Understanding Mexican Nationalism and Mestizaje Through the Film “Coco”

CW: Spoilers and  conversation on Coco’s Film.

Coco is the latest, and perhaps one of the most celebrated, Pixar movies among Latinxs. In Coco, Miguel, a Mexican brown kid,  in some northern town (based in Guanajuato), strives to pursue his love of music despite the family matriarch’s life-long ban on music. The matriarch’s hate of music stems from the fact that her daughter’s father, a musician, walked out on her while  their daughter was a child (we later learn this was not intentional) to pursue his music career.

In an attempt to participate in a music talent show, and after his grandmother breaks his guitar and bans him from entering the contest, he steals a guitar from a mausoleum that belongs to Ernesto de la Cruz, a famous singer. Based on an old picture bearing a family mystery, Miguel believes de la Cruz is a family member, who can somehow help him in pursuing his dream from beyond the grave. Stealing from the dead on the Day of the Dead, however, triggers a curse that takes Miguel to the realm of the dead, where he completes a quest with the goal of returning to the realm of the living while learning the value of family and remembrance of the dead.

Its colourful scheme and melancholic use of family narratives, including family matriarchs and absent fathers (all too common to many Mexicans), immerse in the all-familiar Spanglish of the Mexican diaspora and Mexicans with hyphenated identities living abroad, evoke a level of familiarity to the viewers. The use of figures like Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, María Félix, Frida Kahlo and El Santo, further connect Mexicans to the golden age of Mexican cinema and the 20th century’s peak of Mexican nationalism.

But there is a key element missing from the film. Where are the Indigenous peoples?


Coco’s Poster – Via Disney.

For those who are unfamiliar with Mexican history, Mexico gained its independence in the 1800s through a movement that primarily benefited criollos (children of Spanish colonizers born in Mexico). Eventually, mestizos (people who assume a “mixed race” identity, while highlighting their European descent) also acquired quite a bit social, political and economic power  in an attempt to build what would eventually become mainstream “Mexican identity.”  It did not matter that the war of independence was primarily fought, on the ground, by Indigenous and Black peoples. Moreover, post-independence, the nation-building process in Mexico required some deep erasure of Indigenous and Black communities to highlight some sense of “unity” in a place  where hundreds of years of colonialism, caste systems, gendered violence, capitalism, white supremacy and imperialism, had left a very deep mark.

It was then that mestizaje became the official State policy, along with its main racial, cultural, religious and political underpinnings. Today mestizos acknowledge themselves as the children of Spanish colonizers and Indigenous (mostly Aztec) peoples. What is interesting is that often, in this identity, the Spanish (or French, British, German, etc.) identity is evergreen, while the connection to the Indigenous exists though a precarious link to the relics of the past.

Indians are  those who are dead; who left their legacy, but did not make it post-colonization. Ironically, Mexico has one of the largest Indigenous populations across the continent. Indigenous peoples in Mexico face some of the same challenges that Indigenous peoples in Canada and the US do: they tend to be poorer, have less access to rights,  and be way more vulnerable to State-sanctioned violence than most mestizos or white people in the country.

To talk about Indigeneity is not to talk about a particular race. Brown Indigenous peoples exist. Afro-Indigenous peoples are a thing. And Indigenous peoples with light skin-privilege confuse the hell out of white people and ignorant observers. However, part of the challenge that we face as Indigenous communities is that for the past 500 years, it has been the State that has taken the role of defining us. In Mexico, for instance, we have gone through a number of policies and definitions based on skin color, language,  region, level of education, etc. But until this day, Indigenous peoples do not get to define themselves in mainstream policy and legal documents and processes.

It is in this context that Coco becomes relevant. I read overwhelmingly positive reviews of the film (here, here and here).  People celebrated the fact that Mexicans and Chicanos were involved in the project; that the filmmakers “researched” Day of the Dead traditions carefully (although, in my view, that should be a requirement, rather than a “nice to have”); that the story was relatable; and that Mexican audiences seemed to eat it up. But above all, people celebrated representation. No previous movie, not even The Book of Life, apparently, had ever been overly concerned with accurately representing “Mexican culture,” or any Latinx culture for that matter.

