Tio Coco’s name hasn’t been mentioned in almost 80 years. People want to know, Did Tio Coco actually exist or is he just “make believe”, a made-up story to cover up a secret burning of Santa Fe’s cherished Zozobra?
I assure you, he’s all that…sort of, yet so much more.
Let’s go back to 1940, when Will Shuster, creator of Zozobra, gets a telegram from Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood, California asking for his help with the promotion of their new movie “Santa Fe Trail” staring the biggest actor of his time, Errol Flynn and Olivia de’Havaliand plus a B rated actor by the name of Ronald Regan (yes, the guy who would go on to be the President of the United States). Jack Warner wanted Will Shuster to recreate Zozobra for their movie premier event they were having in Santa Fe. Warner Bros. was sending all the stars on a train from Los Angeles headed to Santa Fe to premier the movie at the Lensic Theater.
Much to the surprise of Will’s friends, Will turned down the money and offer.
See, Will struggled with the beast he created. He was proud of Zozobra and proud of his new adopted land and home he has assimilated to and he felt, according to Will’s diary, Will believed that Zozobra was special and was special to the city and people of Santa Fe. He felt like if he were to do another Zozobra, for just this premier, then he thought that he would be taking Zozobra away from those he loved most. Also, at the same time, Will and his buddies have been doing this now for over 15 years, for FREE. Cost, even back then was high for the materials needed because by this time Zozobra was going in height. As an artist, Will wanted to be known for the unique monster he created and the yearly event that has now become part of the fabric of Santa Fe and he knew that the exposure he would get if he would fulfill this request.
After days of pondering, Will figured out the story of Tio Coco. He believed that everyone in their lives had a crazy uncle that taught them things dad wouldn’t, so the same was for Zozobra. Tio Coco is responsible for teaching Zozobra how to carry the torch of gloom and continue to taunt the residents of Santa Fe and with this Tio Coco was born and for this special event Will decided to create Tio Coco and set him on fire, saving Zozobra for the resident’s gloom in which we manifest.
Now keeping with tradition of the Tio Coco story and how he came to be and why he came to Santa Fe, we, as the Kiwanis Club (who was entrusted with Zozobra personally by Will Shuster) believe that this event for the governors is a great platform for us to showcase our city, share a part of our traditions and culture but not entirely giving it all away and still reserving and saving the best for our city…Zozobra.