Disney’s Encanto provides a look at Colombia’s culture, traditions, and family life. These are the real-life inspirations behind the Madrigals.
Disney used multiple real-life Colombian influences when crafting the story of Encanto, and here’s how accurate a representation of Colombian family life it is. Disney Animation has dived into the depths of Atlantis and the beauty of Arendelle, but there are still countless fictitious and real-life locations Disney animated movies have yet to explore. One paradise on Earth that is only now having its chance to be featured in a 3D-animated blockbuster is Colombia, seen through the eyes of Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) and the gifted Madrigal family in the town of Encanto. As the movie takes audiences through a journey into Colombian culture, many viewers have asked whether or not Encanto is culturally accurate.
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Encanto looks at Colombia through the lens of magical realism, centering on the magical abilities of the Madrigals. There is bound to be some creative license where fantasy stories are involved, but Disney made sure the smaller details mattered and consulted with Colombian cultural authorities. Indeed, the success of the movie is partially due to both reaching Colombian and Hispanic audiences and teaching different cultures with a vibrant, poignant story.
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Encanto doesn’t reveal where exactly their town is located, but it certainly features many staples of Colombia’s diverse culture. If visiting a traditional Colombian town for the first time, many might see how similar it is to the one depicted in Disney’s 2021 movie. Others may be shocked to realize that some of the abilities of Encanto’s cast of characters, such as Isabela Madrigal’s (Diane Guerrero) ability to spawn an infinite variety of flowers and Julieta’s (Angie Cepeda) ability to heal people with delicious food, are closer to reality than initially thought.
What Disney Represented Accurately About Colombian Culture In Encanto
Encapsulating all of Colombia’s culture within one movie is close to impossible, as Colombia is made up of countless different regions, each with its own unique history and traditions. Although Encanto couldn’t possibly include all of the country’s diversity in its 109-minute runtime, every element depicted onscreen shows off an incredible degree of authenticity. From the traditional designs of the town’s architecture to the colorful embroidery of the Madrigals’ dresses, and from the cozy blanket-like coats (called “ruanas”) to their love for coffee and arepas, Encanto feels like a story that actually takes place in a rural Colombian town, which is Encanto’s greatest achievement regarding cultural representation. Most importantly, Encanto captures the Colombian concept of family, which relies on mutual support and an incessant effort to guarantee that each family member achieves their potential.
Across all the diverse regions of Colombia, every achievement is usually celebrated with a huge party — in the most social families or in the smaller cities, it’s very common to invite the whole town to celebrate. Typical Colombian families also tend to keep a strong attachment to their childhood home, and the figure of the Abuela as the matriarch is always present. Apart from all the animals Antonio talks to, the appearance of yellow butterflies in Encanto is a nod to celebrated Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, where they embody a lifetime of love and happiness. The role of the river as the birthing place of Casita’s magic is also a symbol any Colombian immediately identifies with.
Encanto Messed Up The Music Representation
Encanto’s impressive soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda also contributes to the authentic feel as it includes original songs from Colombian stars Carlos Vives and Maluma. However, where Encanto does stumble is in the absence of vallenato, merengue, salsa, and cumbia — all musical genres that are listened to daily all across the country. If iconic songs like “Colombia Tierra Querida” (which was featured in Encanto’s first teaser) are constantly heard in the busiest streets of the country’s metropolitan areas, it’s odd that a family like the Madrigals doesn’t sing or listen to more traditional rhythms.
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How Disney Made Sure Encanto Represented Colombian Culture Accurately
Encanto was produced by Disney with the utmost care when representing the culture of Colombia, a deeply-researched process from the team behind the movie that included the Colombian Cultural Trust. This started back in 2018 when Encanto’s head of music Tom MacDougall, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, his father Luis, and Encanto co-directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard took a trip to Colombia to gain insight into the country. While the process of fine-tuning Encanto’s details was underway, the pandemic hitting in 2020 prevented the rest of Encanto’s growing creative team to visit Colombia. Because of this, the Encanto team turned to the Colombia Cultural Trust. Speaking with CinemaBlend, Encanto producer Clark Spencer details how much this helped to ensure that the movie is culturally accurate.
The Colombia Cultural Trust was critical to us in terms of building a group of experts who could speak to architecture and to botany and to music and to the people of Colombia all across the board. That was one puzzle piece where all our departments worked with them. It wasn’t them just working with me or with the directors and the writers. They were working with our individual departments.
Encanto producer Yvette Marino, according to Spencer, also “brought in people very early on to come speak about Colombia and about Latin culture,” which greatly helped their cause. While Encanto didn’t get everything right, it’s safe to say that the team’s efforts paid off. Should Disney proceed with Encanto 2, it’s likely that the same level of care and cultural sensitivity will be applied to the sequel’s production.
All in all, Encanto is very faithful to Colombian culture and family life. As Encanto’s ending potentially sets up, an eventual continuation of the Madrigals’ story could explore any of Colombia’s traditional carnivals, its countless myths and legends, the contrasting landscapes, and even the majestic traditions associated with Christmas and New Year’s Eve. With so many compelling characters and so much of the country still left to explore, the possibility of future Disney sequels and spinoffs is an exciting one, to say the least.
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About The Author
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Nicolas Ayala is a writer with a passion for blockbusters and big-screen adaptations. He loves all things Marvel, DCEU, and wacky comedies. The cheesier the movie, the better.
When not writing, he’s probably coming up with new ideas for the next writing sessions.
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