna in the state of Michoacan after turning 109 years old on September 16 of this year.
The Minister of Tourism in Michoacan, Roberto Monroy, shared a tweet regarding the death of this iconic abuela who became well-known after Pixar’s film release in 2017.
“I deeply regret the death of Doña María Salud Ramírez Caballero, ‘Mamá Coco,’ a tireless woman and example of life, who was the inspiration for this beloved character who was known around the globe,” reads the minister’s post. “(I send) my prayers for her rest and for her family to find resignation.”
Lamento profundamente el fallecimiento de Doña María Salud Ramírez Caballero, “Mamá Coco”, mujer incansable y ejemplo de vida, quien fuera inspiración para este amado personaje que dio la vuelta al mundo. Mis oraciones para su descanso y para que su familia encuentre resignación
— ROBERTO MONROY G (@robertomonroy1) October 16, 2022
Although some controversy sparked in 2013 after Disney tried to trademark the Day of the Dead — Día de los Muertos, in the Spanish language — holiday, the Latine community protested against this initiative until the entertainment company withdrew its application.
Fast forward to 2017, director Lee Unkrich released what was Pixar’s first movie to revolve around a cultural celebration. A Hispanic and Latine cultural and traditional festivity, to be more specific.
Unkrich’s homework was more than creating a colorful, animated film. The director needed to fully understand the Mexican holiday as he was under the Latine people’s radar, especially because he’s not native to our culture.
To portray this tradition most suitably, the movie director collaborated with cultural consultants, making Coco the first Pixar movie that hired “outsiders” in an unreleased project, according to a report by Insider.
After Ramírez’s death, Unkrich tweeted a message on Monday that includes “María was clearly a beautiful woman and a loving matriarch.”
There is no doubt that Coco paved the way for Latine traditions to be portrayed in projects that reach broader audiences. A clear example is 2021 Pixar’s Encanto, a movie about a Colombian family that also obtained the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.