As many of us know, Coco is Pixar's recent release that focuses around Mexican culture- specifically on Dia de los Muertos. However, a deeper dive into Coco and its music will also bring you to another piece of Mexican folklore, The Crying Woman.
Who is this woman, you ask. Legends of La Llorona, also known as the crying woman, dates as far back as Aztec days where the goddess Cihuacoatl was said to take the form of a beautiful lady dressed in white who cries throughout the night in misery about what will happen to her children- the Aztecs- when the Spanish come. Another story, set in the 1500s, is of a woman named La Malinche who, after being betrayed by her husband/lover, killed her twin baby boys and dropped their bodies in a lake- her ghost is then seen by the lake weeping and wailing for her children around this lake. Multiple stories arise throughout Latin culture about a woman who was betrayed in some way by her husband and then kills her children as revenge- she is said to be La Llorona, coming back to cry and wail about what she had done in life and what was done to her. Many of these stories can be found here discussing the legends and following it through the years.
But how does such a graphic and sad legend tie into a Pixar film- that's clearly the question right? Well, first, I have to say that there will obviously be Coco spoilers- so go see the film first then come back to me. Now, we need to look at the character who sings this song in the movie- Mama Imelda. She is the matriarch of Miguel's family, who, we learn at the beginning of the film, was betrayed by her husband due to his love of music- he leaves her and their young daughter to pursue a musical career. Mama Imelda then, since this is a Pixar film- she cannot kill anyone of course, must "kill" music by cutting it out of her life, as well as the rest of her family's life. This sacrifice is, at first, played off as a matter of fact- she had to do this since it was music that tore her family apart and now, to move on, she would put music aside forever. We only learn later in the film how Mama Imelda did, in fact, love music. The sacrifice of cutting this out of her life must have been similar to the legends of La Llorona sacrificing her own children as a means of revenge for her husband's betrayal. But, just as the legend indicates, the loss of music/children clearly impacts Mama Imelda/La Llorona to the extent that she cannot be completely at peace with her decision.