Esperanza is the pre-teen protagonist of the novel. She is the daughter of a wealthy landowner growing up in Aguascalientes, Mexico. When her father dies, her life turns upside down. Esperanza and her mother must move to America and begin their life anew as migrant workers in California. The novel chronicles Esperanza's struggles to adapt to her new circumstances.
Esperanza's mother, Ramona, who teaches Esperanza how to be strong after Papa's death. Mama is Esperanza's support system in California until she falls ill - after which Esperanza must take on the responsibility of keeping their family together.
Esperanza's father, Sixto, the kind proprietor of el Rancho de las Rosas. He feels deeply connected to the land and teaches Esperanza to trust the cycles of nature. In the beginning of the novel, Papa is killed by bandits while repairing a fence on the ranch.
Esperanza's best friend in Mexico - they are permanently separated when Esperanza and her mother move to California.
Abuelita is what Esperanza calls her maternal grandmother. She teaches Esperanza the importance of perseverance. Due to an injury, she must stay behind in Mexico when Esperanza and Mama move to California. Eventually, Miguel is able to bring Abuelita to the U.S.A.
A Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca who works as the housekeeper at el Rancho de las Rosas. She is married to Alfonso, and is Miguel's mother.
Papa’s close friend and boss of the field-workers at el Rancho de las Rosas. He is also Hortensia’s husband, Jose's brother, and Miguel's father. He makes the arrangements for his family, Esperanza, and Mama to travel to California.
Alfonso and Hortensia's son was once Esperanza's childhood companion. Miguel shares many of Papa's qualities - he is patient, strong, and kind. He loves trains and dreams of becoming a mechanic on the railroad. Miguel and Esperanza sometimes clash because of their class differences, but deep down, they care about one another.
Papa’s malicious and eldest stepbrother who is president of the bank in Aguascalientes. After Papa's death, Tío Luis tries to marry Mama in order to gain traction for his political campaign, but she refuses. He later has a hand in burning down her house, thus forcing Mama and Esperanza to flee to America.
Papa’s crooked, older stepbrother and the mayor of Aguascalientes. He is just as vindictive and corrupt as his brother, Tío Luis.
Juan and Josefina's daughter teaches Esperanza how to take care of the babies and do chores. She is younger than Esperanza but has a great deal of maturity and knowledge about living in the camp. Isabel's dream is to go to school so she can learn English. She loves hearing stories about Esperanza's privileged life in Mexico.
Alfonso's brother (and Josefina's husband) who welcomes everyone into their home in California. He becomes like family to Esperanza and Mama.
Jose's wife and Isabel's mother, Josefina, becomes an important female figure in Esperanza's life when Mama falls ill.
A teenage girl who lives in an adjacent camp with her mother, Ava. Marta fights for the rights of migrant workers and organizes a strike. She often mocks Esperanza for her privileged upbringing and lack of experience doing manual labor. When immigration officials break up the strike, however, Esperanza helps Marta hide.
Esperanza Rising Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Esperanza Rising is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
“Americans see us as one big, brown group who are good for only manual labor. At this market, no one stares at us or treats us like outsiders or calls us ‘dirty greasers.’” Esperanza had not seen this before in Mexico.