Half-awake, Esperanza hears her Papa singing "Happy Birthday" to her from outside her window. For a moment she believes that her father is still alive, but then she wakes up on her Papa’s side of her parents’ bed. Reality settles in and Esperanza must accept the tragedy from the night before - bandits killed her beloved father while he was repairing a fence on their ranch. Esperanza hears a knock at the front door. It is Señor Rodríguez, Marisol’s father, who has come to deliver papayas. Señor Rodríguez explains that Papa had ordered the fruits especially for Esperanza's birthday party. Esperanza is then forced to explain her father’s death to his dear friend; Marisol’s father is overcome with grief.
Esperanza mimics her Mama’s mannerisms while accepting condolences during the three day mourning rituals for Papa. She finally lets her façade drop when she is alone with Marisol and starts crying openly. Late at night, Esperanza can hear her mother crying softly. Esperanza ignores her birthday presents until Mama insists that she open them. Of all her presents, Esperanza's favorite is an exquisite doll from Papa.
Following Papa’s death, Tío Luis and Tío Marco slowly move their way into Papa’s office under the pretense of helping out with the family business. Both Mama and Esperanza find the uncles' presence to be unnerving. Esperanza is especially upset when she notices the mess her uncles have created in her father's usually organized office.
Finally, a lawyer explains that Papa left the house to Mama and Esperanza, but because it is not customary for women to own land, the land belongs to Tío Luis. Tío Luis immediately tries to buy the house from Mama at a very low price and suggests that they get married right after the mourning period. Mama refuses both offers, knowing that as their landlord or as a husband, Tío Luis will make their lives miserable.
While the adults discuss the state of affairs, Esperanza slips out to the rose garden. Miguel joins her and they sit together, admiring the rose bushes Papa planted for each of them years before. Miguel tells Esperanza that his family is planning to move to the United States as soon as they are no longer needed by Esperanza’s family. Esperanza shifts away in surprise and Miguel repeats Esperanza’s past words to her: in Mexico, they come from different worlds. Back in her own room, Esperanza promises to never leave the farm. While thinking about Papa, Esperanza smells the pungent odor of the ripening papayas that Señor Rodríguez delivered. She wishes that things could go back to the way they were and tries to find Papa in her dreams again.
In the second chapter, Esperanza's charmed life crumbles. Her uneasy feelings towards her uncles come to fruition when Tío Luis uses Papa's death as a way to gain more power in the community. The family dispute reveals the unequal power dynamic between men and women during this time. Papa could not even leave el Rancho de las Rosas to his own wife because she is a woman. However, Mama adjusts to her new circumstances and stands up to Tío Luis, the family's new patriarch. Mama's inner strength and protectiveness make her a good role model for Esperanza.
The women of the family are expected to keep up a façade of perfection after Papa's death. Publicly, Mama behaves as the perfect hostess and model wife, but she grieves in private. As temporary head of the Ortega household, Mama cannot show emotion or any perceived weakness - especially because it will make her appear more vulnerable to people like Tio Luis, who are circling Papa's wealth like vultures.
Muñoz Ryan further explores the divide between social classes when Miguel and Esperanza meet in the rose garden. Roses are ancient symbols of love - so the two rose bushes growing together represent Miguel and Esperanza’s relationship. Papa planted the bushes side-by-side while Miguel and Esperanza were youthfully ignorant of the ways in which social class would create a wedge between them. Now, the rose bushes, like the teenagers, are growing in fundamentally different ways. Esperanza’s grows up on a trellis above Miguel’s, paralleling their social inequality. Esperanza fails to see that although they are part of different social classes, she and Miguel come from the same place. Just as the flowers have grown from the same ground, both teenagers have been born and raised on el Rancho de las Rosas.
Muñoz Ryan also introduces the theme of upward social mobility in this chapter. Miguel understands that he and Esperanza are in different social classes only in Mexico and aspires for a better life in the United States. Miguel’s announcement of his family's move to the United States foreshadows future events and stands in stark contrast to Esperanza’s declaration that she will never leave el Rancho de las Rosas. Their reactions to the changes at el Rancho de las Rosas represent the different mindsets of their social classes. Wealthy families like Esperanza's try to maintain the status quo, while Miguel's family knows that they need to evolve in order to survive.
The image of the United States as a land of opportunity is not unique to Esperanza Rising. The “American Dream" - the aspiration for monetary success and upward social mobility - is a common theme in many novels about this time period, especially from Mexico. The majority of Esperanza Rising takes place between 1930-1940 - after the worldwide Great Depression, Mexico’s agriculture trade declined steeply and many Mexicans fled to the United States in search of better lives.