Maria Salud Ramirez Caballero: Woman believed to have inspired Pixar's Mama Coco dies at 109
MICHOACAN, MEXICO: Maria Salud Ramirez Caballero, the Mexican matriarch who is thought to have inspired the character of Mama Coco in the 2017 Disney and Pixar film 'Coco', died on Sunday, October 16. She was 109.
In order to find inspiration for the Rivera family, 'Coco' director and co-writer Lee Unkrich and his team reportedly spent two years in the Mexican provinces of Oaxaca and Guanajuato. The Caballero family insists that Mama Coco's appearance was based on Maria's likeness because she was photographed by a member of the production team. However, the claims have never been verified by Disney or Pixar.
Roberto Monroy, the Michoacan state of Mexico's secretary of tourism, announced her demise on Twitter. Caballero died at Santa Fe de la Laguna, where she was raised.
Monroy tweeted, "I deeply regret the death of Doña María Salud Ramírez Caballero, ‘Mamá Coco,' a tireless woman and example of life, who was the inspiration for this beloved character who went around the world."
Lamento profundamente el fallecimiento de Doña María Salud Ramírez Caballero, “Mamá Coco”, mujer incansable y ejemplo de vida, quien fuera inspiración para este amado personaje que dio la vuelta al mundo. Mis oraciones para su descanso y para que su familia encuentre resignación— ROBERTO MONROY G (@robertomonroy1) October 16, 2022
Along with Monroy, many "Coco" fans turned to Twitter to mourn her death.
One user tweeted, "I been crying all morning. bts are enlisted to the army and won't come back until 2025. i just found out MAMA COCO JUST DIED THIS MORNING. i'm going to watch coco tonight," while another tweet read, "Woke up to find out the real mama coco died," accompanied by an array of crying emojis.
A tribute read, "RIP MAMA COCO. Sad I didn’t get to meet her before she passed but 109yo is a great life." Another user tweeted, "This movie touches close to the heart because Mama Coco reminded me of my dear grandmother and this ending is so beautiful and to me is THE best Disney movie ever. RIP María, I hope one day your family gets their royalties for a beautiful movie."
RIP MAMA COCO. Sad I didn’t get to meet her before she passed but 109yo is a great life. 🕊️— TROUBLE 🐝 (@NoRegretss2) October 17, 2022
This movie touches close to the heart because Mama Coco reminded me of my dear grandmother and this ending is so beautiful and to me is THE best Disney movie ever. RIP María, I hope one day your family gets their royalties for a beautiful movie https://t.co/9cMrbsw1pY pic.twitter.com/EDONedwTzI— B͞͞r͞͞o͞͞t͞͞h͞͞a͞͞ M͞͞o͞͞n͞͞t͞͞y͞͞ (@BrothaMonty) October 17, 2022
Acknowledging the team did indeed visit Santa Fe de la Laguna during their research, Unkrich admitted on Twitter that the hamlet became "a visual inspiration" for the movie. However, he disputed the suggestion that Caballero inspired Mama Coco, insisting no one on his team had ever met her.
No. And we never met her or her family. We did visit Santa Fe de la Laguna early on in our research, and it became a visual inspiration for Santa Cecelia. But at the time we visited, our story was completely different and Mamá Coco was not yet a character in our story.— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) October 17, 2022
Later, Unkrich co-signed a letter advocating Mama Coco's representation as universal and published another tweet expressing his condolences.
I have deleted my tweet about this, and I regret engaging again. I know the truth and the family knows the truth, and I’ll leave it at that. I send my ❤️ to them. María was clearly a beautiful woman and a loving matriarch. 🇲🇽 https://t.co/LytMP72cYq— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) October 17, 2022