“Real” Mama Coco is honored on Mexico’s Day of the Dead

“Real” Mama Coco is honored on Mexico’s Day of the Dead


Tourists who make a pilgrimage to a humble Mexican home during the Day of the Dead celebrations leave no doubt: Mama Coco, the character of the Oscar-winning animated film, used to live there.

“It looks a lot like her! If you look at the nose in the drawing and hers, the shape of the face and the hair or the wheelchair, it’s too much of a coincidence,” said Spanish tourist Paula Colmenero, 52.

The sweet old lady in “Coco,” winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2017, was a fictional character created by Pixar Animation Studios.

But her good-natured smile, squinted eyes and braided white hair were also notable features of Maria Salud Ramirez, who died on October 16 at the age of 109.

Mama Salud, as she was known locally, is known as an independent and talkative woman who regularly frequented the town square in Santa Fe de la Laguna, home to members of the indigenous group Purepecha.

There she bought fresh fish and soaked up the atmosphere, said Patricia Perez, 38, one of her granddaughters.

One afternoon, residents of the Michoacan lake town went to tell Perez that visitors were taking pictures of her grandmother.

More than a year later, Coco premiered, inspired by the Mexican festival Day of the Dead, which is about the belief that the souls of the dead return on the night of November 1st.

Like the tourists, Perez is sure: “It was up to her, her image,” she said.

Pixar has always denied that Mama Coco was based on anyone in real life, saying that it was a product of its creators’ imaginations.

– ‘Always happy’ –

Although Perez said she no longer “wanted to get involved in this controversy,” the film changed the lives of the Ramirez family.

Mama Salud’s home has become a place of pilgrimage for tourists who pay tribute to her and may purchase souvenirs such as t-shirts, mugs, piggy banks, keychains, and magnets.

Colmenero, who was visiting with her husband and two daughters, applauded the family’s efforts to cash in on Mama Salud’s fame as “it’s very clear they copied her.”

As in the film’s closing sequence, this year Mama Salud is only present in the photos the family placed on their wheelchair and the altar they prepared to receive their spirit on the Day of the Dead.

Decorated with marigolds and candles, the family will serve their favorite food – fish, beans, tortillas and a Pepsi to drink.

Allowing visitors to continue visiting her home after her death is what Mama Salud would have wanted, Perez said.

“She always wanted to receive people. She was always happy. That’s why we decided to keep the doors open,” she said.

For 36-year-old South Korean tourist Taehyun Kim, who said Coco is one of his favorite films, the long journey was worth it.

“I quit my job and my wife (too) and came here to see Mama Coco,” he said.

For Mexicans, the world famous grandmother is a source of national pride.

“Thank you Mama Coco for representing our culture with dignity,” wrote one visitor.

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