Skip to main content

La Gran Tristeza: How "Coco" Is Everyone's Latina Grandma

Coco opened over Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States and I'll confess: I didn't rush out and see it. That's because Coco had already set an unrealistic expectation in my head. Prior to its U.S. release this latest venture from Pixar became the highest-grossing film in Mexican box office history (and it's also the setting for the film). Matt Zoller Seitz at had given it a four-star review calling it a "classic." The buzz on social media was already awarding Coco the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar and at the same time, in the arena of film criticism on Twitter, there was uproar over the lack of Latino and Latina film critics writing about it (resulting in the hashtag #FilmCriticismSoWhite).

In short, for me, Coco ballooned into a larger than life movie that it couldn't possibly live up to. Then came the weekend after Thanksgiving and I finally went and saw it. It was a Sunday matinee, with a decent audience size. The film was preceded by an insufferable animated short (Olaf's Frozen Adventure) that was originally intended to be broadcasted on ABC for the holidays. Then, finally, the studio logo appeared and my ears perked up when I noticed the Disney theme music had been given a Latin twist. "Alright Coco," I thought to myself, "Let's see what you got..."

I should stop here and say that I am Latino. My mother is from San Jose, Costa Rica and my late father (he died two and a half years ago at the age of forty-nine) was from Quito, Ecuador. They both emigrated to the United States with their parents roughly around the same time in the 1970s and when they were seniors at a high school in Chicago, Illinois, my mother learned she was pregnant with me. In other words, I fit the mold of what many second-generation Latinos did: being the offspring to young Latino parents. That is to say our teen parents were preoccupied with trying to "become American" and get acclimated to the stateside lifestyle, leaving us -- already natural born U.S. citizens -- to lean and rely heavily on our Latino grandparents (a.k.a. our abuelos and abuelas) to keep us connected to our non-U.S. heritage.

So back to the movie.

The name of the film actually refers to its great-grandmother character, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía). We learn, through our good-spirited and well-meaning twelve-year-old protagonist Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), that his great-grandmother Coco's parents were once deeply in love. That is until Coco's father -- an aspiring musician with dreams of stardom -- left his family and never returned. Because of this, Coco's mother banned music from their home indefinitely and this absentee father was never to be spoken of again. Generations later, this becomes a problem for Miguel because his passion is for music. He's not allowed to play his guitar or even listen to music. Therefore his soul is incomplete.
Without giving too much of the plot away, Miguel eventually finds himself in the amazingly rendered Land of the Dead (don't worry, Miguel himself is not dead), and in the process he makes some startling discoveries about his family's past. Coco's Land of the Dead is the richest and most eye-popping realization of Día de Muertos imagery that I've ever seen on screen. But with stunning images to spare, I couldn't quite put my finger on why I wasn't wowed over by Coco. I suppose it was the hype going into it, but that reasoning seemed trite. As I watched the film, I appreciated the artistry, the music and its heartwarming message. But the oomph factor that Pixar usually dishes out was missing for me. For example, with Toy Story there was the discovery of CGI sustaining the imagination for a feature length's running time. With The Incredibles, Pixar proved it could make a red-blooded, exciting action film for adults too. But what did Coco do for me?

After the film finished, I was replaying sections of it in my head while walking through the theatre lobby. By the time I made it outside the theatre, it clicked in my head. Coco hit so close to home with its value system and certain family dynamics that I was zeroing in on the dressings of the film and not the accomplishments it was achieving (especially with non-Latino moviegoers). For example, I zeroed in on the family's disapproval (or overall aloofness) of wanting to become an artist and identified with that frustration. In addition, my parents split when I was eight years old, so I understood what it was like to live without my having my father around. (As a result, my father wasn't very well regarded by many relatives.) But most importantly, Coco speaks to what many Latinos can relate to: the constant aura of death, particularly in the form of their abuelos and abuelas. Coco did such a miraculous job of hitting those touchstones, that I took it for granted. No wonder I was fidgeting in my seat grunting about how uninteresting I found Miguel's alley dog to be. Coco was matter-of-factly telling it -- "it" being Latino -- how it is. It didn't need talking toys or cars to catch my attention.