But I, as an Indigenous person born and raised in Mexico, did not feel represented. In fact, I saw, right in front of my eyes, the ways in which cultural appropriation is normalized, curated and celebrated. I also saw how the Day of the Dead was stripped from its roots to accommodate the sensibilities of mestizos and white Latinxs. Not only have Mexicans largely accepted Pixar owning rights to Day of the Dead-related narratives (and capitalizing on them!), but they have further reminded Indigenous peoples that Latinx representation in the media only matters when it comes to mestizo and white Latinxs.

I watched the film with my mom, and we would occasionally look at each other not knowing exactly what to say or how to react. In other occasions, we simply rolled our eyes. Nowhere in the film are Indigenous peoples mentioned or shown, and I am sorry to tell you, but without Indians, you wouldn’t have the Day of the Dead.

The only Indigenous imagery used in the film is in realm of the dead. I am not sure if it was by accident, or as a way of regurgitating the narrative of the “extinct Indian,” but in the movie, the city in the realm of the dead is built on top of Indigenous pyramids (way to allude to how the Spanish built colonial cities!). Further, we see a few “Aztec dancers” at Ernesto de la Cruz’s party. Those particular images made me cringe. Contemporary “Aztec dancers” are often associated not with Indigenous peoples themselves, but with mestizos playing “Indian” to “reconnect” with their “Indian past.” Once more, glorifying cultural appropriation and stereotypes.

Aside from these, the film is filled with Northern-Mexican references like mariachi, puffy dresses from like the 1940s (*eye roll* no one dresses like that anymore), women dancing the Jarabe Tapatío, and numerous women skeletons wearing mantillas and combs, Spanish style! And when the film isn’t celebrating mestizo and white Mexican cultures, it is celebrating images that are, for some Indigenous peoples, quite problematic. Frida Kahlo makes appearances here and there in a Tehuana dress (my Southern community’s traditional dress), unquestioned. María Félix’s alike sings “La Llorona,” although the real-life Félix was a northerner who  would, on occasion, also be photographed in Tehuana attire without acknowledgements to my community. All of this, without recognizing that much of Northern Mexico has adopted quite a closeness to whiteness and political, social and religious conservatism that gets expressed in  regional dynamics of discrimination. The white, rich, hyper-Catholic, European North has always discriminated against the Indigenous, poor, heretic, South. It is no surprise, then, that much of Mexico’s wealth is concentrated in the North, while the South remains poor(er).

In addition to this, classism permeates the film, in somehow shocking ways. The realm of the dead, for example, is obvious in this regard. Any notion of egalitarianism once one dies, is erased in the  film when the dead are presented as rich, poor, famous or neglected.This does not only contravene much of the cosmologies of some Indigenous communities in Mexico, but it also goes against Mexican Catholic understandings of heaven and equality. What we are getting, in fact, is a capitalist and State-centered interpretation of death.  And because classism cannot systemically survive without the State and the presence of police, Coco presents imagery of the dead having to go through an immigration-like process and a border, in order to cross to the realm of the living. The pictures in the ofrenda become the dead’s passport, so to be forgotten, is not only to be poor and immobile, but to also eventually disappear from existence all together.


Border crossing in Coco – Via The Guam Daily Post.

Classism and narratives of mestizaje also collide in the film’s depiction of the realm of the dead. Figures like Pedro Infante, Frida Kahlo, Dolores del Río, Agustín Lara and Diego Rivera appear in a variety of frames. The characters chosen are largely northerners, rich and mestizo, except for Emiliano Zapata, who makes a brief appearance. But above that, most of the real-life characters alluded to, greatly benefited from being male (Infante, Rivera, Lara),  rich (Infante, Kahlo, Lara, Rivera, del Río), white or white-passing (Infante, Kahlo, Félix and del Río), of direct European descent (Kahlo and del Río), and with strong ties  to the State (Kahlo and Rivera). Whereas in real life Kahlo, for instance, is praised as a queer feminist and a disability activist (and rightfully so), access to the work that she did was guaranteed through her class, her German ancestry and her marriage to one of the most recognized nation-builders in Mexico: Diego Rivera.


Frida Kahlo in Coco – via The Washington Post.


