The room was decorated with vibrantly colored papel picado, flowers, candles, photographs, and pastries. The students and faculty, including Orange Coast College’s president, Angelica Suarez, filled the room eagerly awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor.
Counseling Latin@s for Equity and Engagement at OCC held a celebration for Dia de los Muertos y Angelitos in the Multicultural Center. One segment of the celebration was a showing of Disney/Pixar’s well-known film, “Coco,” which centered around the Mexican holiday.
CLEEO also hosted a talk by the luthier, a maker of stringed instruments, responsible for building each of the $15,000 original “Coco” classical guitars, German Vazquez Rubio. Only 20 were ever made.
Said through a translator, Rubio explained his journey into the luthier trade.
“There are very little options. You can become a farmer or you can work with guitars,” Rubio said. “Well I’d rather work with guitars.”
Rubio, who doesn’t speak any English, carried with him the last “Coco” guitar he was contracted to make for Disney. He came to OCC to speak about the guitar and his experience as a luthier for Disney/Pixar.
Disney found Rubio through a guitar company called Cordoba, which produced inexpensive guitars sold as merchandise. Disney/Pixar contracted Rubio to make a total of 20 classical “Coco” guitars that were to look exactly like the animation. The audience was fortunate to see the final guitar in its unfinished form.
According to Rubio, the guitar is anything but average.
“Everything that this guitar has is not what you would want a classical guitar to have,” Rubio said.
Disney/Pixar made a costly and creative ask of Rubio when they hired him to build this guitar. After nine months, Rubio finally came up with a design that Disney was very pleased with.
The guitar, made with European flamed maple, was painted a glowing white. The inlay on top was made with abalone shell and designed in a fancifully decorated skull, a very expensive touch. The head of the guitar was made to look like a smiling skull showing its teeth- all the teeth were made of real bone with the exception of one 24 karat gold tooth. The strings were not gold but a golden hue.
While it wasn’t finished, the guitar shown at the event was a true replica of the one Hector uses to sing and play in “Coco.”
Many students showed up for the presentation. There was extra credit being offered for some courses, but, there seemed to be a lot of excitement about what Rubio had to say about guitar making itself. The novelty of having a professional luthier at OCC provoked many to ask questions regarding their own personal guitar experiences.
Jorge Murillo, a psychology major, came to the presentation because of CLEEO but really enjoyed seeing the guitar and hearing what a handcrafted guitar sounded like.
“I’ve been told by a lot of people that it’s the wood that makes the guitar so special,” Murillo said.
Murillo began playing classic guitar this semester and was really appreciative of being able to be at the presentation.
Rubio said he never thought he’d be well known even though guitar building is a passion of his.
Since designing this guitar, Rubio has been noticed and recognized in many countries but is especially famous in his home town. The luthier has built guitars for celebrities such as Gene Simmons, Van Halen, and John Denver, even though he didn’t know who they were.
Dia de los Muertos y Angelitos brought more than just a potluck and a movie. At the end, face painting followed the presentation, but not before Rubio raffled off autographed “Coco” posters—giving attendees a piece of history.