Héctor is the deuteragonist from Pixar's Academy Award winning film, Coco. He was a musician in life who died and became a resident of the Land of the Dead. He is also the great-great grandfather of the film's protagonist, Miguel Rivera. When Miguel gets lost in the Land of the Dead, Héctor acts as his main guide in his quest to find the famed singer Ernesto de la Cruz and return to the world of the living.
He is voiced by Gael García Bernal in both the English and Spanish dub.
Héctor has been trying to be remembered for many years since his death, but his family has disowned him. On Día de Los Muertos, a night that honor the deceased in their afterlife by loved ones, Héctor has been determined to cross over to the Land of the Living and see the sole living relative who remembers (and may still love) him, but is constantly rejected as his other family refuse to honor, let alone know him. With this person close to dying and beginning to not even recall him, he is in danger of experiencing his second and final death; where forgotton spirits fade away into nothingness. Héctor is desperately trying to cross the border before he fades away.
Héctor is somewhat desperate because he really wants to go to the Land of the Living to see his family, but nobody put his picture up. While he can be sneaky and a trickster, he only does so because he desires to reunite with those he loves, and values his family more than anything (a trait that helps one of his descendents learn how important family is).
Role in the film
Héctor first appears trying to cross over to the Land of the Living disguised as Frida Kahlo. The agent quickly checks that he isn't recognized on his family's ofrenda, leading Héctor to make a run for it. But his hopes are in vain, as he ends up sinking into the marigold petals and is arrested. At the Grand Central Station, Héctor is left off with a warning by the officer and had his request to get his costume back denied. After leaving and angrily crumpling his warning, Héctor meets a living boy named Miguel who, having overheard that Héctor knows Ernesto de la Cruz, asks Héctor to take him to Ernesto to receive his blessing so he can go home. Héctor tells him he will get him to de la Cruz if he puts his portrait up on an ofrenda so he can cross over and Miguel agrees.
Héctor takes Miguel to Frida Kahlo's studio, where he assumed de la Cruz would be rehearsing. While being chewed out by a seamstress for losing the dress he used in his fail attempt to cross the bridge, Miguel wanders off with Dante and ends up talking to Frida Kahlo herself. Héctor soon catches up to him and receives disappointment from the boy, having just learned that de la Cruz was hosting a party at his mansion and no one was allowed in without an invitation. After being teased by a group of musicians over his death, the pair were told that there was a music contest in Plaza de la Cruz where the winner gets access to de la Cruz's mansion.
Seeing as Miguel needs a guitar, Héctor takes him to the shanty town where spirits who are being forgotten live, to acquire his friend Chicharrón's guitar. After some banter, Héctor agrees to sing "Everyone Knows Juanita" for Chicharrón, changing one of the verses because there are children (Miguel) present. Satisfied, Chicharrón fades away. Héctor explained to Miguel that unless there's a relative in the living world who remembers their ancestor, their spirit passes onto what they call the final death, the same fate that awaits him if Miguel doesn't take his photo home.
Having succeeded in their mission to acquire an instrument, Miguel enters the contest. Héctor objects to Miguel's plan to sing "Remember Me" due to its popularity, as evidenced by other contestants rehearsing around them, so Miguel decides to sing "Un Poco Loco". But upon learning that Miguel possesses little to no experience in performing, Héctor insists that he take his place on stage but is refused, as Miguel was determined to prove himself as a musician. Héctor then decides to help Miguel be ready for his performance by giving him pointers, such as to loosen up and giving out a grito, to little avail. When it was Miguel's turn to take the stage, he gets stage fright, and Héctor reminds him of the things he taught him from afar, giving the child confidence to perform. While Miguel sings, Dante pulls Héctor in to perform alongside Miguel, receiving applause from the crowd. Then suddenly, Miguel dragged Héctor off the stage as the master of ceremonies announced to the crowd that Miguel's family was looking for him and wanted to send him home. Hearing this, Héctor realizes that Miguel lied to him about de la Cruz being his only family and that he could've gone home any time. Héctor scolds Miguel for leaving his family and attempts to bring Miguel to them, but this makes a hurt Miguel abandon him and go off to find Ernesto himself after distracting Héctor with his discarded photo.
Later, Héctor (disguised as Frida again) sneaks into his old partner's mansion and finds Miguel with Ernesto. Embittered with his old friend for taking the credit, Héctor reveals he wrote the songs Ernesto is famous for. He pleads with Miguel to fulfill their deal and set his photo on an ofrenda so he can see his "girl" before he's forgotten. As Héctor reminds Ernesto of the latter's statement of moving heaven and earth, Miguel points the similarity to one of the films Ernesto brought back from one of his trips to the Land of the Living which has the same line; where the villain tries to poison Ernesto. Watching the film, Héctor remembers his last night alive and pieces together that Ernesto had murdered him and stole his songbook and guitar to become famous. Enraged upon this revelation, Héctor attacks Ernesto for ruining his attempt to go home. Ernesto fearfully calls for security and takes Héctor's portrait while having Héctor, and soon a shocked Miguel, thrown into a cenote.
