Ernesto De La Cruz…Is Coco’s Infamous Singing Superstar For Real?

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Ernesto de la Cruz in the Coco movie with Miguel.

Ernesto De La Cruz stole my heart the first time I saw his big, sexy, latino, animated self in Pixar and Disney’s movie, Coco. I was preparing to move back to México from Texas when I saw the trailer for this cinematic masterpiece about my adopted homeland.

The bright-eyed boy Miguel, his dog Dante with his tongue hanging out and the sounds of mariachi music made me look VERY forward to seeing the show with my nephew (great excuse to watch a kid’s film)!

Sweet baby Jesus!! That music and scenery gave me chills! To the point of nearly dropping everything and moving to México that very second. If the trailer was that good, I couldn’t wait to see the fucking movie. “The music is in me!”

Disney and Pixar present…Miguel and Dante!

Coco was released in the US on November 22nd, 2017…four months before I was moving back to México. I’m continually looking for inspiration to build the TexMex Fun Stuff brand and to help me refine my product offerings in the US. As luck would have it, the timing of this movie was equally as magical.

For those of you reading this who have yet to see Coco, from the bottom of my corazón…please stop reading this post and go stream it right now! THEN let me know your thoughts via comments here or on our FaceBook page!

Ernesto de la Cruz in the Coco movie with Miguel.
Miguel in the Land of the Dead with his barrel-chested, assumed Great-Great-Grandfather, Ernesto De La Cruz! | Photo:

“When life gets me down, I play my guitar. The rest of the world may follow the rules, but I have to follow my heart” – Ernesto De La Cruz

Quick breakdown: The story follows a very young aspiring musician, Miguel, who is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead and where he must find his deceased, musical genius great-great-grandfather to help him return to his family among the Living WHILE reversing his family’s ban on music AND within a limited time to escape before he disappears! Heavy drama! Massive action! Dead people!

After living in México for 5 years previously, I felt that the movie encapsulated everything colorful, cultural and mystic about México…the customs, food, sounds, family traditions, street dogs, papel picado flags, piñatas, music and the Day of the Dead (blog post on that in October)!

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Attention to the finest details throughout the movie makes me want to watch it over and over to catch gems that I missed. I mean seriously, check this cute photo of Miguel teaching himself to play the guitar by watching Ernesto De La Cruz movies! The skull head of that guitar is straight outta Day of the Dead. Chinga!

Miquel Rivera in Coco
Look at those big sweet eyes! Miguel Rivera learning to play the guitar | Photo: Vix

So who is Miguel’s great-great-grandfather who must save the day? None other than the dearly departed, world-renowned, muy famoso, Ernesto De La Cruz…or is it? EDLC (as I will call him) was from Miguel’s hometown and had been a very famous singer, musician and actor who starred in many “Charro” films. Sadly, EDLC was crushed to death by a giant bell at a very early age. Yes, a giant fucking bell. Miguel admires his music and emulates him in secret (ancestral ban on music-long story).

I’m still a bit behind when it comes to Mexican musicians, dead or alive, but I’m trying to get my shit together. I was wondering throughout the movie, “Is Ernesto De La Cruz based on a real Mexican icon or just a made up character from the genius minds of the Pixar people?” EDLC was larger than life (even in death) like Elvis and Frank Sinatra. Plus, he rocks the feathery smooth voice like a mariachi boss so I figured he had to be real. Right?

“For even if I’m far away, I hold you in my heart / I sing a secret song to you, each night we are apart.”  – “Remember Me” -Best Original Song from Coco

Doing a Google Search for ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz…’ comes up with the auto suggestions of: ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz real’, ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz based on Elvis’, ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz a father’ and ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz based on Vicente Fernandez.’

I thought, “Screw Google. I’m gonna research the real-life person who played the animated character, Benjamin Bratt to see who his muse was for this character!” I have always felt is super hot, so why the hell not?!

