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Never forget how much your family loves you.
~ Imelda's blessing for Miguel

Imelda is the tritagonist of the Pixar's 19th full-length animated feature film, Coco. She is the former matriarch of the Rivera family who became a spirit in the Land of the Dead after her death. However, she left behind a ban of music in her family as her lasting legacy, leading her great-great grandson, Miguel Rivera, to uncover the cause of her decree.

Role The Film

Imelda is first seen in the Land of the Dead's Grand Central Station smashing a clerk's computer with her boot when she found out that she couldn't cross to the Land of the Living while her family members approach her with Dante and the cursed Miguel. Once in the Department of Family Reunions with them, she is horrified and angry when she learned that Miguel accidentally removed the picture of her and Coco from the family ofrenda earlier. The family is informed that blessing Miguel will break the curse before sunrise. Imelda, using a marigold petal, gives Miguel her blessing on the condition that he will never play music again. Once Miguel breaks the condition and is transported back to the Land of the Dead, Imelda forbids the rest of the family from blessing Miguel as she insists Miguel take her blessing. Miguel's unwillingness to accept her conditions leads him to escape from the department. Later, Imelda and the Riveras catch sight of Miguel who runs off with Héctor deeper into the district. Being left with no choice, she calls forth Pepita to help the family track him down.

Pepita's tracking proves to be very helpful and soon they are led to the "Battle of the Bands" talent competition where Miguel and Héctor were performing. While the family ask the spectators on Miguel's whereabouts, Imelda asks the emcee thus blowing Miguel's cover. Miguel manages to escape after ditching Héctor and Dante, but Imelda and Pepita manage to catch up with him. As Pepita was too big to chase Miguel through a narrow alleyway, Imelda chases him down but gets locked out at the alleyway gates. They both argue, with Miguel calling her out on her 'selfish' decision to ban music in the family and her hatred towards it. She then sings a snippet of her favorite ballad (much to Miguel's shock) and explains that she did not ban music out of hatred but out of concern for the family. Miguel bitterly runs off to Ernesto de la Cruz's mansion after believing Imelda still won't accept him and music.

Much later, she and Pepita were led by Dante to get Miguel and Héctor (who were condemned by de la Cruz) out of a cenote, much to her chagrin upon the sight of her husband. This leads her to make Héctor cling on Pepita's tail for dear life during the journey back to the other Riveras. Once back, Imelda and Héctor argue as she could not forgive him for walking out of the family despite being told the truth of Héctor's death at Ernesto's hands. However, Héctor starts fading as Coco is forgetting herself; Imelda then relents, planning with the family to recover Héctor's photo in order to save Héctor from being forgotten.

Once in de la Cruz's stadium, Imelda and the family, dressed as Frida Kahlo, enter backstage (removing the disguise) when they encountered Ernesto (who just came out of his room). With her boot, she slaps him twice for murdering the love of her life and trying to kill her great-great grandson before he ran off, thus beginning the pursuit. While running, Imelda is teased for her comment about Héctor by the latter and Miguel. Ernesto's security guards gain the upper hand over the Riveras, Imelda finally gets the photo, but gets accidentally sent to the stage. In order to buy the audience time, Imelda sings La Llorona while evading de la Cruz's security guards. Ernesto joins in midway, making it a duet as he gains the upper hand over her. However on his final note, she stomps his foot, making him scream out a painful mariachi cry. Having reconciled with Héctor, Imelda tries to give Miguel her blessing with a condition - never forget how much his family loves him - but is interrupted by Ernesto. The crooked musician grabs Miguel and throws him out, unaware he was recorded live to the audience. After Pepita saves Miguel and sent de la Cruz (now reviled by the dead) to his second and final death, Imelda tends to a dying Héctor and gives Miguel their blessing (no conditions given) just in time before sunrise.

A year after their adventures, Imelda and Héctor become closer again and are reunited with a deceased Coco. Together with the deceased Riveras, the three cross to the Land of the Living (accompanied by Dante and Pepita) to visit the living Riveras during Miguel's celebration of music in the family on Dia de los Muertos.

Personality

The matriarch of the Rivera family, Imelda is a maternal yet passionate person who puts family first and personal interests last. When alive, she was more tender, as she was looking forward to raising a happy family. When Héctor walked out, the burden of raising Coco coupled with bitter feelings towards her husband for leaving them led Imelda to ban music and work hard to build the Rivera family up, shaping her into the earnest person revered (and at times feared) by the rest of the Riveras. Her powerful influence over Riveras in life and death is evident: Imelda's last wish to have music banned from Riveras had been carried on for 70 years after her passing, and Miguel's ancestors declined to bless him, overwhelmed by Imelda's forceful personality and not wanting to risk her wrath.

The Imelda seen in present day was a stark contrast to the person she was in life: bitter, fiery and strict (which passed to her granddaughter Abuelita Elena). Imelda was also less patient with others, as she smashes a computer in the afterlife customs despite the agent's attempts to be civil with her. Although she loves her family, she has an antagonistic side stemming from her grudge towards Héctor, and in extension music. This comes to the point of manipulating Miguel to take her blessing with the condition of not becoming a musician, believing he will abandon his family as well; later, she uses force through her alebrije Pepita to find him so he take her blessing with the conditions.

Imelda's stubbornness, while perfectly understandable, makes it very hard for her to forgive and let go, this was seen even when learning the truth about Héctor's death as while she was shocked; she still found it hard to forgive him. However, her value for family comes through when she accepted that it wasn't his fault and agrees to help to save both him and their daughter. She also slapped Ernesto for killing the love her life though she hid her feelings when Héctor remarked about this statement.

She is also proven to have talent in singing (even when she hasn't sung in ages) when she was stealing Hector's picture from Ernesto while singing in a duet with him. As soon as Hector starts to fade and Miguel becomes a skeleton, she lets go of her grudge and gives Miguel her blessing without conditions. At the end of the movie it seems Imelda had fully forgiven Hector and is happier to be with him, Coco and the living family in Dia de los Muertos.

Voices

English Spanish
Alanna Ubach Angelica Vale

Trivia

  • According to Lee Unkrich, Imelda is a year older than Héctor, who was born in the year 1900, so she was born in 1899.
    • This suggests that since Mamá Coco was born in 1918, Imelda was married and had a child by the age of 19 when her husband was 18.
  • Imelda is compared to Lady Sun from Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

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