During the Day of the Dead festivities, a group of Mexican and foreign visitors leave a humble house, in the heart of the Michoacán lake region, with one certainty: Mama Coco, the protagonist of the famous Pixar animated film, lived here.
María Salud Ramírez, matriarch of a family of artisans, just passed away on October 16, at the age of 109. So her family put her photo for the first time in the Day of the Dead offering, a tradition that endures in Mexico and was portrayed in the movie ‘Coco’, where an old woman identical to Doña María appeared.
Mama Salud, as she was known in Santa Fe de la Laguna, was an “independent and talkative” woman who came whenever she could to the town square, belonging to the Purépecha indigenous ethnic group. There she used to buy fresh mojarra, her favorite fish, and she would sit on the sidewalk enjoying the atmosphere, remembers Patricia Pérez, one of her granddaughters.
Pixar has always rejected the version that Doña María is ‘Coco’, claiming that the character of Mama Coco was not based on any individual and arose “solely” from the imagination of its creators. Although the granddaughter no longer wants to “get involved in that controversy”, since the premiere of the film, art and life have maintained an inexhaustible game of mirrors that has transformed the Ramírez family’s routine.
Mama Salud became, perhaps forever, Mama Coco, while her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren assumed her house as a place of pilgrimage for dozens of tourists who come each year to pay tribute to the old woman with affection and gratitude.
The house also serves as a store for paraphernalia allusive to the character, from t-shirts, cups, piggy banks, key chains and magnets, among other souvenirs, of simple manufacture sold at popular prices.
As in the final sequence of the film, this year Mama Coco is only present in the photographs that the family has placed on her wheelchair and especially on the altar that they have prepared to receive her spirit, as the popular belief assures that the Day of the Dead.
Adorned with cempasúchil bouquets and petals, in addition to numerous candles, the offering consists of your ideal dinner: a pot with beans, a case of white atole, fish dishes, the metate to prepare tortillas and a Pepsi, your favorite drink.
“There we are going to put little fish, what she cooked, white fish and mojarra (…) and roasted chilitos because she liked to roast the chilies,” adds Leticia Pérez Hernández, another of the 49-year-old granddaughters, while accommodating the belongings
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