Benjamin Bratt, in all of his hotness, nailed the role of Ernesto De La Cruz

Bratt relied on his roots as a Peruvian-American to embody this macho Mexican singing icon. His mother, Eldy, was a nurse and activist (badass) from Lima, Peru and was a member of the indigenous Quechua tribe. His father, Peter Bratt Sr., was an American sheet metal worker whose father, George Cleveland Bratt, was a Broadway actor. So there’s the connection – Like grandfather, like grandson!

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To prepare for the role of La Cruz, Bratt studied the “Charro” films from the ‘Golden Era of Mexican Cinema’. From these he drew from 3 different and incredibly talented Ranchera singers/actors that were handsome, suave and charismatic. Together these men gave him the template to portray Ernesto De La Cruz. Without any prior singing experience, Bratt voiced the character and sang the Oscar winning title song of the movie, “Remember Me”. #impressive #hotandtalented

Benjamin Bratt singing “Remember Me” | Credit: DisneyMusicVEVO

I’m still trying to figure out the subtle differences between Ranchera Music and Mariachi Music, but in any case, they both involve big sombreros, booming voices and costumes that are works of art. 100% Bad Ass-ery! To prove it, see my post on Mariachis here. So when I looked up the difference between Ranchera and Mariachi music styles/genres/what have you… had this to say…

As nouns the difference between Mariachi and Ranchera is that Mariachi is a traditional form of Mexican music, either sung or purely instrumental while ranchera is a traditional Mexican song performed solo with a guitar. 

Other sources say that Ranchera is one form of Mariachi. It’s a little confusing, but both were represented PLENTY during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema from the 1930s to the 1950s. This genre of movies… “Charro“…were extremely popular. These films featured movie stars such as Tito GuízarJorge NegreteJosé Alfredo Jiménez and Pedro Infante, who would often sing Mariachi songs to their leading ladies.

Drum roll please…so who were those 3 actors/singers that Mr. Bratt embodied? CHECK IT!!!

1. Pedro Infante, hailed as one of the greatest actors of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.

Pedro Infante, quintessential Mexican idol | Photo: México Desconocido

Pedro Infante is considered to be one of the best Ranchera Singers and idols throughout México and Latin America. His full name was Pedro Infante CRUZ. #NotSoSubtle

What I like about him is that he was always surrounded by mariachis in his movies and was constantly singing, drunk and on the verge of breaking down and crying. Like me on any given day of the week. I make a fraction less noise, but I certainly draw the same size crowds. #AttentionSeekingBehavior

Ole Pedro recorded over 350 songs and starred in over 60 films, 30 of which with his brother, Ángel Infante. His most critically acclaimed movie, “Tizoc” won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1958. The Golden Globe can be seen at the Pedro Infante museum on a tiny island called Isla Arena in Campeche, México. #BeenThere

#Proof …Actually I come to find out there is another museum in México City AND in Mazatlan! | Photo: Melody McNiece

Pedro also had a fascination with aviation and had converted a Bomber war plane into a cargo plane in San Diego. He was learning to be a pilot and was co-piloting this plane when the engine failed shortly after takeoff in my adopted hometown of Mérida, Yucatan. The plane was headed to México City, but crashed 5 minutes after taking off and he died at the age of 39 – April 15th, 1957. Sad day in México.

BUT some people think his death was faked since his body was “burned beyond all recognition” in the crash. Authorities were never able to positively identify his remains and adding to this mystery, a man was spotted in Veracruz in the 1980’s that went by the name Antonio Pedro who closely resembled Infante. Fans wanted to believe conspiracy theories that Infante was still alive, however a bracelet of Pedro’s was found near the crash sight which more or less settled that. #Asgoodasdead

2. Jorge Negrete, Opera Singer, Actor and Military Veteran

Jorge Negrete, “The Singing Charro” | Photo: Inicio – Más México

Jorge Negrete was born in one of my favorite cities in México and which many scenes in Coco strongly resemble…Guanajuato City, Guanajuato. The papel picado draped above the winding streets and colorful callejones in the make believe cities of Santa Cecilia and Land of the Dead is a beautiful intersection of animated nostalgia and this real-life city full of Mexican pageantry. #Guanajuato

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Negrete was a brilliant, but rebellious teenager which caused his father to enroll him in El Colegio Militar, a military academy, where (of all freaking things) he fell in love with music. Negrete graduated from the academy with a developed gallant presence that served him well as a leading man in films and a booming star on stage.

