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James Bond and the guitar with a skull

Coco, the Oscar-nominated animated film about the Day of the Dead in Mexico changed the lives of the people from the Paracho village which is known for being the main manufacturer of guitars in the country. It was not the first time when the movie industry has contributed to an increased interest in Mexico.

White guitars with a black skull

Coco, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation, was the most watched film in the Mexican history. The main protagonist is Miguel Rivera, a Mexican boy who dreams of becoming a musician. He fantasizes of having the same guitar as his favorite singer – white with black detailing.

Shortly after the success of the film all eyes turned in the direction of Paracho, a small village in the state of Michoacán, where the local craftsmen have manufactured guitars since the 18th century. Most of them are exported abroad, also to the United States.

The state of Michoacán in the last years has gained serious notoriety in Mexico. Drug gangs attacked local residents, extorted protection money, stole cars and killed people. These days, a lot of people living there try to illegally cross the border with the United States. Because of this situation, the locals are all the more grateful to German Vázquez, who was chosen by the production company to design the famous guitar and, at the same time, gave publicity to the region.

Vázquez also comes from Paracho and emigrated to the United States without documents more than 25 years ago. He wanted to perform the same profession in the new country and, therefore, he can relate to Miguel, the protagonist of the film.

“He wanted to be a musician and looked for a way to become one. He fought until he achieved his goal. I think that, in this respect, I’m as fascinated by guitars as Miguelito”, says Vázquez.

He devoted a year and a half to designing the instrument. The biggest problem for him was the detailing, which does not usually appear on classic guitars because it could interfere with the acoustics. The headstock of the guitar, shaped like a skull, was made by a special machine.

Although the design of the instrument was not created in Mexico, the local authorities admit that since the premiere of the animated film, more and more tourists have been stopping by in the town.

“So far we have been selling mostly classical guitars made of natural wood, now the white guitars with black skull are the most popular”, says Alfaro Carrillo, owners of one of the workshops. His family has been in the business of producing guitars for over 40 years. He admits that he didn’t expect such interest in guitars presented in the film and that the company cannot keep up with the incoming orders.

Once upon a time in Mexico

“Advertising strategies and campaigns in the media have much less importance for the development of tourism than movies and soap operas”, argued the participants of National Tourism Forum in 2013, prompted by the example of Guanajuato, a city in central Mexico, which impresses its visitors with its colonial architecture.

The city’s colorful houses, narrow streets and secluded areas have attracted many filmmakers in the recent years. More than 80 films have already been shot in Guanajuato. “Once upon a time in Mexico: Desperado 2” starring Antonio Banderas and Johnny Depp is about a mariachi musician who wants to avenge the death of his wife and child.

Gastón Pavlovich, a Mexican screenwriter and producer is the director of a movie called Student which presents the story of a 70-year-old man who joins the university. The film was presented at a lot of film festivals in Mexico and abroad. According to the author, many viewers enjoyed the scene which portrays the Juarez theatre, located in the city center.

“The film was acclaimed by the critics and viewers. Without a doubt, this is owing to the beauty of Guanajuato”, said Pavlovich. It is possible that a similar fate awaits a city called Real de Catorce, located in the state of San Luis Potosi, which is known as “magical”. In the 19th century the mining industry developed in the area. At its peak, the city had a population of 45,000 people. Over time, the mining of silver was cut down, which eventually led to its closure. People started looking for work elsewhere, leaving the streets deserted. The Mexicans began calling this place a “ghost town”.

In Real de Catorce houses are made of stone and paved narrow streets give a great Western-like climate which quickly caught the attention of the Hollywood. The scenes for movies such as “Mexican” starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts and “SexiPistols” (Salma Hayek, Penélope Cruz) were shot here. Soon after, the untapped potential of this place was discovered by the foreigners who opened shops, restaurants and hotels for the tourists in the city center. Some of the former residents have now returned to the village and began doing side jobs as guides, renting horses or selling food and souvenirs on the street. “When there were no jobs in Real de Catorce, almost my entire family went to other cities”, says Miguel Angel. “I went to the United States as an illegal immigrant, where I worked on a construction site for two years. After returning, I started to work in Real de Catorce as a guide. My wife cleans hotels. I don’t want to go back to the US, I like what I’m doing now”, he said.

James Bond and a new tradition in Mexico

In 2015, the James Bond film “Spectre” had its debut. The opening scene shows a carnival organized on the Day of the Dead in Mexico City. People dressed up as death and giant skeletons walk the streets. In fact, the city has never hold such a parade.

During that time, the Mexicans would rather go to the graves of their loved ones where they ate, drunk and listened to music. Some prepared homemade altars dedicated to a deceased person. The youth had fun at Halloween parties with friends.

“This film was shown in 67 countries. Millions of people saw it. People started expecting that we would actually organize such a parade”, says Lourdes Bahro from the Council of Tourism Promotion in Mexico City. “We knew that a lot of foreigners and Mexicans would want to visit our city and take part in it”, she said.

The city authorities implemented the idea a year after the film was released. The “dead parade” including effigies, acrobats and dancers walked through the city center up to the main square in the old town district. More than 130,000 people saw the event and, according to a new plan, the parade is now due to happen every year. The government expects that the party on the Day of the Dead will attract more tourists to the capital.

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