Coincidentally, the same day I watched Coco was also my maternal grandmother's 79th birthday dinner. I went straight to my grandma's right after the theatre. My grandma (a.k.a Mama) Digna is someone who takes death very seriously and regards it in dramatic fashion. "Your grandmother has been saying she's dying since you were only a few months old," my mom always quips. Mama Digna has what we refer to as an "altar" in her living room. Religious iconography is everywhere in her apartment. She prays to a different saint for each day of the year. Because of a previous surgical injury in the 1990s she's mostly wheelchair bound, only sustaining the ability to stand and walk in short spurts (mostly for bathroom use). She has a stockpile of Holy Trinity candles on her bedroom dresser. And every year, before she blows out her birthday candles, she reminds us all that it's her last birthday.
A post shared by Nelson Carvajal (@officialnelsoncarvajal) on
My grandmother Digna is the strongest tie I have to my Latino heritage. She sings the national anthem of Costa Rica on occasion and credits whatever brains my siblings and I have to her late husband (my late grandfather) who died at a young age to stomach cancer. My grandfather Eidilio was a teacher and he also played in an orchestral music group in Costa Rica. He passed away two days before my mother turned seven years old. The best photo of my grandparents hangs in Mama Digna's living room. In the photo my grandfather just finished playing a set and he's slow dancing with Mama Digna, holding her close to his face. They're in love. You can feel their warmth just by looking at the photo. I've never met my grandfather Eidilio but he comes to life a little bit every time I look at that photo.

Coco celebrates Día de Muertos gloriously and even though it's a Mexican holiday, the ideas behind honoring the dead through photos and prayer is something that is practiced through all of Latin America. (The Christian version is All Saints' Day.) The film's Latino co-writer and co-director Adrian Molina is the same age as me and I'm sure a lot of his own life experiences are peppered into the script. Molina understands that even though Coco's location and traditions are largely Mexican, its inherent seriousness about mortality and familial honor is the backbone for the Latino experience.
Coco has obviously struck a chord in the United States. As I write this piece, it just topped the box office for the second weekend in a row. That is saying something very powerful in a time where U.S. President Donald Trump promotes and encourages hate on a daily basis. As I think about my not-so-successful first viewing of Coco, I look forward to seeing it again. I also hope to one day show the DVD (in Spanish, of course) to my Mama Digna. I'm sure she would revel in it. And I'm also sure the film's climatic Oscar-bound song "Remember Me" will resonate even deeper for me.

 In the end, whether you're Latino or not, no te olvides de tu abuela.


  1. The internet is a hub that provides students with so many learning materials, however, browsing through hundreds or thousands of them can prove to be a daunting task.

  2. The competition, which will be played on a variety of platforms, including PCs and mobile devices, will include some of the mostUAE esports in Dubai well-known titles currently available on the market. It should be obvious that this is a very significant incident. Don't wait; register right away for your chance to win big.

  3. Coco ballooned is a wonderful story for kids, and if you want to buy your kids' items online and require coupons, the best deals coupon is for you.

  4. The success of Coco at the box office is a testament to the power of storytelling and how it can transcend language and culture. It's great to see films like these bring people together and promote empathy and understanding. Speaking of bringing things back to life, Upholstery Cleaning Ottawa can help give new life to your old furniture by removing any unpleasant odors.

  5. cement kiln dust Florida is a byproduct of cement manufacturing that requires proper disposal and management to comply with environmental regulations. It can be utilized as a valuable additive in certain construction applications, contributing to sustainable cement production practices.

  6. Thanksgiving weekend is a special time for gratitude and celebration in the United States. As we gather with loved ones and reflect on our blessings, it's important to recognize the role of seo services dubai, which help businesses connect with their target audience and enhance their online presence

  7. Coco's opening weekend success is like the seamless flow of transfer pumps in DammamBoth showcase the power of efficiency and captivate audiences with their exceptional performance

  8. While Coco's opening may have captured the attention of many, it's essential to prioritize safety and proper infrastructure development in Edmonton, which includes responsibleBuilding Demolition in Edmonton practices, to ensure a vibrant and secure community for all.

  9. Libertating film and video from a prehistoric value system" is a powerful statement, challenging traditional norms and paving the way for creative freedom. Just like this liberation, the Best Barber Shop in Canada empowers men to break free from conventional styles.

  10. The "Witch Anti Blemish Skin Clearing Primer" is truly a holy grail product for achieving clear and flawless skin. It's amazing to find a product that tackles blemishes while creating a smooth base for makeup. By the way, if you're focused on creating a comfortable environment at home, consider checking out electra home automation abu dhabi.

