Death of Woman Who Allegedly Inspired ‘Mamá Coco’ is Trending – & There’s More to the Story

Lead Photo: Disney
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There hasn’t been an animated character who has pulled at our heartstrings quite like Mamá Coco did in the 2017 Disney/Pixar film Coco. She is remembered as the kind and loving matriarch who brought audiences to tears when she sang “Remember Me” with her great-grandson Miguel at the end of the movie.

After the film premiered five years ago, fans wondered if Mamá Coco was inspired by anyone in real life. One family in Michoacán, Mexico, claimed that their great-grandmother, María Salud Ramírez Caballero, was the inspiration for the character. On Sunday (October 16) Caballero died at the age of 109.

Caballero was known as Mamá Coco by everyone in her area. She looked exactly like the character with her white hair in braids and a face covered in wrinkles that signified her long life. There is even a sign on her home that tells curious people passing by that Mamá Coco lives in the house.

Over the years, Caballero’s family wished Disney would give her the credit they said she deserved. “Recognize the image of my grandmother,” Leticia Perez, Caballero’s granddaughter said during an interview in 2018. “That she’s Mamá Coco. And not to be saying it’s not her.”

That’s exactly what Coco director Lee Unkrich said in 2018 when Caballero’s story went viral on social media. Unkrich tweeted a response in an attempt to clear things up. “This is not a true story,” he wrote. “The character of Mamá Coco was not based upon any real person we met in our travels. She sprang solely from our imagination.”

In 2018, Caballero said she remembers movie producers meeting her in the town plaza. “They offered me so many things, but nothing came of it,” she said. “They only came and took my picture.”

Whether Caballero was the real Mamá Coco will be left up for debate, but her story is likely to live on now that she’s crossed over her own marigold bridge.