MARY MEAUX — I learned about a South American country through a Disney movie

Published 12:05 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

I love when I learn something by watching an animated movie.

Yea, I really did just say that.

I recently watched Disney’s Encanto, first with a friend who saw it with her grandson and thought I’d enjoy it; then I watched it a few more times with my granddaughter.

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I’m not here to give a movie review but share some thoughts. The movie was beautiful; there were vivid colors, fun music, a great plot and memorable characters. It captured my imagination/attention so much that I had to search for the meaning of phrases and of Columbia that is depicted in the movie.

I came across an article in the New York Times by Laura Zornosa who watched the movie with her father, a native of Columbia. Her dad emigrated to the United States around the age of 25 but did not speak of the warfare or the ugliness in his native land or much anything else.

The writer was worried about the movie, proud of the representation then worried that the representation would not be correct.

I must admit when I heard “Columbia” my first thoughts were of coffee, movies with drug lords and beautiful landscapes. That’s on me and I apologize. I hadn’t really thought past those stereotypical images, and then along came Encanto and Zornosa’s article.

I’m sure there are still a few people who haven’t seen the movie so I won’t put spoilers out there but the basic plot follows the Madrigal family. The grandparents fled fighting in their country with their three babies but the grandfather was killed. This isn’t shown but alluded to. The grieving woman hung onto a candle she used for light and it became enchanted. Then, family members through the years get a special gift they use to help others, except one girl, Mirabel.

I won’t go into the full plot, suffice to say it’s good.

Now back to the article.

The writer brought her dad to the movie. She said about 20 minutes in her dad took off his glasses “and the tissues came out.” She had only seen him cry once before and it was for the death of a relative.

Later she asked him about it, wondering what seemed familiar to him. It turns out there was a lot familiar to him.

The music, the food, “the flora and fauna,” the family dynamics. He told her that whoever made the movie made it right — “they’d done the country, its people, its culture and its customs justice.”

And just like that an animated movie that was so fun to watch and sing along with taught me about a culture and people I did not know.

Is there more to learn? Of course there is. I look forward to finding out what I can about the country and its people. I feel ignorant for not knowing much about the South American country but happy that an animated movie spurred my newfound interest.

And if you watch the movie, be prepared to come away with songs stuck in your head because “We don’t talk about Bruno.”

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.