Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Real-life ‘Mamá Coco’ remembered with altar in Michoacán

A giant Day of the Dead altar has been set up in the town of Santa Fe de la Laguna, the hometown of María Salud Ramírez Caballero, the woman who reportedly inspired the character of Mamá Coco in the Disney-Pixar film “Coco”. 

'Mamá Coco,' left, and the character in the movie.
Ramírez Caballero (left) and “Mama Coco”. (File photo)

Although Ramírez Caballero passed away in October 2022 aged 109, her family had not put up an altar until now, because according to local Purépecha traditions, the deceased cannot visit the land of the living until at least a year after their passing. 

Released in 2017, Coco follows the story of Miguel, a boy who travels to the afterlife on Day of the Dead to find his great-grandfather, the husband of the fictional (and very old) Mamá Coco.

Although Pixar has not formally confirmed that Ramírez Caballero inspired Coco’s character, the resemblance between the real-life woman and the film’s character is remarkable. As a result, many tourists visited Ramírez Caballero’s home to take photographs with her beside a Coco poster. Even Michoacán’s Tourism Minister, Roberto Monroy paid tribute to Ramírez Caballero, calling her“a tireless woman and example who inspired this beloved character who went around the world.”

Lee Unkrich, the film’s director, revealed that Santa Fe de la Laguna was indeed the primary inspiration for the fictional village of Santa Cecilia. The town, which has a population of roughly 5,000 people, shares a similar size and layout to Santa Cecilia.

The elaborate altar to Ramírez in her hometown. (puentelibre.mx)

Santa Fe de la Laguna sits near Lake Pátzcuaro, one of Mexico’s most iconic Day of the Dead destinations. 

With reports by Milenio, The Culture Trip and Billboard

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