As Héctor comforts a hurt Miguel (devastated by Ernesto's betrayal and his own choice to leave his family), he starts to fade. Héctor explains it's because his daughter, the reason he was trying to cross the bridge, is forgetting him and laments about his daughter, Coco. Hearing this name prompts Miguel to show him a family photo of young Coco and Imelda, the boy's great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. Familiar with the torn picture, the shocked Héctor confirms he is the faceless figure holding the guitar, not Ernesto. He then explains he wrote "Remember Me" out of love for Coco, singing it in a sincere tone. After this, Héctor shamefully believes he's a sorry example of an ancestor, but Miguel lifts his spirits by explaining he's always felt different in the family, but now knows that it comes from Héctor, his true great-great-grandfather. They then rejoice at the revelation of their heritage and pride of being family. Although it seems they remain trapped in the cenote; at that second, they are discovered by Dante and saved by Imelda and Pepita. Héctor sheepishly greets his wife, whose joy at finding Miguel turns to bitter at the sight of him, and comments on her looks before being forced to cling for dear life on Pepita's tail in the flight back to the other Riveras. Shaken from the experience, Héctor offers to help Imelda off Pepita, but is brushed off. After Imelda embraces Miguel, she chews out Héctor, believing he placed the boy in danger in the first place. Miguel vouches for Héctor by taking the blame and explaining Ernesto had killed Héctor when he was trying to get back home. While stunned at this news, she is still angry until Héctor starts fading again because of their daughter's decreasing memory. Imelda relents and she, Héctor Miguel, and the other Riveras plan to get Héctor's photo back before he's lost forever.
With help from Frida Kahlo, the Riveras sneak in backstage. Héctor is touched to learn Imelda still loves him when she calls him "the love of [her] life" after slapping Ernesto. After his wife gets the portrait back after being forced to sing "La Llorona", Héctor and Imelda finally start to reconcile. Together, they prepare to give Miguel their blessing to return home. However, a furious Ernesto interrupts and snatches their great-great-grandson before he can take the blessing. His condition deteriorating further and his descendant at Ernesto's mercy, Héctor pleads with his former friend to not hurt Miguel and let him go home as he's just a child, but Ernesto refuses, saying Miguel is a threat to his legacy if he goes back to the living. Without mercy, he throws Miguel from the building, much to the horror of Héctor and the other late Riveras. Ernesto cruelly apologizes to Héctor as he casually walks past him to continue performing. Fortunately, Miguel is saved at the last minute by Pepita, but the photo is lost in the water. Ernesto's crimes are exposed to the dead, followed by Pepita delivering a fitting punishment on the now-disgraced musician for how he tore Héctor's family apart, avenging Héctor as well. Sunrise approaches as Héctor starts to fade away and Miguel's transformation into a skeleton is almost complete. Miguel refuses to leave Héctor behind until he is forced to accept his great-great-grandparents' blessing, which sends him home, with Miguel promising Héctor that he won't let Coco forget him.
Once Miguel returns to the living Riveras, Coco remembers Héctor when Miguel sings "Remember Me", thereby saving Héctor's memory. Along with her father's identity, Coco shows the letters he wrote to her, proving he was the true writer of Ernesto's songs. She also reveals she preserved the part of his face Imelda tore off from the family photo years ago, restoring his status among the Rivera family, who now have a different opinion of their ancestor, and earning a rightful place on the family ofrenda.
The next year, Héctor has received the recognition he deserves in both the realms of the living and deceased while Ernesto's crimes have been exposed to the land of the living. Héctor is happy to learn that he can finally cross over, thanks to his picture now restored by his descendants who greatly value his memory. Héctor and Imelda's love has rekindled and have been reunited with a recently deceased Coco whom he happily hugs and kisses after being separated from for decades. Together with the other late Riveras, Héctor finally crosses over to the Land of the Living during Día de los Muertos to see their living family. He and Imelda dance to their elder great-great-grandchildren's song before joining Miguel in a guitar duet using a spiritual version of his guitar, proudly watching him.
- Héctor is one of the six characters in the movie to be voiced by the same actor in both the English and Latin American Spanish dubs of the film, the others being Julio Rivera, the Departure Agent, the Security Guard, Tío Berto, and Luisa Rivera. This may have been done to reflect his nationality.
- He was born in 1900 and is a year younger than his wife Imelda.
- This suggests that he was married and had a child by the age of 18, since Coco, his daughter, was born in 1918, and his wife was 19 then.
- Héctor's last name was Rivera and his wife's was the same. His daughter later took up the name and her daughter, in turn, passed it on. Even if the society were matriarchal, then Hector's last name must not have been Rivera.
- However, this may hold true if Coco had decided to retain her birth name and Abuelita had followed suit.
- This may also be if the family intermarried with their own cousins.
- Héctor was 21 years old when he died.
- The officer (who let him off with a warning) must have felt sorry for him after Ernesto's actions were exposed.
- His name, Héctor, comes from the Greek Héktōr.