Coco And The Importance Of Mexican Representation

I’ve spent most of my life living in sunny Southern California. Those who live here know that there is definitely no shortage of Mexican culture around these parts. My entire family and a good portion of my friends are all of Mexican descent. I’m very proud of my heritage and that’s why I believe it is very important that any person out there with Mexican roots go see Disney Pixar’s new movie, Coco.

Growing up as a young Chicano boy I was always surrounded by the many aspects of Mexican culture. From the delicious food to the intoxicating rhythm of the music and yes, even the dreaded chancla.

In my younger years however, I will admit that although living in an environment that was rich in Mexican traditions and values, I was for some odd reason, a bit embarrassed of my Mexican background.

As a child I would only speak Spanish to my parents or when it was absolutely necessary. I disliked speaking Spanish and much rather preferred using English. It wasn’t until my later high school and college years that I felt an inner awakening of ancestral pride within me.

What triggered this newfound reengagement of my culture could have been anything from the hateful rhetoric against Mexicans spewed off by political figures, to the copious amount of people celebrating Cinco De Mayo by wearing sombreros and fake mustaches. Things that made me feel like more of a minority and yet at the same time, made me feel closer to my people. Whatever the reason, I had finally embraced my Mexican background and was discovering who I am.

The point I’m trying to make is that it is so important that any person with Mexican ancestry, especially young Mexican children go see Coco.

Coco is the newest film brought to us by Disney Pixar Studios. It tells the story of a young boy who dreams of being a musician in a family where music is banned. It follows him on his journey through the land of the dead as he attempts to find a long lost relative who may understand his love of music. Throughout the film, audiences are treated to an in depth look at the Mexican holiday known as Día De Los Muertos, where families honor the memories of their deceased loved ones by displaying their picture in a shrine and leaving them offerings.

This film can be described as a love letter to Mexican culture. Never in my lifetime have I seen any sort of media produced on a global scale that so beautifully and authentically represented my people and our culture. It’s clear that Pixar took the extra steps to really immerse themselves in it for the purpose of better understanding the traditions and lifestyle of the Mexican/Mexican-American community. All of this coupled together with memorable characters, wonderfully orchestrated music, and a story with a strong message about family make for a truly unique cinematic experience that everyone can enjoy regardless of ethnic background or prior knowledge of Mexican culture.

As I walked out of the theater my emotions were all over the place. My thoughts however, were singularly focused on what this movie means for Hispanic people like me.

Representation. That is what it means. No longer will the only animated representations of my people be that of side kicks or sombrero wearing mice yelling “ARRIBA! ARRIBA!”. With these kinds of characters being the only real previous ambassadors of Mexican people in animation it’s no wonder some kids (including me) have had a difficult time connecting with and embracing their Mexican roots.

With the release of Coco however, the Mexican community finally has something that feels like a genuine and true depiction of their everyday life and traditions. Coco is a reflection of all of these shared experiences. A mirror for which Hispanic people can look at and see a bit of themselves in.

The fact that this movie even exists is itself an accomplishment for Mexican representation. This is definitely a step in the right direction and I strongly encourage everyone to go out and see Coco in theaters.

Just remember to bring some tissues.

Written By: Jesus Coyotl

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