  11. La Gran Tristeza" beautifully captures the essence of "Coco" and its significance to many as a homage to their Latina grandmothers. Just as this film cherishes heritage, show your car some love with convenient curbside car wash services ensuring it shines just as brightly as cultural legacies celebrated in the movie.

  12. Liberating film and video from a prehistoric value system" signifies progressive change. Just as this evolution impacts media, Mining camp catering services in Texas liberate miners from hunger, providing hearty meals that empower them to focus on their tasks, enhancing efficiency and well-being in challenging mining environments

  13. "Coco" opening over Thanksgiving weekend in the United States was a heartwarming treat for families, bringing the magic of storytelling and culture to the big screen. While you confess your love for this animated gem, you can enjoy the same level of enchantment with the convenience of coffee delivery dubai

  14. "Coco" is truly a heartwarming film that opened its way into the hearts of viewers over Thanksgiving weekend. Just as it weaves a tale of family and tradition, theIndustry Leading Degassing Solution weaves its magic to ensure impeccable quality in various applications. Both remind us of the power of storytelling and innovation to create memorable experiences.

  15. Ramma Foundation Repair is a trusted name in Foundation Repair Edmonton, offering expert solutions to address various foundation issues. With years of experience and a commitment to quality, Ramma Foundation Repair ensures the stability and longevity of residential and commercial properties in Edmonton.

  16. Coco" beautifully captures the essence of Latino culture, reminiscent of cherished moments with our abuelitas. In the same way, thefencing services Edmonton protect and preserve what we hold dear, ensuring safety and tranquility for our families. #Coco #FamilySafety #EdmontonFencing

  17. Indulge in the sweet delight of a chocolate gift in Dhahran, a gesture that transcends borders and brings joy in every exquisite bite. Share the richness of this delectable treat to sweeten moments and create lasting memories.

  18. Delving into the pivotal collaboration between interior fit-out and commercial space renovations. Elevate your Dubai commercial space seamlessly with top-notch expertise from fit-out contractors for a perfect blend of functionality and design brilliance.

  19. "Coco" isn't just a film; it's a cultural phenomenon that captures the hearts of audiences across generations. Its portrayal of family, heritage, and the universal themes of love and remembrance transcends cultural boundaries, making it a beloved Latina grandma to everyone, offering comfort, wisdom, and a celebration of the beautiful tapestry of life and traditions.
    abogados de bancarrota en el norte de virginia

  20. dust suppression units Edmonton
    profile reflects a commitment to excellence and innovation in the industrial sector. As a subsidiary of Arjes Machinery Canada, their dynamic solutions stand out, redefining efficiency and sustainability in the Canadian market. Partnering with RBS ensures a reliable source for cutting-edge machinery.

  21. Delving into the profound impact of 'Coco' and its cultural resonance – a masterpiece that feels like everyone's Latina grandma. As we celebrate cinematic gems, let's also acknowledge the precision behind the scenes, much like the importance of chemical injection in UAE industries. Both contribute to creating lasting impressions and ensuring seamless experiences. #CocoAppreciation #LatinaGrandmaVibes #UAEChemicalInjection #BehindTheMagic

  22. Cheers to Free Cinema Now for liberating film and video from outdated value systems since 2011! In the spirit of modern liberation, consider enhancing your space with Electra home automation abu dhabiTheir sleek design and efficient functionality bring a breath of fresh air, aligning with the ethos of breaking free from the prehistoric. #FreeCinemaNow #ElectraEgloFans #ModernLiberation #EfficiencyInEverySetting"


  23. Fit-out contractors play a vital role in the metamorphosis of commercial spaces, seamlessly bridging design aspirations with practical execution. For a transformative journey in Dubai, consider collaborating with experts like villa renovation Dubai for unparalleled innovation and excellence, turning your vision into reality.

  24. No rush on catching Coco over Thanksgiving weekend—I get it! While you take your time with movies, why not treat your car to a little cinematic shine with convenient curbside car wash services? Your ride deserves a starring role on the streets!

  25. La Gran Tristeza: How 'Coco' Is Everyone's Latina Grandma" beautifully captures the universal emotions and cultural resonance of the film "Coco." It's a heartfelt celebration of family and heritage. Catering services in Monahans Texasnfuse your family gatherings with the same warmth by opting for catering services that embrace the spirit of community and deliver flavors reminiscent of abuela's kitchen, making every occasion truly special.

