Sunday, February 17, 2019

Where Can You Find the Land of the Dead in 'Coco'?


It's all beyond the Great (Border) Wall of America.

Never has Limbo been more beautifully realised in Pixar's loving Dia de los Muertos tribute "Coco." If anything, never have Mexicans seen so much of themselves reflected on the silver screen in such a long time.

Award-winning production designer Harley Jessup had the gumption to create the Land of the Dead, "Coco's" glowing city in the afterlife, after a trip to the central Mexican town of Guanajuato. Much like its onscreen stand-in, the historic silver mining town comes with colorful edifices that seem to go up to the sky.

Right photo via bud ellison/Flickr
"It's a city of terraced architecture that is  going up steep hillsides — very brightly colored and layered," Jessup told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's a network of tunnels at the base, and then  layers of architecture that go up the  hillside."

Mexico City denizens would easily recognize the marigold-littered halls of the purgatorial Grand Central station from the real-life Palacio de Correos de México. Built in 1907, the art deco edifice features interiors with iron railings, marble floors, and bronze-framed windows.

Via Bohao Zhao/Wikimedia Commons
The panes in the fictional Grand Central station are the CGI facsimile of the stained glass ceiling found in the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. “What we also liked is that it is literally skeletal,” Jessup told The New York Times about the building, “so we could work a lot of skeleton motifs into the bases of the pillars and the stained glass.”

Stained glass ceiling of the Gran Hotel in Mexico City. Via Harshil.Shah/Flickr
Not everything in The Land of the Dead takes after Mexico’s Spanish past. "Coco" also celebrates the country’s pre-colonial heritage with pyramids that easily evoke the archaeological digs in Teotihuacán.

The archaeological site of Teotihuacan. Via paula_mondragon
As the movie shows, marigold, or cempaxochitl in Mexican parlance, helps the departed find their way back to the world of the living due to its strong scent — one you can’t appreciate in the cinema. While an actual floating bridge of marigold is nowhere to be found IRL, they are practically omnipresent in Mexican markets from mid-October to Dia de Muertos.

Marigolds cover a cemetery arch for Day of the Dead in Tzintzuntzan, Mexico. Via Tinderbox5/Wikimedia Commons
To see them in full vigor, head off to the states of Puebla and Veracruz where fields of marigold grow in abandon. Puebla is the top producer of cempaxochitl, according to government statistics.

Building bridges instead of walls — now that’s something to remember in life as in the ever-after.

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