As fabulous as he was militarily speaking, he LOVED singing and had an astounding voice. So when he met José Pierson, a prestigious singing professor, he started seriously studying music. Pierson became fascinated with Negrete’s voice and got him on the radio. He also helped Negrete develop his talent for Opera which led him to become well known in the United States. He went on to star in over 40 films from 1937 to 1953 and helped found the Mexican Actors Association.

Infante and Negrete in the first and last film they did together titled, “Dos Tipos de Cuidado” 1953 | Photo: El Universal

Randomly, Negrete died at CEDARS-SINAÍ Hospital in 1953 at the age of 42 while on a business trip in LA, CA from complications of cirrhosis. There was a faux public rivalry between Negrete and Infante since their careers paralleled, but privately they were close friends right up to Negrete’s death. Some historians say that Negrete’s death actually helped Infante’s career since he was no longer in Negrete’s shadow. Both men died very young and in their prime…kinda like EDLC!

“Hey Negrete, Infante! Want to see my great-great grandson?” | Photo: Words of the Whirl Wind

MOVIE SPOILER ALERT***Both Infante and Negrete make brief dead cameos in Coco when Ernesto De La Cruz comes up to talk with them at his party in the Land of the Dead.***

3. Vicente Fernández, the King of Ranchera Music

Vicente Fernandez Ranchera singer.
Vicente belting it out! #sombrero | Photo: Sony Music México

Vicente Fernández, nicknamed “El Rey de la Música Ranchera” (The King of Ranchera Music) is a retired actor, singer and movie producer. He grew up in Guadalajara, Jalisco and was inspired to be a singer while watching Pedro Infante movies as a young boy. #parallels

“When I was 6 or 7, I would go see Pedro Infante’s movies, and I would tell my mother, ‘When I grow up, I’ll be like him.'” – Vicente Fernández

He went on to record over 50 albums and would always perform wearing a traditional Mexican charro suit, which of course included a massive felt sombrero. He also contributed to over 30 films between 1965 and 2016. He retired from performing live in 2016, but definitely went out in style. #Notdeadjustretired

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To a sold out crowd at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium in April, 2016 he stopped his concert to address the then-US presidential candidate…

“There’s a U.S. presidential candidate that’s saying a lot of ugly things about Mexicans. The day I come across him, I’m going to spit in his face! I’m going to tell him to go fuck himself. I’m going to tell him everything no one has ever told him in his damn life.” – Vicente Fernández

BOOM. Not sure if they have had a face-off yet, but there’s time.

Vicente’s 51 year career has earned him 3 Grammy Awards, 8 Latin Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and he has sold over 50 million records worldwide. That makes him one of the top-selling Mexican artists of all time. Google is backing us up here…

Greatest Ranchera Musicians

Felicidaes y gracias to Benjamin Bratt for channeling the heart and soul of Mexican music into Ernesto De La Cruz! It is clear in his performance that he used the musical and personality stylings of these 3 icons and in the process created another real Mexican icon…EDLC! VIVA MÉXICO!!!

Coco to date has grossed over $807 million making it the 15th highest grossing animated film ever made and was the first feature film with an all Latino cast. It was originally titled Day of the Dead, but was changed to Coco, which is the name of Miguel’s grandmother in the movie. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and one for…you guessed it…Best Original Song, “Remember Me”.

Coco 2: Return To the Land Of the Living – Slated to hit theaters in the US October/November 2020!! Olé! #NoSpoilersHere

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Coco inspired papel picado flags.

