Mexico guitar makers in demand after success of Coco movie

Mexican luthier Salvador Meza makes a replica guitar from the movie Coco at his workshop in Paracho on Jan 9. PHOTO: AFP
The success of Coco has triggered guitar sales in the small town of Paracho. PHOTO: WALT DISNEY PICTURES

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Salvador Meza has been making guitars since he was a boy but his leathery hands have never had to churn them out as fast as now - thanks to the hit movie Coco. The 41-year-old is one of many renowned guitar-makers in the Mexican town of Paracho which has been producing artfully crafted guitars since the 18th century.

Coco is this year's Golden Globe winner for best animated film and a box office smash.

Set in Mexico, the movie tells the story of Miguel, a young boy who secretly longs to be a musician but is growing up in a family where music is forbidden.

The animators at Pixar, the studio behind the film, based Miguel's guitar on a real-life version made by an artisan from Paracho - and demand for replicas now has the town's luthiers working in overdrive.

"I usually work out of my home with my wife and a friend. But now, I've had to call up my godmother, my nephew, my cousin," said Meza.

Since Coco had its world premiere in Mexico on Oct 20, he added that he has been sleeping three hours a night and has doubled his output from 50 guitars a week to 100.

The man behind the original Coco guitar is German Vazquez, a Paracho native who emigrated to the United States 25 years ago, slipping over the border to chase the American dream.

The state where Paracho is located, Michoacan, was until recent years swept by grisly violence unleashed by the Knights Templar drug cartel.

After Vazquez crossed the border, he found work, eventually became a US citizen and finally managed to open his own guitar workshop in Los Angeles - which is where Pixar found him.

Now 64, he sees a little bit of young Miguel in his own life's story.

"He wants to be a musician, and he searches for a way to make it happen. He fights and fights until he achieves it. I think in that way I'm also like little Miguel... in love with guitars," he said.

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