“Coco” is a cultural phenomenon that put Mexican culture in the front seat of the American consciousness. It is the highest grossing film in Mexico’s box office history and it has been nominated for a couple of Oscars. The story dives deep into the world of Día de los Muertos through Miguel, an aspiring young musician, when he enters the underworld in search for his family. It was recently reported that there was an alternative opening to the movie that explains, through song, the holiday that many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans hold dear.
Here’s the alternate “Coco” opening you never got to see in theaters.
Co-directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina introduce the clip in the video addressing the audience directly.
“This next scene is the old opening of the film. This was in for a very long time, a number of years before we changed it,” co-director Molina says. “What it is is, it’s a little musical number to introduce you to the world of ‘Coco.'”
The clip starts sad and grey as one would expect when talking about death, but that doesn’t last long.
The song turns quick to an upbeat, party-themed song that would get anybody moving. It is accompanied with bright colors and lights because Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life and death after all.
There is a moment where the song explains the different food traditionally used to honor your loved ones.
Clearly, this intro is amazing but you get no idea about the real world of Coco and the family you are going to be connected with. This intro would have been beautiful to watch but it is nice that we get to learn about the family in the intro they did choose for the theater release.
It’s been almost 70 years since the death of beloved artist and activist Frida Kahlo, who passed away in 1954 at just 47 years old. She remains to this day one of the world’s most famous and loved artists.
In fact, her former home is now a museum and one of Mexico’s most visited attractions. But after all these years is it possible that her spirit walks the Earth and is paying visits to those who venture inside her home?
That’s the rumor at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, which is based in Casa Azul, the blue-walled home that Kahlo shared with her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
There are persistent rumors about a ghostly presence at Casa Azul, Kahlo’s former home.
Mexico City’s Casa Azul – the former home and now museum of Frida Kahlo – is one of the city’s top destinations for visitors. Fans of the artist from around the world are drawn to the site to pay honor or tribute to one of the world’s most popular artists.
Kahlo meant so much to so many people that it makes sense people are now sharing stories of their unusually encounters while inside the museum.
A docent (who’s worked at the museum for 15 years) told me a Frida Kahlo ghost is rumored to wander the rooms of Casa Azul. While another similar testimonial was shared in a book by Ariana Davis, What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly, a new life-advice book that channels the artist’s fearless spirit, boundless creativity, and tireless embrace of self-expression.
“Curators like to say that, sometimes, Frida returns to her old home after dark; her shape has been seen filling out corsets and skirts as if she’s borrowing her old clothing for the night,” Davis writes.
And these aren’t the only such tales of a possible ghost in the museum.
In an undated article published by the California website Southbay, Marlene Strang writes that “the museum’s director confided to us that on occasion, she has heard the sound of labored footsteps emanating from Frida’s office in the basement when no one was there. She also mentioned witnessing supernatural phenomena, such as the appearance of wet footprints on the grounds seemingly out of nowhere, but was quick to point out that her sense of Frida’s presence is benign, playful, and ever welcome.”
Even before these recent stories, there were long rumors surrounding the artist’s death.
One spooky story has long made the rounds surrounding the circumstances of Kahlo’s cremation. The long-standing legend has it that while her corpse was being cremated, Kahlo sat straight up amid the head and appeared to smile as her hair caught fire, creating a corona of flames around her head.
Although spooky, many are excited at the prospect of encountering Kahlo’s alleged ghost.
Because her art was so deeply personal, it’s no wonder that her fans feel so closely connected to Kahlo that they’d welcome the chance to encounter her ghost. One Kahlo expert even had some advice as to how you might do just that.
“Frida is everywhere,” according to Mary-Anne Martin, who specializes in Mexican and Latin American art. “If you want to see her on the Day of the Dead you should leave her some good tequila. She’ll like that.”
But Frida’s Casa Azul isn’t the only allegedly haunted site in the city more the country.
Whether it’s terrifying tales of weeping murder victims or whispering mummies, Mexico has plenty to offer visitors in search of the macabre. In Mexico City near Xochimilco, you’ll find the now Instagram-famous Isla de Las Muñecas. Discolored plastic dolls hang from the branches of the island’s trees, many with missing heads or limbs and it’s considered to be one of the city’s most haunted places.
Also in Mexico City, the Posada del Sol, is largely thought to be haunted. One of the underground chambers of the hotel is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who was found dead in the building. The site is not open to the public but those who have ventured into the hotel often leave gifts of candy at an altar in order to avoid her curse.