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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What’s the Deal with these Badass Mariachis?

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The badass all-female mariachi band Flor De Toloache.

Mariachis are a combo of Western movie outlaws, Mexican folklore and a little bit of rock and roll with polka and waltz mixed in. These musicians are always in groups of 3-10 and dressed up in emblazoned costumes ready to kick ass and look and sound FABULOUS doing it. You know, like Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander?! #thethreeamigos!

“IN-FAMOUS! That means ‘More than Famous!'” I Photo credit: HBO and Orion Films

The first time I was introduced to the concept of mariachis was the 1986 movie, ‘¡Three Amigos!’ and I’ve never been the same. Freakin’ Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short in their matching charro outfits, huge sombreros and musical mastery had me laughing and singing along wondering where the hell the writers got the idea from. “MY little buttercup, has the sweetest smile…..”

OK, so they were more of a comical crime fighting team than a true mariachi band, but the classic scene at El Guapo’s birthday was performed by a group of real mariachis that kill it! Aayayayayayayay!

They’re not the best looking group of musical outlaws, but their sound is perfect!

This scene (as well as “Blue Shadows on the Trail”) prompted me to check out good old Wikipedia for more info on these classical Mexican musicians. I learned that…

‘Mariachi’ is a style of music and musical group performance that dates back to at least the 18th century, evolving over time in the countryside of various regions of western Mexico. It has a distinctive instrumentation, performance and singing style and of course, clothing. To say the least.

Armed with trumpets, violins, cellos, guitars, crazy high voices and charro suits, these bands are torn from the pages of Mexican history books, turning any event into a raging Mexican fiesta. As a matter of fact, in 2011 UNESCO recognized mariachi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The listing cites that: “Mariachi music transmits values of respect for the natural heritage of the regions of Mexico and local history in the Spanish language and the different Indian languages of Western Mexico.” And you don’t dick with UNESCO.

A Mexican mariachi band dressed in traditional charro costume perform in front of the Santo Domingo de Guzman Church November 5, 2013 in Oaxaca, Mexico. | Photo paid for in full 🙂

The term ‘Mariachi band’ is also a redundant term for a Mariachi because the word ‘Mariachi’ itself in Spanish implies a group of musicians playing Mariachi music. The music originated in center-West-ish Mexico. Most claims for its origin lie in the state of Jalisco but neighboring states of Colima, Nayarit, and Michoacán have also claimed it. However, by the late 19th century, the music was firmly centered in Jalisco.

And guess where I was now living?! YEP. In the birth canal of Mariachi-dom…Jalisco, Mexico. Time to start tracking down some bands and getting some answers to the question…How did this musical genre get to be so badass? When you hear it…all you can think of is Mexican westerns and Cinco de Mayo parties. I stepped out my front door and started searching…

Hanging out in the first natural place to look. I Photo credit: TexMex Fun Stuff

Clearly my first stop was the Plaza De Los Mariachis in Guadalajara, which is a pedestrian-only plaza in the historic center. This plaza has over 100 years of tradition, but was officially dedicated to Mariachis in 1962 by the then President of México, Adolfo López Mateos. The plaza got a second resurgence in 2009 when Gustavo Ruiz Velasco Nuño invested $7 million pesos (about $350,000 USD) to revitalize the facades, arches and the colonial homes facing the plaza.

Allison Nevins boss lady at TexMex Fun Stuff in the Plaza de los Mariachis.
Caption Not Needed | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Today, these former homes have been converted into restaurants, musical supply stores and clothing/accessories shops for mariachis to buy their unmistakable costume gear. There’s even a tequila and “tequila paraphernalia” store which is where I I presume they stock up and where I certainly stocked up for later.

One thing that I didn’t find on this Sunday in the plaza were actual mariachis playing music. Weird right? Maybe Sundays are their day to drink tequila and cerveza and spend time with their families? Oh well. The plaza was adorned with colorful papel picado flags decorating the sky so I was okay listening to them flutter in the breeze instead. Plus, I had tequila so it was going to be a Sunday Funday with or without mariachis!

