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Villain Overview
I have to sing! I have to play! The music, it's not just in me, it IS me!
~ Ernesto in one of his films.
Seize your moment/Vive tu momento.
~ Ernesto's famous quote, also foreshadowing his true colors.

Ernesto de la Cruz is the main antagonist of Pixar's 19th full-length animated feature film Coco. He is Héctor Rivera's former childhood friend and music partner, Miguel's former idol, the Riveras' most hated enemy and a famous singer and musician who dazzled the audience with his good looks and his charm, and was a source of Mexican pride due to his handsome looks, strong morals, and his standing up for his fellow Mexicans.

After dying of being crushed by a giant bell mid-performance, he resides as a soul in the Land of the Dead. However, it was revealed that Ernesto murdered Héctor and stole all of his songs and compositions to gain fame and fortune.

In the English version, he was voiced by Benjamin Bratt, who also played El Macho in Despicable Me 2 by Universal Pictures, Antonio Pope in Ride Along 2, and El Topo in Snitch. In the Spanish version, he was voiced by Marco Antonio Solís (also known as "El Buki") on his first villainous role.

Personality

Security, take care of Miguel! He'll be… extending his stay. (Miguel: WHAT?! But I'm your family!) And Héctor was my best friend. Success doesn't come for free, Miguel. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to… seize your moment. I know you understand.
~ Ernesto revealing his true colors to Miguel after admitting his murder of Héctor.

At first glance, Ernesto presents himself as a charming, wise, sensible and intelligent individual who encouraged others to follow their dreams no matter what, making him seem like a good role model to others (especially to Miguel). He also comes across as a very fun, friendly, approachable and optimistic person, the sort who's the life of the party wherever he goes.

However, it all turns out to be a facade to hide his true nature: that of a selfish and overambitious person who wanted glory and fame for himself, even if it meant murdering his best friend Héctor in order to steal his song book. His afterlife as a spirit has also allowed him to strengthen his reputation, and he will go to malicious lengths to maintain it.

When angry beyond limits, he considered Miguel a liability and went to the extent of attempting to murder the boy to hide his secret. He showed no remorse or hesitation, as he even taunted Héctor with a sarcastic apology. He was also cocky and egotistical enough to hide his secret in one of his films, which inevitably caused him to be exposed. When being confronted with his actions, he can be cowardly as shown when he was attacked by Héctor for killing him and being confronted by the other Riveras who learned the truth about Héctor's death.

After being exposed for his treachery and losing everything, Ernesto was a silent individual who could only look on as he was condemned for his vile actions before he was confronted by Pepita, who exacted a poetic punishment which was throwing him around and letting him get crushed by a bell (a reference to his death).

