Imelda is a major character from the Pixar 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.
Imelda was born in 1899 in Santa Cecilia, living there with her younger twin brothers, Felipe and Óscar. As she matured, she eventually fell in love with an aspiring musician named Héctor, partially due to their shared talent in music. Their romance soon developed into a marriage, and at 19 years old, Imelda gave birth to a daughter named Coco.
While Imelda was ready to settle down and raise Coco, Héctor wanted to make a name out in the music business, so he set out on tour with his friend Ernesto de la Cruz. However, he never returned, leaving Imelda to take care of Coco alone. Angered at Héctor for neglecting his family, Imelda tore his picture off the family portrait and decreed music was forbidden from then on.
Needing to support her daughter, Imelda turned to shoemaking as Coco grew up, often making shoes for her own daughter. Soon, she taught everything she knew about shoemaking to her daughter and son-in-law, and Coco taught her own children in turn. Working together with the growing Rivera clan, Imelda's hard work evolved into a family business.
When she reached her 70's, Imelda finally passed away and her spirit was sent to the Land of the Dead. Although Héctor was also a spirit in the realm, she disowned him from the clan despite his wish to reconcile with her. With her loyal spirit guide Pepita, Imelda looked after the Riveras who arrived after their deaths. Her ban of music would be carried out by the living Riveras though, especially with Abuelita.
- Mamá Imelda is Miguel's great-great-grandmother, the matriarch of the Rivera family and the founder of their successful shoemaking business. Miguel meets Mamá Imelda in the Land of the Dead and discovers she does not share his passion for music.
The matriarch of the Rivera family, Imelda is a maternal yet firm 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.
The Imelda seen in the present day was a stark contrast to the person she was in life: bitter, serious 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 makes it very hard for her to forgive and let go. Even when learning the truth about Hector's death, she still found it hard to forgive him, but 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 is also proven to have talent in singing 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.
Role in 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 to 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 (her pet) 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 asks 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 hole, 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 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. 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 her husband and attempting to murder Miguel but not before he ran, thus beginning the pursuit. While 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 on his foot, making him scream out a painful mariachi cry. Having reconciled with Héctor, Imelda tries to give Miguel her blessing with a new 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 defeat, 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.
- According to Lee Unkrich, Imelda is a year older than Héctor, who was born in the year 1900.
- Héctor's Guitar was a gift given to Héctor by her.
- Unkrich, Lee (December 5, 2017). "Correction: Imelda was 19 when Coco was born. Imelda was born in 1899 (a year older than Hector!)" (Tweet). Twitter.
- Unkrich, Lee (December 3, 2017). "She was in her early 70’s." (Tweet). Twitter.
- Lema, Michelle (June 6, 2017). "Meet the Characters and Voice Cast of Disney Pixar's Coco and See the Beautiful New Poster". Oh My Disney. Disney. Retrieved on June 6, 2017.
- Unkrich, Lee (November 28, 2017). "Gift from a wife… (reply to @leeunkrich I have a doubt, the cool guitar was a gift or bought? If so from a certain wife to her certain husband or from a certain friend who made it big to another friend? (sorry but really want to know))" (Tweet). Twitter.