Even though her family relentlessly worked for official recognition, Pixar never really gave her official credit.
Maria Salud Ramirez Caballero, the inspiration for the Pixar character "Mama Coco," has died at the age of 109. According to Roberto Monroy, the state of Michoacán's secretary of tourism, she died suddenly in Santa Fe de la Laguna, the Mexican town where she was born, which is known for its beautiful pottery. Maria was a ceramic potter and is survived by her three children and grandchildren. Monroy referred to her as a "tireless woman and life model." Despite her striking resemblance to the animated character, she never received any sort of official acknowledgment for her contribution to the film "Coco." However, according to TMZ, Pixar did clarify that when researching the movie, they spoke with many local families, including Maria's.
María Salud Ramírez Caballero, mejor conocida como "Mamá Coco", falleció a sus 109 años en su natal pueblo purépecha, Santa Fe de la Laguna.— Azucena Uresti (@azucenau) October 16, 2022
Fue inspiración para la creación del personaje de la película de Disney y Pixar "Coco".
Doña María nació un 16 de septiembre de 1913 pic.twitter.com/Pzx2Op9kGg
She was popularly known as "Mama Coco" among her family and even worldwide after the release of the movie in 2017 that talked about Mexico's "Day of the Dead" traditions. Her family worked endlessly to get her official recognition after the release of the film but were never successful. Patricia Pérez Hernández, one of her grandchildren, informed the local daily El Universal that she believed her grandmother was the inspiration for Mama Coco's appearance, motions, speech pattern and other peculiarities.
She explained that they weren't looking for royalties at the time but enough money to fill her grandmother's oxygen tank every two days. Maria was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had to use oxygen tanks to breathe.
Maria told China Town TV that producers from Pixar even took her picture in the town plaza. She said, "They only came and took my picture and took it with them." She said that she was offered a lot of things but "nothing came out of it." However, her local community praised and recognized her contribution.
The general opinion of the Pixar audience acknowledged her contribution when the production house failed to do so. Her house became an attraction for tourists who came to meet her from all parts of the world.
She received honors from the municipality of Quiroga and was designated as the artisans' ambassador. Gabriela Gabriel Fabián a young potter told El Universal that after making Maria the face of the pottery community in the area, they were able to display their art to the whole world. She said at the time, "It has benefited us because many more tourists come. This town is known because of the lady's fame, they buy our artwork, everything we do, and figures of her." Patricia describes Maria as a regular Mexican grandmother leading up to her final years, "She scolds us sometimes, but sometimes loving with us and her great-grandchildren, she has been happier lately and she even jokes." Despite the struggle for recognization, Maria will forever remain the inspiration behind the beloved character in the hearts of the viewers. She leaves behind a family who will work to carry on her memory.