  26. La Gran Tristeza: How 'Coco' Is Everyone's Latina Grandma" beautifully captures the emotional resonance of the movie. Just as Coco's warmth fills our hearts, let aninterior fit out companies in al quozinfuse that same love into your living spaces. Transform your home into a haven that reflects the vibrant spirit of family and culture, making every moment as memorable as the film itself!

  27. Introducing Monster Rabbit, a potent blend of natural ingredients including epimedium royal performance honey. This unique formula enhances vitality and stamina for an exhilarating experience. Elevate your energy levels and performance with Monster Rabbit, your secret to a fulfilling lifestyle.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

VIDEO ESSAY: Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master"

"He's making all this up as he goes along." NOTE:  I was fortunate enough to attend a rare 70mm screening of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master on Thursday August 16, 2012 at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. In attendance were writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and one of the film's actors, Kevin J. O'Connor (both of whom are pictured with me here ). --   The key to the success of Paul Thomas Anderson 's The Master doesn't come in its mammoth achievement of being shot on 70mm film or its carefully constructed parallel origin story of L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology practices. Rather, that success is embedded in an intimate scene: a single shot close-up on alcoholic war veteran Freddie Sutton (an unforgettable Joaquin Phoenix ) during a "process of time" session with Lancaster Dodd ( Philip Seymour Hoffman in prime Hubbard form). Up until this scene, the character of Freddie dutifully performed the task of delive

Winnie the Pooh Mashup Trailer: "Christopher Robin & Ted"

"Sooner or later, your past catches up to you." That's the tagline  Disney is going with for their live-action Winnie the Pooh movie Christopher Robin , starring Ewan McGregor . While watching the teaser trailer (which debuted today) and getting my first look at a real life Winnie the Pooh talking bear, I couldn't help but be reminded of  Seth MacFarlane 's Ted , the R-rated comedy which featured a protagonist who's a foul-mouthed talking teddy bear. Ironically enough, MacFarlane's talking bear Ted has a much more cuddly and lovable look to him. Disney decided to give Winnie the Pooh a crude and homely-looking appearance -- not exactly what you'd expect for their intended child audience. So I decided to create this mashup trailer, which rewrites Christopher Robin's (McGregor) backstory to suggest that Ted was his original bear and he just sewed up the teddy bear's parts to look like Winnie the Pooh. Talk about your past catching up to y

#InformedImages: “There Will Be Blood” and “Narcos: Mexico”

#InformedImages is a Free Cinema Now series that studies and brings to light influential films and other examples of moving images that informed and inspired specific visuals in later works. I remember the exact the moment it clicked together for me. It was about half an hour into episode 2 (directed by  Josef Kubota Wladyka ) of Narcos: Mexico on Netflix . The camera crept across the dry, desert landscape toward a hole in the ground, where Rafael Caro Quintero (a.k.a. Rafa, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía ) was digging furiously, in an attempt create a makeshift aqueduct to help grow his field of marijuana. It recalled images from the earlier sections of Paul Thomas Anderson 's masterpiece T here Will Be Blood, when Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis ) was digging for oil underneath the rocky ground. Then, as I continued to watch Narcos: Mexico , a more striking visual parallel to There Will Be Blood began to emerge. For example, as Rafa and his boss Miguel Ángel F

Watch: ALL OF VENOM: Mashup of “All of Me” and “Venom”

Venom , the latest Marvel (anti) superhero film, limps into theatres this weekend with an unimpressive 30% on Rotten Tomatoes . However, I'm sure that won't prevent it from making boo koo bucks at the box office. What I'm more interested in is how Venom will fit into the annals of film history -- because it does! While this isn't my first Venom mashup video (see my The Venom Drop teaser trailer), I do think that my new mashup, All Of Venom , really speaks to what Venom  ultimately will be remembered for:  Tom Hardy 's committed physical performance and how it plays as a companion piece to the 1984 romantic fantasy comedy All of Me starring ( Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin ). In Venom , Hardy's character Eddie Brock gets possessed by an alien symbiote and must learn to share his host body with said being. In All of Me , Martin's character gets possessed by the soul of the recently deceased Edwina Cutwater (Tomlin) and -- yup, you guessed it -- must lea

