Abuelita is Miguel’s grandmother and the ultimate enforcer of the Rivera family's ban on music. She loves her family very much and will do anything to protect them. But when she gets angry, she wields a mean slipper.
While getting supplies with her son Berto and her granddaughter Rosa at the plaza, Abuelita catches Miguel being offered to play a mariachi's guitar. Abuelita threatens the mariachi with her slipper and scares him away. Abuelita drags Miguel back home (while shooing away Dante), where she informs Miguel's parents of his transgression. Abuelita takes him to the family's ofrenda where her mother Mamá Coco is. Hoping to dissuade Miguel from the talent show, Abuelita enlightens Miguel the importance of their family on Día de los Muertos. When Miguel brings up Coco's father, Coco suddenly gets upset, so Abuelita comforts her mother; however, Coco is unable to recognize Abuelita to her sorrow. Miguel runs off while this happens which frustrates Abuelita. Looking at the picture of her grandmother Imelda for inspiration, Abuelita decides it is finally time to bring Miguel into the family business.
At sunset, Abuelita declares Día de los Muertos and the family prepares for the celebration. She, among the rest of the family, witness Miguel announcing that he has discovered his great-great-grandfather (believed to be Ernesto de la Cruz) and aspires to become a musician like him. Uncovering Miguel's secret stash of music memorabilia causes Abuelita to fear Miguel will abandon his family if he chooses this path. Abuelita pressures her grandson to pick a side; their lack of support causes Miguel to angrily deride his family's traditions, so Abuelita destroys his guitar altogether. Abuelita then tries to comfort Miguel, but Miguel, completely broken, runs off from the family.
The next morning, Miguel returns to the Rivera residence. Abuelita catches him with a guitar in hand, but Miguel darts into Coco's room before she can confiscate it. Abuelita and the rest of the family unlock the door to find Miguel with a catatonic Coco. Pushing Miguel aside, Abuelita comforts her mother trying to get her to respond to no avail. She tells Miguel to apologize to Coco, not even understanding that he was trying to help her. Coming up with an idea, Miguel moves up to Coco to play her a song. Abuelita attempts to stop him but is held back by Enrique, who urges her to let Miguel help Coco. As the family watches Miguel perform "Remember Me" with Coco, Abuelita is moved by the song and is surprised when Coco finally recognizes Abuelita. Miguel's song inspires Mamá Coco to reveal her father's identity as Héctor, and the family decides to lift the ban on music.
One year later, on Día de los Muertos, Abuelita stops by the ofrenda to put up a picture of Mamá Coco (who passed away some time before) and embraces Miguel with his newborn sister Socorro. While setting up the festivities, she greets Dante with a treat for him. Abuelita then cheers for Miguel and his cousins perform a song as the spirit of Mamá Coco stands next to her.
Abuelita's habit of using her shoe as a weapon is a trait she shares with Imelda.
Abuelita with her grandchildren, Miguel and little Socorro