Rivera and Kahlo were  socialists and left-wing intellectuals who did great things for mestizos by emphasizing access to education, rights for (some) women, notions of equality and the importance of the arts; however, much of their project relied on the erasure and assimilation of Indigenous peoples. Rivera’s art, for instance, uses Indigenous bodies and imagery of colonization to tell the story of Mexico through the romantization of violence, colonialism and the mestizaje project. In his narratives, Indians are the past and mestizos are the future. This is not surprising. At the time, the Mexican State emphasized the need for the Indians to stop worrying about their lands and collective rights, and get on board  with the national project that required  them to stop being “underdeveloped,” forget  their language, and become “productive members of society.”  

The imagery of Kahlo is important because it is not only used in Coco, but widely utilized in other mediums and promoted by Mexicans themselves. Whereas Indigenous women are often treated as “savage” and “underdeveloped” in Mexico for wearing their traditional attires, Kahlo is celebrated domestically and abroad for her “style,” because her class and whiteness give her such a “right.” As Binnizá women, my mother and I rolled our eyes every time Kahlo made an appearance in the film, when Tehuana outfits were presented without acknowledgement to our Indigenous community, and when the family’s matriarch in the film sings La Llorona. It was not enough to erase Indians from the film…  they also had to appropriate anything remotely colorful to build a mosaic of Mexican nationalism without worrying about its underpinnings.

So why has Coco been so successful? Because as Mexicans, diaspora or otherwise, we are incredibly uncritical of the ways in which we exercise our national identity, which relies on State-sanctioned cultural appropriation. We are the kind of nationalists that call upon a lost Spanish great-great-great-great grandfather, while negating any closeness to Indigeneity or Blackness, other than in pretty clothing and some random Aztec myth. We still talk about “our Indigenous peoples,” as if we owned them,  while maintaining them in poverty, at risk of violence and at the margins of society. We remain classist… and since race and class intersect, we appeal to whiteness. Hence, we want to feel recognized by whiteness. It did not matter than Coco did a horrible job of actually explaining the Day of the Dead, we feel special because “representation matters.” Yet, we never wonder, whose representation?

55 thoughts on “Understanding Mexican Nationalism and Mestizaje Through the Film “Coco”

  1. Manuel Es Manuel says:

    Latinx = Indigenous erasure. White Latinx is redundant. Dona Coco is obviously native and by the way, also most of the characters were native how were they not? How come Mexican people are mestizo but Native folks in the U.S. only have to have a small percentage of native DNA to be indigenous. Indigenous people come in many different shades, why must you contribute to native erasure by continuing to equate skin tone to indigeneity? Can prove that Coco and her family are not indigenous besides skin tone?

    “Contemporary “Aztec dancers” are often associated not with Indigenous peoples themselves, but with mestizos playing “Indian” to “reconnect” with their “Indian past.” Once more, glorifying cultural appropriation and stereotypes.” Nice! you have just dismissed a large sector of Native folks that practice the cosmology of modern Aztec dance.

    • Eren Cervantes-Altamirano says:

      1) Please read carefully. The article makes very clear that Indigeneity does not equate skin color or race. In fact, your comment is the one making the connection between the family being “brown” and therefor being “Indigenous,” which is an oxymoron.
      2) Can I prove they are not Indigenous? If you read, you will notice nowhere in the article do I discuss their ethnicity. And, can YOU prove they are Indigenous?
      3) The erasure of cosmology of modern Aztec dance… sure. If you have conducted research on this topic you will know that the appropriation of “Aztec dance” by mestizos has happened since about the 1930s. Are the dancers often connected to Nahunta communities? rarely. Do they have a right to claim “Aztec-ness” if it isn’t through Nahua people? Nope. In fact that this is one of the main examples on how the narrative of mestizaje works. Those who claim “Indigenous ancestry” without identifying as “Indigenous” (which is radically different), often claim Aztec-heritage. Nothing else. Mestizaje in fact centres Aztec Indigeneity because through that they can say that contemporary Indigenous people do not exist since the Aztec are extinct.