Watch: Errol Morris' 1991 Documentary on Stephen Hawking, "A Brief History of Time"

Yesterday we learned that the brilliant and world-renowned theoretical physicist  Stephen Hawking  passed away at the age of 76. In the early 1960s,  Hawking developed an early form of motor neurone disease, debilitating and paralyzing him throughout the decades. However, he did not let such a devastating physical disability stop him from becoming a truly iconic figure, thinker and leader in the sciences, and in specific, cosmology. Hawking's built a legacy of scientific works, breakthroughs and publications throughout his academic career but it was his best selling book "A Brief History of Time" that caught the eye of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (Oscar winner for  The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara ). Morris' doc A Brief History of Time  looks at the impressive life and work of Hawking, told in the signature way that only Morris can, all scored to a soundtrack composed by  Philip Glass . While the film is ava

Watch: TOM & CHERRY (Mashup trailer of CHERRY and TOM & JERRY)

Two big movie releases are available for streaming this weekend: Tom & Jerry on HBO Max and the Tom Holland -starrer Cherry over at Apple TV+. I couldn't decide which want to watch so I spent my evening editing their trailers together.  This is TOM & CHERRY:

Video Essay: Mare of EATStown

  Not since Brad Pitt 's performance as Billy Beane in Moneyball have I been this emotionally invested in what a character was always eating or drinking onscreen.  In HBO's Mare of Easttown , Kate Winslet plays Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan. (Winslet is brilliant in the role.) Like Billy Beane, Mare's approach and understanding of her immediate environment or dilemma is translated through what she's consuming; it's as if the food or drinks become company players in her stage drama. And it's not just food either; Mare vapes and smokes too. Anything she consumes becomes important in the moment. My ears are listening to the dialogue and my brain is processing the plot, but my eyes and salivary glands are licking up the drops of condensate beading down her bottles of Rolling Rock.  The foods become so integral to the Mare experience, to the unfurling of her character, that at one point she's even attacked by a full gallon of milk (it's thrown through

Star Wars: Licorice Pizza

  If we were living in the the movie Minority Report , Paul Thomas Anderson 's latest film Licorice Pizza would get arrested for "Precrime." At least in the court of (some) public opinion . Anderson's film -- which I think is pretty great -- has come under criticism for the age gap between its two lead characters (15-year-old Gary and mid-20-something Alana), who go back and forth between friendship and playing flirtatious footsie. At no point in Licorice Pizza do they do anything sexual. Their feelings are sincere and the physical attraction is sometimes there, but it's all never acted on. Does that make the movie immoral? I don't think so. Could Gary and Alana some day end up together? I could see that. And Gary would (presumably) be of age by that point.  This age gap controversy had me thinking about a similar George Lucas ' Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace . In the Star Wars films, we know that Queen Padmé Amidala will eventu

The 21 Best Films of 2021

Will movie theaters ever back to what they once were? The ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) pandemic tore a hole into the fabric of theatrical exhibition. I streamed more movies this year than any other. A lot of people did. The one constant is this: Whether you watch them on the big screen or on your phone, good films rise to the top. Here go my picks for the best films of 2021. (And some other notes too.) Biggest Disappointments: The Matrix Resurrections Candyman (2021) Don't Look Up Special Citation : Kanye with Special Guest Drake: Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert Seanne Farmer (director) // Niklas Bildstein Zaar (creative director) Kanye West Free Larry Hoover Concert GIF from Kanye West GIFs Best Needle Drop: "Light House" by Future Islands in Titane Best Supporting Actress : Olga Merediz, In The Heights Best Supporting Actor : Simon Helberg, Annette Best Actress : Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza Best Actor : Alessandro Nivola, The Many Saints of Newark Before w

Watch: Gaspar Noe's ENTER THE CATS

It's been quite the day for trailers. Ad Astra . It Chapter Two . Top Gun: Maverick . But I don't think anyone was REALLY ready for the promised "digital fur technology" of Tom Hooper 's Cats . The trailer is pure nightmare fuel. While watching it, the first thing that struck me was how dark and dreadful the film looked. Like physically and literally. I started thinking about how the film would probably be enjoyable while on some drugs. Then I started fixating on a shot of Idris Elba on top of a multi-colored lit building and the poster for Gaspar Noe 's Enter The Void  suddenly popped in my head. And after that, there was no turning back...