Representation Matters and ‘Coco’ Reminds Us Why

The love affair with my Mexican culture is a complicated one; while I was brought up with the intention of being in love with it, I constantly found myself wishing my ethnicity was a different one. I vividly remember despising my brown skin; I searched my favorite TV shows (both Mexican and American) for people that looked like me and I never found anyone. Even in my favorite Telenovelas, the darker-skinned actresses were consistently the maids or the “Nana’s”. Some of my saddest childhood memories involve me in the shower attempting to scrub away the dark skin. I’ve always been surrounded by friends who were lighter than me and who constantly made comments about it so my love affair with myself is also a complicated one.

If I allow myself to be completely honest, it wasn’t until about two years ago that I started to truly embrace my culture. Now? Well, I’m obsessed with my effervescent Mexican culture and I wouldn’t trade my beautiful brown skin for the world. I now have two nephews and one niece and I make sure to repeat over and over and over again how beautiful their brown skin is. I appreciate that they are growing up in a time where they can turn the channel and find a character on Television that looks like them. Pixar has gone one step further and they’ve given us an entire movie that represents our Mexican culture.

On Thanksgiving Day I gathered the entire Perez Family (minus my Father who isn’t a fan of movie theaters) and we made our way to Downtown Disney to watch Coco. The experience was intended for my two nephews but I knew it would be special for all of us to experience the film together. I sat in that movie theatre, in the middle of my two nephews, with tears in my eyes the entire time as their eyes lit up with each scene displayed in front of them. Spoiler alert: the tears eventually fell from my eyes and refused to stop until the lights came back on in the theater.

Coco is a beautiful love letter to Mexico. It is sincere and genuine in its depiction of the Mexican culture and what Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) truly means. The storyline was perfectly paced, the jokes were appropriately placed and the film was visually stunning. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know that my true love is music and this movie did not disappoint in this department. The musical score added to every scene and the original music was reminiscent of the Mexican music I grew up listening to. Finding out that they chose Marco Antonio Solis for the Spanish version of “Remember Me” (“Recuerdame”) was a wonderful surprise, being that his music is often played in my car.

My family dynamic is on the loving, but dysfunctional side. Yet, even through our most dysfunctional moments, the love radiates through the house like a force that we cannot ignore. We can’t help but always come back to each other and Coco was a needed reminder of this. The movie depicted the importance of where you come from while reinforcing the power in believing in yourself. Pixar has mastered the art of playing with your heartstrings and they played the most emotional song with mine. The tears felt never-ending and so did the happiness in my heart. I fear that I’ve failed to truly express the magical experience that was seeing myself represented in a beautiful way on the big screen but I’m hoping that my words are enough to convince you that this movie is worth watching.

Sophia (1 and a half, niece) will grow up knowing that her first movie theater experience was this extraordinary celebration of her culture. Eddie (4, nephew) came home with the Mexican grito and we’ve been hearing it throughout the house all weekend. Jayden (7, nephew) came home with a love for music and an official request for a guitar. My family is better after watching Coco and yours will be too.

Though admittedly, I could have done without the 21-minute-long Frozen short before the movie; Coco was an exceptional journey that I would take over and over again.

 

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