      • eturrubi says:

        Hi Eren,
        A bit off topic from Coco as a whole but since u do address this in ur article and comment, would u say that all Danza circles/communities in the US engage in cultural appropriation? Are there any that u would say practice in a way that is in relationship with Nahua ppls? I ask cuz Im a Chicano of Yaqui and Papago descent. And I’ve had trouble challenging this idea from many Chican@s that we inherently have a right to a so called ‘Mexica’ identity, along with Nahuatl language and worldview. Also, any other sources u know of that discuss Danza as appropriation from a Nahua/Indigenous pov?

      • Eren Cervantes-Altamirano says:

        Hi! I am currently creating a list, I will get back to you on this. I think that one thing that requires careful consideration is that Mexican-American identities and Mexican hyphenated identities are constructed different than mestizo identities in Mexico for a number of reasons, for staters because it is constructed within a settler state. Hopefully I can post a list of resources that help this conversation.

      • clio says:

        i am so impressed with how beautifully written, filled with the art of story-telling from top to bottom, how clear each term and its terminology was, even if at first one not related to this culture/country/upbringing or familiar with, and mostly, how incredibly informative and serious this article is! if only any sort of history class i had while growing up, and sort of history-related/geography-related/cultural-religious-tradition sort of class i ever took had even the slightest bit of your charisma in it, i would have known about what you are referring to a long time ago! i love noticing these details, not because i feel happy about cultural appropriation god-forbid, but because the passion of the people taking the time to explain such important parts of their culture, to help clarify notions that have been overly simplified, uninterpreted, marketed as stereotypical behavior or worse not even correctly referred to, are people worth celebrating and help raise awareness towards.
        i would be thrilled to like a facebook page of yours if you have one and get daily/hourly updates of your articles, i truly believe that your gift of story-telling can change the world and i would love to read more of your articles. if there’s any link to a page of yours please post it 🙂
        once again, if only more people were writers like you, the world would be a different place today. god bless the people who helped shape you into the person that you are today that can put all of this into perspective and passing this information on to readers either informed, misinformed, or clueless, but nonetheless readers who put their faith in your writing to help them brighten both their mind and their day.

    • Frank Zuniga says:

      Dear Erin, While I appreciate your article and all that it says… It is still just a movie. Not a documentary on the history of Mexico. A movies main purpose is to entertain. It’s obvious to me that you did not go see the film to be entertained. Maybe you should try to make a movie with your point of view. It’s not easy. If your are serious about your points, step into the ring!

  2. Elias says:

    I appreciate the critical attention to indigenous identity and Mexico’s state-sponsored and genocidal mestizo project. Nevertheless, I think many of us Mexicans, Central Americans, Chican@s and Pame-Xican@s go to the Aztecs because, as Anzaldua once clarified, this was the last great Mesoamerican civilization and the library of Mesoam technologies, histories, culture, calendrical systems, etc. (and Tenochtitlan WAS amazing). Bonfil Batalla’s Mexico Profundo, has influenced many of us over the recent decades, to help us critically understand and recognize our troubled mestiz@ past – as has Rius’ 500 Years, for me – that it is unglorified. Not a fan of Disney’s past/future at all. But Chican@s have a decolonzing instinct and history of resistance; for me, Aztec Danza is a means to decolonize when “reconnecting with one’s indigenous past.” Danza in the Southwest/Aztlan, by the way, is not “dressing indian” but is said to be tied to Mexica tradition through “palabra”/teaching system and concheros (Florencio Yescas and Andres S, who came to Aztlan in the 70’s). By that I mean to say danza is more purposeful than merely “pretending” to be Indian (although perhaps there are a few pretenders, or some pretending going on). Overall, I’ve witnessed danza in Califas to be more spiritual, genuine, and connected to Mexica and indigenous traditions. Glad you’re critiquing disney’s appropriation and obsession/perpetuation with class divisions. Debemos ser mas criticones. Xican@s tiahui.

    • Eren Cervantes-Altamirano says:

      Elias, thanks for your comment. I think that one of the things we need to acknowledge is that the experience of how identity is constructed among Mexican-Americans and Mexicans with hyphenated identities has a set of unique complexities that should be addressed on their own. In here, I am referring primarily to how mestizo identity is constructed in Mexico. Aztec dancers (primarily present in central Mexico) become mainstream in the 1930s when the government starts pushing the idea that the Indigenous link necessarily has to mean “Aztec.” The issue is that 1) Not all Indigenous peoples are “Aztec”; 2) The descendants of the Aztec are the Nahua people, who have their own culture, language and political resistance. Mestizos approaching “Aztec dance” as a link to the past, erases the Nahua present, and erases the fact that most Indigenous peoples in Mexico aren’t linked to the Aztec.

