Family isn’t easy. There are fights, generational differences, and many other things that make family difficult. This is especially true in marginalized communities such as the Latinx community in America. While we have come so far, many of us first and second generation immigrants carry the hopes and fears of our families. The weight of those fears is at the heart of Disney’s latest animated film “Encanto”.
The story of “Encanto” follows the Madrigals, a dramatic, complicated, and loving family from Colombia. But they’re not any ordinary family, each member of the Madrigal family has magical powers, except for our awkward and relatable protagonist, 15-year-old Mirabel.
While the movie itself follows Mirabel’s story trying to save her family’s magic through repairing relationships and reminding the matriarch of the family, Abuela Alma, what family is really about.
I made use of Disney+ subscription for the first time since “Hamilton” came out, and rewatched “Encanto”. By my third viewing, I could help but recognize how familiar Alma’s story feels.
While it may not be obvious at first glance, Alma’s story in how the Madrigals received the encanto reflects the journey and struggles of immigrants and how those struggles pass down through the generations.
At the climax of the movie, we are shown exactly how the Madrigal family got their miracle casita. Alma and her husband, Pedro, are refugees fleeing their home town in an attempt to create a better life for themselves and their children. Pedro sacrifices himself to save his family and is brutally killed by the people they were fleeing. Through his sacrifice, Alma is gifted the magic candle that created the valley around their village and gave the Madrigals their magic.
Alma quickly becomes the leader of the town as people look to her for help and advice. Abuela Alma passes down the feelings of having to be perfect for the village to her kids and eventually, her grandchildren.
Many first and second generation immigrants (especially those in the latinx community) are able to relate closely to the weight the Madrigals hold in an attempt to bring success out of tragedy. Abuela Alma holds exceedingly high expectations for her family members, and expects her children and grandchildren to fit into a certain mold of using their gifts to help the community.
Many first generation children feel the pressure and fear of not fitting in with the family. They live in fear of being their true, authentic selves because of what the rest of the family might think or say.
Mirabel breaks this mold and calls out Abuela Alma for her mistakes. Mirabel finishes the movie by rebuilding casita and bringing back the encanto.
Of course, real life isn’t a Disney movie. It isn’t always as easy to repair family relationships and change people’s minds. “Encanto” shows that while it may be difficult, attempts to repair those bonds aren’t in vain. “You’re exactly what this family needs,” Uncle Bruno tells Mirabel. “They just need to see it.”