Quotes

You're giving up now when we're this close to reaching our dream?! (Héctor: This was your dream. You'll manage.) I can't do this without your songs, Héctor! (Héctor: I'm going home, Ernesto! Hate me if you want to, but my mind is made up.)
~ Ernesto arguing with Héctor over the latter's decision to leave the music industry.
Oh, I could never hate you. If you must go… then I'm sending you off with a toast. To our friendship… I would move heaven and earth for you, mi amigo. Salud!
~ Ernesto pretending to support Héctor of his decision to leave while secretly giving him a poisoned drink.
Perhaps it was that chorizo, my friend.
~ Ernesto trying to comfort Héctor as the latter is succumbing to the poison on the street, right before Héctor dies.
Are you all right, niño? (gasps) It's you! You are that boy, the one who came from the Land of the Living! (Miguel: You… you know about me?) You are anyone that has been talking about! Why have you come here? (Miguel: I'm Miguel… your great-great grandson.) I have a great-great grandson?!
~ Ernesto meeting Miguel after saving him from drowning in the mansion pool.
My boy… with a talent like yours… how could I not listen?
~ Ernesto commending Miguel's musical skills.
It has been an honor. I am very sorry to see you go, Miguel. I hope you die very soon. (Miguel is a little disturbed) You know what I mean.
~ Ernesto about to send Miguel back with a marigold Aztec petal until Héctor arrives.
My friend… you're… being forgotten. (Héctor: And whose fault is that?!) Héctor, please! (Héctor: Those were MY songs you took! My songs that made you famous!) (Miguel: What?) (Héctor: If I'm being forgotten, it's because YOU never told anyone that I wrote them!) (Miguel: That's crazy! De la Cruz wrote all his own songs.) (Héctor: You wanna tell him or should I?) Héctor, I never meant to take credit. We made a great team, but you died. And I… I only sang your songs because… I wanted to keep a part of you alive. (Héctor: Oh, how generous!)
~ Ernesto trying to justify his actions of stealing Héctor's songs after being confronted by an angry Héctor.
(Héctor: Look, I don't want to fight about it, I just want you to make it right: Miguel can put my photo up, and I can cross over the bridge. I could see my girl. Ernesto... remember the night I left?) That... was a long time ago. (Héctor: We drank together. And you told me you would move heaven and earth for your amigo. Well, I'm asking you to now.)
~ Ernesto after being reminded of the day Héctor tried to leave for his family.
(Héctor: You… poisoned me.) You're confusing movies with reality, Héctor.
~ Ernesto trying to dissuade Héctor from learning the truth about the latter's death to no avail.
Security, security! (Héctor: YOU TOOK EVERYTHING AWAY FROM ME, YOU RAT!!) Have him taken care of. He's… not well. (Héctor: I just wanted to go back home! NO!!)
~ Ernesto ordering his security guards to imprison Héctor in the cenote pit after the latter realized the true reasons behind his death.
I apologize. Where were we? (Miguel: You were going to give me your blessing.) Yes. Uh, sí. Miguel, my reputation, it is very important to me. I would hate to have you think that-(Miguel: That you murdered Héctor for his songs?) You don’t think that, do you? (Miguel: I—- No. Everyone knows you’re the good guy.)
~ Ernesto asking Miguel if he believes Héctor’s story, to which the latter denies.
Yes? Don't I know you? (Imelda slaps him with her boot) (Imelda: That's for murdering the love of my life!) Who?! Who the- (Héctor: She's talking about ME!! I'm the love of your life?) (Imelda: I don't know, I'm still angry at you.) Héctor?! How did you- (gets slapped again)(Imelda: And that's for trying to murder my grandson!) Grandson?! (Miguel: She's talking about me!) YOU!! Wait… you're related to Héctor?!
~ Ernesto learning that Miguel is the real great-great grandson of Héctor before being confronted by the Rivera relatives for murdering Héctor and stealing his photo.
SECURITY, AYUDAME!!
~ Ernesto calling his security guards to stop the Rivera family from reclaiming Héctor's photograph.
Get her off the stage!
~ Ernesto ordering his security guards to stop Imelda and steal back Héctor's photo during the sunrise show.
YOU'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!! (shoves Imelda away while dragging Miguel) (Héctor: Imelda!) Stay back, stay back! All of you, STAY BACK!! NOT one more step!
~ Ernesto stopping the Rivera family from sending Miguel back to the Land of the Living with Héctor's photo.
I worked too hard, Héctor… too hard to let him destroy everything! (Héctor: He's a living child, Ernesto!) He's a THREAT!! You think I'd let him go back to the Land of the Living with your photo?! To keep your memory ALIVE?! No! (Miguel: You're a coward!) I am Ernesto de la Cruz, the greatest musician of ALL TIME!! (Miguel: Héctor's the real musician! You're just the guy who murdered him and stole his songs!) I am the one who's willing to do what it takes to seize MY MOMENT… whatever it takes!
~ Ernesto ranting out against Héctor and Miguel before dropping the latter into the lake, the very same speech that revealed his true nature to the audience.
Apologies, old friend, but the show must go on.
~ Ernesto taunting Héctor after dropping Miguel and Hector's photo into the lake.
(laughs nervously) Please… mi familia (my family)! (Male Attendee: MURDERER!!) (Female Attendee: GET OFF THE STAGE!!) Orchestra, a-1, a-2, a-1… (the conductor breaks his baton in disgust) Remember me… though I have to- (a tomato is thrown into his jacket) HEY!!
~ Ernesto being jeered by the audience for his heinous actions against the Rivera family.
Nice kitty. (Pepita roars and grabs him by the waist) Put me down! NO, PLEASE!! I'm begging you! Stop, stop! Ow, ow! NOOOOO!!! (seeing the giant bell as he is about to crash into) NOOOOO!!!!
~ Ernesto's last words before he got crushed by the giant bell, echoing his original death.

Trivia

  • Ernesto is the fifth main antagonist in a Pixar film to actually die at the end of his film, after Hopper from A Bug's Life, Syndrome from The Incredibles, Charles Muntz from Up, and Mor'du from Brave. Though in Ernesto's case, he actually dies twice, in both the human realm and in the Día de los Muertos realm (although, since skeletons in after-life are shown to have great regeneration capabilities, his "death" in the after-life might be regarded as unconfirmed, and might have merely been symbolic for his defeat. In the world of the living a year later he is shown to be discredited, but this is not the same as being forgotten, meaning he might have survived in the world of the dead).
  • Ernesto de la Cruz is a tribute to the singer/actors of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema like Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Javier Solis and many others.
    • However, Ernesto de la Cruz is actually physically based on the beloved Mexican icon Pedro Infante (in fact, the second last name of Infante was "Cruz").
  • Ernesto is one of the few main antagonists of a Pixar film who wasn't revealed to be evil at first.
  • Ernesto de la Cruz is voiced in the Spanish version by an actual Mexican singer and actor, Marco Antonio Solís a well-known songwriter and singer, also known as "El Buki".
  • In a deleted scene, Ernesto chased down Miguel to the flower bridge after being exposed. When stepping on the pedals, Ernesto fell and dissolved through the pedals. This scene was cut out to make Ernesto's death seem less tragic.
  • When Hector was about to leave Ernesto, Ernesto immediately offered a drink that had a poison which kills Hector. However, there was no preparation of Ernesto poisoning the alcohol shown. This indicates that the alcohol had already been poisoned prior to the main story of the movie and Ernesto might've planned to ultimately kill Hector in the long run. Because Hector was about to leave Ernesto earlier than he anticipated, Ernesto had to carry out his scheme earlier than planned.

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