      • Marie says:

        So my question is, it’s ok for Mexican-Americans to “reclaim” indigineity but not Mexicans? Also, just from living in Mexico and often encountering concheros on the streets (“Aztec dancers”), it doesn’t strike me that they are just playing “pretend.” A big part of their discurso is discrimination against indigenous people en la acutalidad, at least from the ones that I’ve encountered. Part of reclaiming indigineity is to say…hello! It’s pretty ridiculous that we are discriminating against our own. It just seems sort of generalizing to say that it erases the Nahua present, especially because this is not the discurso that I’ve encountered.

  3. Salvador Limón says:

    Really enjoyed reading this critique as well! Mestizos and white Mexicans (mostly from the north) are the two dominant groups that dictate and establish contemporary Mexican identity and culture. The Mexican government has historically worked to exterminate and eradicate indigenous traditions, customs, language and identity. The Mexican government want us to visit the indigenous ruins and glorifies the great indigenous architects from the past but normalizes the current economic state of the modern indigenous communities throughout méxico. As someone that has traveled throughout méxico and goes back fairly often, I have witnessed how indigenous traditions, clothing and other customs have long been appropriate by the dominant groups. I myself have been a contributor. Coco has been beyond successful because it does a great job in its storytelling and overall plot development. Chicanos in the US and Mestizos and white Mexicans in méxico loved the shit out of it too because it represents méxico and as Mexicans we are some proud ass people. Let’s enjoy Coco but let’s also welcome being pushed and challenged by a reality that Mestizos and white Mexicans often ignore.

  4. Edwin Gonzalez says:

    Correction: not Latinx community. Just among Mexicans. I’m AfroLatinx (Salvadoreñx-Guatematelcx) and I don’t see myself represented in any of these films. It’s the second (book of life) in my knowledge that represents “Latinxs” and it once again talks about Mexicanxs. It’s great! Beautiful! A step in the right direction(arguably) but it has yet a long way to go to bring in the voices and stories of many of us who do not get represented in films as such. Long story short, reality is, Mexican identity, however complex and intricate it may be, gets represented in media far more than the stories of those within Latin America and particularly those of African descent. Here’s to hoping I see myself represented when I have kids to take and watch an animated flick.

    • Eren Cervantes-Altamirano says:

      Absolutely, and I think that a lot of the issue is that we don’t recognize Afro-Latinx and Afro-Indigenous peoples in many PoC & Indigenous Latinx communities. My analysis is limited in terms of the inclusion of Afro-Latinx and Afro-Indigenous peoples.

  5. Refugio Rochin-Rodriguez says:

    Lighten up! I mean, Brown it up; lo que sea. Enjoy the beat, the rhythm, the colors and the fact that Mexicans are creative, artistic, musical and fun-loving. I’m 100% Mexican with only Spanish surnames on both sides of my parents family trees, with researched history to the Mid 1700s. My DNA is 44% Iberian (Ibérico) and 27% Native-American with pura-indígena origins in Chihuahuense tribes. I should add 5% Northern Africa and 5% Jew. So, enjoy the digital fun of this Holiday delight with Coco.
    One suggestion: Name the characters Cuco and/or Cuca. Sounds more realistic to me!
    Refugio Ismael Rochin-Rodriguez de CALIFAS.

  6. Tupak Huehuecoyotl says:

    The Mestizo Concept: A Product of European Imperialism

    North American social scientists and intellectuals and the ruling elite of Mexico commonly seem to agree that Mexico is a mestizo nation, that not only are most of its people racially mixed but that its dominant culture is also mestizo. North American Anglo-Saxon scholars, in particular, delight in using the mestizo and Indo-Hispano concept when discussing Mexico and Chicanos (persons of Mexican background in the United States). It is very clear that Anglo scholars (and the Mexicans and Chicanos influenced by them) regard the very essence of the Mexican-Chicano people as mestizo (except for the perhaps ten percent of the Mexican people who are regarded as indio).