But not all of the city’s haunted haunts are scary. Many locals believe that the Tasqueña station, on the city’s metro, is the spookiest spot. An elderly man reportedly haunts solo commuters waiting on the platform. But fear not – the ghost is said to be friendly. It is said that the man died during an assault at the station and is looking to protect passengers from a similar fate.
Every year around this time, many Latino families setup their ofrendas and set out pictures and objects belonging to their lost loved ones – in celebration of Día de Muertos.
However, this year’s celebrations are looking very different thanks to the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Not only have many families recently lost loved ones to the virus, they’re also struggling with ways to pay for the often extravagant celebrations as so many are left without work and income. Others are too afraid to gather with their families for fear that they may spread the virus to others. Meanwhile, in some cities, cemeteries (where many of the celebrations take place) have been closed to the public to avoid further contagion risk.
So, to help bridge that divide some communities are finding new and creative ways to help celebrate their lost loved ones amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
A mobile ofrenda will visit some of LA’s neighborhoods most affected by the pandemic.
Día de Muertos takes on a special meaning this year as a deadly pandemic continues to disproportionately affect Latino communities. And although traditional celebrations and events have been canceled, Latino Health Access (a nonprofit that advocates for the health of the local Latino community) plans to bring the celebration to the homes of those most impacted by the virus in Orange County to honor the deceased.
“Many of the events have been canceled, but we still want to honor those people who have passed away this year because of COVID,” Karen Sarabia, program associate for the Latino Health Access COVID-19 response team, told the LA Times.
The group along with a few local artists are converting a 28-foot flatbed truck into the altar, much like a float in the Rose Parade. Residents will be able to take photos with the altar. They can also provide offerings or write down the names of their loved ones and place them on the altar to honor the deceased.
Ofrendas like this one are a central part of Día de Muertos celebrations.
Giovanni Vazquez, a local artist from Anaheim helping to construct the altar, spoke to the LA Times about the significance of the Day of the Dead.
“I think it’s important because … this is how we remember all the dead and how we also celebrate the living,” Vazquez said, “This is how we remember that we’re going to go too. No matter which pandemic, no matter what cause, we are also going to die too.”
He continued: “We would like to share the art and try to make people think that death is also colorful and something we can celebrate … Just being thankful that we met the people in our life, even though they have passed, we remember them.”
According to the group, the ofrenda will have the basic components of classical altars in Mexico, where the tradition of Día de Muertos originated. There will be candles, thousands of paper flowers, sugar skulls and many offerings.
There will be a prominent large skull and several smaller skulls with butterfly wings. Vazquez said those represent “the sacred migration of the living.” Monarch butterflies, which migrate to Mexico in November, are important symbols of Day of the Dead.
The ofrenda and campaign is more important than ever as Latinos and other minority communities continue to suffer the worst effects of the pandemic.
Latino Health Access is organizing the event as part of the Latino Health Equity Initiative. Orange County launched the program in June in partnership with Latino Health Access after data revealed that the Latino community, particularly in Anaheim and Santa Ana, has taken the brunt of the pandemic in Orange County.
The Los Angeles Times reported in late September that while Latinos make up 39% of the state’s population, they account for 61% of the state’s cases and 49% of COVID-19 deaths.
Anaheim is 56% Latino and Santa Ana is 77%. The cities account for about 36% of the county’s COVID-19 cases.
Through the initiative, Latino Health Access is offering testing, outreach, education and referral services.
California is not alone as cities from El Paso to Chicago create their own Día de Muertos celebrations to commemorate Covid-19 victims.
At the Mexican National Art Museum in Chicago, the museum has launched it’s exhibit memorializing Latinos who have died of the virus. “Sólo un Poco Aquí: Day of the Dead” honors people who have died from COVID-19 in Chicago and globally, said Antonio Parazan, director of education at the museum.
The exhibit is “paying tribute and remembering … the numerous individuals from our community … during this terrible pandemic,” he said.
“We’ve had some of the highest number of infections … and a high number of deaths, as well,” Parazan said, noting Latino neighborhoods in Chicago have been among the hardest hit by coronavirus.
Even in Mexico – which has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries – officials are thinking of ways to merge traditional Día de Muertos celebrations with remembrances of Covid-19 victims.
In the town of Xalapa, families are taking photos with a giant Catrina, which is one fo the most iconic symbols of the holiday. And in Mexico City, the cities annual parade is going digital and will feature a special commemoration for Covid-19 victims.