One of the first thoughts I had while watching all of the illuminating visuals in Pixar’s Coco was I cannot wait for Disney to reimagine these locations inside a Disneyland theme park. But I quickly realized that those locations are actually real. The film is inspired by Mexico and our customs, after all. While the design for the world of the afterlife inside the film was brilliantly created by Pixar’s team, production designer Harley Jessup explains they still needed to be accurate to Mexico and its culture.
“We felt a huge responsibility to the people of Mexico to get it right,” Jessup told Variety. “We wanted them to recognize details that the rest of the world might not even notice.”
For anyone wanting to escape to a place where Mexican culture thrives and Day of the Dead exists year round, Mexico City has that unique spark always. Here’s a guide on how to take in Mexico City through the eyes of Miguel and Coco.
Does that ceiling look familiar? Sure looks like the Grand Central Station where Miguel gets whisked away into the Land of the Dead. But before you step inside this place looking to buy a train ticket, this is actually a hotel! Located on the famous Zócalo Plaza, Gran Hotel Ciudad de México is the ideal location for travelers looking to explore the rich cultural and historical center of Mexico City. With stunning architecture, beautifully appointed rooms and luxury services and amenities, travelers can enjoy all that Mexico City has to offer at Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. Hotel rooms start at about $130 a night.
One of the cutest parts in Coco is when Miguel comes face to face with the spirit of Frida Kahlo. His quest to find his grandfather was so palpable that Frida’s presence didn’t faze him one bit. Her performance art in the movie, however, was another level of spectacular. There’s no other way to immerse yourself with Frida’s spirt and her art than by visiting her home La Casa Azul, which functions as a museum. The museum houses several pieces of artwork as well as many of the artist’s personal possessions, including clothing, jewelry and collections of folk art that once belonged to Frida and her husband, famed Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. Admission to the museum is roughly 20 pesos for foreigners.
To really understand what Mexican culture is all about, look no further than Plaza Garibaldi. Here you can take in traditional Mexican marichi music, food, and dance. The entire ambiance is lively and filled with Mexican pride. Located in the heart of Mexico City, the famed plaza is one of the most visited squares in the country. Home to Mexico City’s serenading mariachi, visitors can stop by the plaza at night and request a special performance.
Experience the real magic of Day of the Dead at San Andrés Mixquic, which looks a lot like the cemetery in the film. Visitors will find one of the most traditional Day of the Dead events in the city at San Andrés Mixquic. Here, Mexicans pay homage to “the lord and lady of the underworld,” view the decoration of family burial plots, observe candlelight rituals, enjoy street festivals and attend concerts at the Theatre and Cultural House of Mixquic.
The character of Ernesto de la Cruz sure resembles the iconic Mexican movie star Pedro Infante (who’s last name was also Cruz). The tomb Miguel enters in Coco is based on Pedro Infante’s tomb in Mexico City’s Panteon Jardín. Ever since Infante’s death in 1957, crowds will gather to his tomb every April on the anniversary of his death.
Mexican Street food
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Some in Mexico City's Condesa neighborhood opt to sweat out their hangovers with a morning run, others prefer to soak it up with a tantalizing torta de chilaquiles. We recommend rewarding the former with the latter. #tortadechilaquiles #mexicocitystreetfood #culinarybackstreets
In the film, we see people eating street food, which includes elote (Mexican street corn with mayo, cotija cheese, and chili powder). Visit one of Mexico City’s traditional food markets like Mercado de Coyoacán or Mercado de San Juan and in street food stalls across the city to try this delicacy, and a whole lot more.
The town of Santa Cecilia, which is where the film takes place, resembles so many wonderful villages in Mexico. But on a personal note, I should say that the town of Jalcocotan, in the state of Nayarit (which is where my family is from), looks almost identical to that of Santa Cecilia. Here you will find a plaza with a gazebo (just like in the movie); lots of street food, music, and a beautiful church, and a cemetery atop a hill that overlooks the town. This village is truly amazing.