    Now, is this mestization of the Mexican-Chicano people a concrete social reality or is it primarily the Europeans’ imposition of alien descriptive categories upon the Mexican-Chicano masses? Let us look at the situation of Spain and Mexico with this question in mind. Spain is, clearly, far more of a mestizo nation (if that term is ever properly to be used) than is Mexico.


    • Eren Cervantes-Altamirano says:

      Again, we aren’t talking biology here or “mixing” in biological terms. Indigenous identity isn’t necessarily connected to race. To compare Metis and mestizos is a whole other ball game and I think that’s something that requires analysis by Metis people because they claim an Indigenous past, present and future. So they claim their Indigeneity. Mestizos usually stick to the past. Also, what I am discussing here is “mestizaje” as state policy and as a driver of nationalism in Mexico. Mexican-American and Mexican hyphenated identities require they own analysis.

      • Marie says:

        The article (The Mestizo Concept) isn’t necessarily talking about biological terms either. It’s questioning why Mexico still likes to claim “mestizaje” when indigineity is such a large part of the culture.

        “In Mexico an indio who puts on shoes, learns Spanish, and moves to a larger city becomes a non-Indian (he becomes mestizo or a Mexicano).”

        It’s questioning why a state that is so obviously “indio” still likes to claim this myth of “mestizaje.”

  7. Jorge says:

    The film is really northern Mexican? Mariachi and a Jarabe Tapatío are northern Mexican? Guanajuato is northern Mexico? That’s news to me. As an actual northern Mexican National from Baja California, I guess I’ve been wrong all along about what/where Northern Mexico is. From my perspextive, Coco has a real central Mexican (centralist) flavor to it. It’s interesting how we, northerners, got lumped into the central Mexican narrative in this article.

    • Refugio Ismael Rochin-Rodriguez says:

      Much ado about poquito.
      I’m doubting that most discussants have seen the movie or know Mexico. The film tends to center on the region known as Miso-America – the more traditional regions of villagers and traditional folks.

      The movie is a lot about Die de los Muertos and the cross-over of the dead relatives who are still celebrated – into the real world. It’s about music, tradition, ceremony and especially about a familia that wants to “disown” a great grandpa who abandoned the family for fame as a singer. Keep the story to what it is:
      A Disney fantasy with wonderful PIXAR animation, a mystery about music, a dynamic kid, a controlling family and ultimately a happy ending – mystery about music resolved.

      • Refugio Ismael Rochin-Rodriguez says:

        Sorry about typos – my MacPro wants to correct words when I intermingle ESPANOL – unintended errors.

        DIA de los Muertos.

  8. Ricardo Bombara-Pariata says:

    We do not agree on certain aspects of the so called nationalism, but the fact remains that as a society we keep pushing against and ignoring native people. And that is, and should be, unnaceptable!!!

  9. planningcinci says:

    Hi! Loved Coco and love your comments. You articulated and deepened the critiques/concerns I had known were there but had not seen or formulated myself. I also really appreciate your comments here about the Mexican-American identity having a different formation. In that spirit I offer my own reaction to hearing La Llorana featured. My parents sang that song when I was growing up in Texas. My mother is White and could sing in Spanish though she didn’t understand much. My Dad’s mother came over from Mexico in the early 1900s and his grandfather came over in the late 1800s. (I use ‘came over’ lightly – I’m from San Antonio). I just about burst into tears hearing a song from my childhood featured in a movie. I at least think I know why y’all cringed. And what I appreciate about the movie is that I can read your response, know my response and see both what connects us and what is different, and for that I am excited. I hope this makes some sense!

  10. Jay says:

    The Mexico portrayed in this American Film is a shadow of a central Mexican culture (mainly from Ciudad de México and Guadalajara), not Northern Mexico.

  11. Elizabeth Castro says:

    In Coco, the scene of Miguel shining the mariachi’s shoes should not be overlooked. In states including Chiapas, little boys work as lustradores or boleros de zapatos, shoeshiners. This is a reality for low-income indigenous communities and one element of rural-to-urban migration across Mexico and throughout Latinoamérica.