Allison Nevins in the Plaza De Los Mariachis in Jalisco. v2
Super cool shot in the plaza taken with my hubby’s GoPro, yo. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

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My next research stop was none other than the town of Tequila, Jalisco – the birth canal of tequila. It’s only a one hour car drive or a 2 hour train from Guadalajara, so why the hell not. Two great tastes that taste great together! I needed to interview an insider and if there weren’t any inside the Plaza of Mariachis for God’s sake, I figured there HAD to be some in Tequila!

I wasn’t wrong (as per usual ;). Here is what I discovered as I stepped off of the Jose Cuervo Express train…or as I like to call it, “Allison decides to drink booze before 9am because it’s all inclusive”:

Forgive my throaty drunk voice. It’s not sexy and it WAS trouble.

IMMEDIATELY as we stepped off the train, these dudes started playing. And playing hard. I was already wasted as you could probably tell from the video so I wasn’t in interview mode at the time. I decided to just record and commentate instead.

This mariachi band’s secret weapon were the two adorable boys in the front. I don’t even like kids (as I mention in the video), but I was ready to take them both home if they promised to never ever talk and only play mariachi music. Instead of kidnapping them, I opted for the Jose Cuervo distillery tour because I was getting thirsty. Again.

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My day in Tequila went something like this….Tequila, mariachis and singing, Jose Cuervo distillery tour and singing, super filthy cantina and singing. And then back to Jose Cuervo’s agave field with dancing and more singing. I was thinking that what these mariachi bands really needed was a female singer (aka me), but what I discovered next was even better…

(After waking up from day drinking in Tequila) I continued my quest to discover how mariachis became synonymous with pretty much all fun things Mexican. In my mind, I’ve always pictured mariachis as these hombres with cool mustaches, machismo costumes and these booming voices projecting Mexican folk songs to party goers. My mind was blown when I discovered an article from the NY Times from 2013 titled, “An All-Female Band, Making Its Way in the World of Mariachi.” Holy fuck, GIRL POWER MARIACHIS!!

“There’s something about putting on a mariachi suit that makes you feel like a badass.” – Mireya Ramos, Founder Mariachi Flor De Toloache

All-female badass mariach band.
Como se dice ‘BAD ASSES’ en Español? | Photo:

The New York-based, GRAMMY award winning and all-female mariachi band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, was founded by Mireya Ramos in 2008 as a way for women to join forces in a safe environment and create and perform mariachi music. They have gone on to win the Latin Grammy Award for Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album and are the most diverse mariachi group in the world. The members hail from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Australia, Columbia, Germany, Italy and the United States!

Although only one of these ladies is Mexican, these worldwide badasses took a musical genre that for generations had been steeped in Mexican machismo and owned it as a path to empowerment, diversity, strength and fame. Y’all know I dig that. #TheFutureIsFemale

Their most recent single was released on Valentines Day, 2019. Besos De Mezcal – ‘Kisses of Mezcal’ was produced by Camilo Lara, who produced all of the music for Pixar’s “Coco” (and I do love me some Coco!).

Mariachi Plaza in Santa Cecilia where Miguel gets advice from a REAL Mariachi! | Photo: Disney’s Pixar Studios

So basically, after all that tequila and web surfing I didn’t get a whole lot of information that Wikipedia hadn’t already told me, BUT I did get rip roaring drunk and made a pretty neat girl power discovery! So saludos mis amigas! Now I’m going to go find me a kiss of Mezcal and celebrate. Again. Ayayayayayayay!! BTW…this here below is a little bonus!

Bonus Material! Tequila…it’s like beer.

I would like to dedicate this post to Ashlei Mars Austgen and Becky Fabra Beach for reasons they know.

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Papel picado hand made in Mexico inspired by Coco the movie.

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Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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