With its film Coco, Pixar opens up the world of pre-colonial Mexican belief in the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Miguel, the main character, longs to be a musician, yet music is prohibited in his family since the day his great-great-grandfather abandoned the family for the sake of his music.
On the Day of the Dead Miguel is magically whisked into the realm of the dead as they come to collect the food offerings left on their tombs the evening of the celebration. He can see and interact with the dead, but cannot communicate with the rest of his family who are desperately searching for him. In order to get back to his world alive, Miguel must receive a blessing from a family member–yet his great-great-grandmother will only bless him on the condition that he give up music forever. Miguel refuses to renounce his music and decides to go find his long-lost great-great-grandfather to ask him for his blessing. And the quest begins.
After seeing the film (which, by the way, I very much enjoyed), the comparison with the Catholic faith immediately jumped into my mind. I couldn’t help it–it was so natural. You see, the belief in the Day of the Dead is a kind of answer of our longing to never be permanently separated from our loved ones: a true and legitimate desire. But the Communion of Saints perfectly fulfills that desire. Here are some of the more interesting points of comparison.
Those in the world of the dead can only come to our world on the Day of the Dead if their family displays their photo. If they are completely forgotten, they cease to exist in the Land of the Dead as well.
Through Baptism, we become members of God’s family–God who is Life itself and shares that Life with us. And God NEVER forgets: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
Then there’s the joy of family reunited–in Coco, however, this joy is not eternal, as eventually the dead will be forgotten on earth and will fade away. But heaven and the Communion of Saints lasts forever. They are our true family and home.
Coco reminds us that there is a world beyond the physical, something greater, and gives hope that family love cannot be destined to end with death.
Miguel sings the movie’s theme song, Remember Me, so that the dead are not forgotten and can receive life. With the Good Thief, we turn towards Life Himself and say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).