  12. Carlos Guzmán says:

    No, no, no. I liked Coco. I apologize, my english is not good enough, but, for the firts time, Mexicans are not drug dealers, sleeping under a cactoo or gardeners. I disagree, totally. In Coco we don´t see white people (criollos) like the Mexican Soap Operas. My grandfather was a peasant (farner, campesino) and had a lot of indigenous blood. I´m proud to be a mestizo with indian ancenstry. The mestizos (and the indigenous people) are invisible to the media and cine, and magazines, and advertising. In Coco we see, (someway), that part of the Brown Mexico, the Real Mexico. And, a tribute for mestizos and indigenous people. We are tired of seen White People (germans, spanish, frenchs, swedish) like the mexican stereotype of the (success, the White Mexican, the winners, the Criollos, the elites) in the Mexican Media.
    Bravo Coco!

  13. Carlos says:

    Hi! A minor correction that the town where Miguel lives is (supposed to be) based on a Oaxacan town, according to reports, while the Land of the Dead is based on Guanajuato. But this is a great piece! It’s a big shame that they did not delve further into the real origins of Day of the Dead. In any case, I enjoyed the film, if only because it’s Pixar.

      • Carlos says:

        Unkrich and his team drew inspiration for the two main parallel settings of their story from real-life locations in Mexico: the city of Oaxaca became Santa Cecilia, the land of the living, while Guanajuato became an imaginary Land of the Dead, “a dazzlingly vibrant, stacked metropolis.”

  14. Chamba Sanchez says:

    Interesting perspective -Of course there will be those who will trash your analysis because it will conflict with their consulting services which they are being paid. You raised legitimate questions. Good job!

  15. Arturo Moh Mendez says:

    I think this is more a critique of the narrative of the contemporary Mexico rather than a comment about the movie. I think when you talk about the northern Mexicans you are forgetting that we have indigenous people all around the country while also falling into common narratives yourself like glorifying the figure of Zapata or the “work” of Frida Kahlo for the queer and disabled just bc different Chicanx groups have adopted her as an icon, in Mexico nobody actually celebrates Kahlo as a queer, disabled icon, cause we have a different narrative of her.

    My point is when you say things like “mestizos playing “Indian” to “reconnect” with their “Indian past.” you are just pushing a close-minded narrative just like the one you are criticizing. I see your problem with the movie bc they didn’t address a new narrative of Mexico that is being promoted outside of Mexico, in the past few years, by the Mexican diaspora.

  16. Odilia Galván Rodríguez says:

    EREN CERVANTES-ALTAMIRANO, thank you for your thoughtful and in-depth analysis of this film. I have shared your piece on Poets Responding on Facebook and it is generating some controversy as expected. Folks like the feel-good aspects of this film and that it depicts/celebrates anything at all of ours. That’s how racism and internalized racism with their deep roots play on our emotions. We are happy for the crumbs. I am not mad at people who like the film I understand. But all the points of view must be allowed and your voice is clear and strong. I believe we can identify 100% of who we are and who we come from. The genocidal colonization of the “Americas” served to rob people of their identities by making them feel ashamed of being who they are/were. I could go on and on but won’t. Just wanted to thank you for eloquently voicing what needs to be heard. Gracias y saludos!

  17. Alejandro says:

    Great write-up! I personally loved Coco and found it relatable to my experiences as a Hispanic, but I understand your concerns and the points you’re making. I like to think of the movie not as a representation of one ethnic group over the other, but instead as a stepping stone towards further exploration of other groups in all other Latin countries. Disney/Pixar wasn’t obligated to make a movie about a Latin holiday with an all-Latino cast, but they chose to make one anyways, and in the context of the political climate surrounding Latinos in the USA, I was really happy to see some positive representation. Hopefully its success garners a greater interest in Latin culture, and that more groups get the representation they are equally deserving of in future movies, tv shows, etc.

  18. Gisselle says:

    Thank you very much for your interesting and eye opening perspective, as an hija de padres Bolivianos I very much loved the bilingual aspects of the film and the fact that my son looks just like Miguel! We have to and will teach our son about his indigenous heritage just as my parents did. That’s our job, not Disney’s.

  19. fasterharderstronger says:

    Really nice write up! I’ve included a link to your piece in my own review of “Coco” for the website “Gathering of the Tribes”–hope you don’t mind! It can be found here

    If you’d like me to remove the link for any reason please feel free to reach out via email at tbellnyc@gmail.com

  20. Marcos Aguilar says:

    Danza Azteca, was only one response of many to the brutality of slavery, colonization and genocide. I see it like the more recent experience of the pow wow tradition in the twentieth century and its relation to the survival of and resistance to the brutality of boarding schools and forced relocation after military domination by anglo-europeans in what is now the U.S. and Canada. Danza Azteca was a way our ancestors re-imagined their relation to nature and to each other. How else ought we heal? Many urbanized ‘American Indians’ must have to face these challenges even today when due to forced relocation many can’t even qualify as ‘members’ of any single ‘tribe’ based on the racist rules of blood quantum most ‘American Indian’ “sovereign nations” in the U.S. follow.


  21. Michelle Salazar says:

    Thanks for the analysis! I find the lack of indigenous representation to be an issue in most media mainstream or otherwise.

    I did want to mention though that indigenous people are mentioned in the movie! At the end of the 10 min of credits the very last thing says somethings like “Day of the Dead has roots in indigenous cultures, please visit your local library for more information.”

    Now…. def problems here. Why wait until the very end to say this? This is severely underdeveloped in terms of information. This assumes only the library has this info because all indigenous people are gone/dead etc.

    And at the same time I was like, “wow! They actually acknowledged indigenous people!!” I guess that just highlights the lack of representation as such a tiny statement is wayyyy more than most movies do. Smh

  22. Delia says:

    I found your article to be interesting and thought provoking. I would like to see it published in Spanish, to further discuss with my husband.

    I consider myself to be first generation Mexican-America, born to a Mexican father (native of Guanajuato) and American (European: German descent) mother.

    I agree on the negation of Afro-Latino roots, but am compelled to further investigate the aspect of the White-Mexican nationalism.

  23. Darlene says:

    This piece is so good! I didn’t feel like I identified with Coco as much as other Latinx people I know, but I have reservations about Frida and it was addressed appropriately in this piece. Also, I find it is important to address the erasure of indigenous people and also the sentiment of connecting to the indigenous past while indigenous people still exists.

  24. bluetalkandlovely says:

    As someone who is from Europe, I had no idea about any of these layers. This is a fantastic article! It’s easy to see how indigenous Mexican history and present culture is left out of the history books. More people need to know about this!

  25. Diego says:

    This was a very insightful article and I think it made me more aware of the problems with the movie but I had a few questions about what you said.

    I am a Mexican-American who was raised nearby a reservation in Oregon. I have always thought that what happened in Mexico was at least better than what happened in the US because: Most of the population still has at least some of the DNA of the original people and aspects of their culture as well if not a continuation of tat culture. If someone of mixed indigenous descent here in the US started “dressing native” to reconnect or something it probably would not be considered appropriation at all. It is their heritage is it not? Also in the article you kept referring to the preferred indigenous culture to be “Aztec” but “Aztec” was never a single culture it was a military alliance. Nahua people were one of those in the alliance (and probably one of the most important). Thats kinda like saying “these people chose their NATO heritage”. As for the identifying of “Indio” via culture instead of genetics, doesn’t that undermine the more brutal parts of the colonisation if just anyone who was raised in that culture can claim it? All indigenous people have their own cultures, but they also all come from the same place:

    Just my thoughts, Im sure there are problems in their somewhere.

  26. Nunya says:

    NO movie in history has ever accurately represented ANY group of people 100%, but THIS is the film you choose to nitpick over? Really? How sad that you only care when you feel personally attacked and not when anyone else is.

  27. Mdiaz says:

    I am also indigenous – 100 % Zapotec Indian. My parents are from Oaxaca and speak Zapotec. Interestingly, I had a different reaction. I was overwhelmingly happy to see our indigenous culture portrayed in the movie (images of monte Alban in spirit world, mole, alebrijes and many more) and I also understood that the mestizo had to be represented rather an actual indigenous person, for the majority of Mexicans are mestizo.

    • mothbyte says:

      Hey! Would you be willing to speak with me a little bit about your culture/upbringing? I’m very curious to learn about Zapotec people for a story I’m writing that involves a family of Zapotec people!

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