Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9: Las Papas (Potatoes)


Esperanza throws herself into caring for Mama, refusing to leave the sick woman's side. The doctor explains that Mama is neither getting better nor worse and that she needs to rest. When Mama calls out for Abuelita, Esperanza remembers the blanket that Abuelita had begun to knit the night of Papa’s death. In order to deal with her stress and anxiety, Esperanza finds the unfinished blanket and picks up where Abuelita left off. She is able to procure different pieces of yarn from her neighbors.

Esperanza desperately wishes that Abuelita could come and help Mama, but that is not possible. Esperanza therefore brings Mama to Kern General Hospital so that she can receive better care. Hortensia explains that Mama is depressed in addition to being sick because of all of the terrible things that have happened to her over the past few months. Esperanza prays to the Lady of Guadalupe statue regularly, hoping that she will be able to keep her promise to Abuelita and take care of Mama.

The day after taking Mama to the hospital, Esperanza approaches Miguel to see if she can get a job in the fields. She is desperate for the money to help with the hospital bills, and even offers to disguise herself as a boy. However, Miguel explains that winter is not the time for picking crops and the only work available is removing the eyes from potatoes.

Esperanza joins Hortensia and Josefina removing potato eyes. The young girl does not complain about the cold as she might have in the past, and instead imitates Josefina and Hortensia in order to become the best worker. Esperanza is always thinking about what Miguel has told her - the best workers from the winter season will get jobs in the spring and summer.

While the women work on the potatoes, Esperanza overhears Marta’s aunt talking about the upcoming strike. The woman explains that Marta is planning the strike for the spring, but she fears for the safety of her niece - as well as those who choose not to strike. Turmoil is brewing but nobody in the camp seems to know how to deal with it.

A few days before Christmas, Isabel asks Esperanza what her family used to do for the holidays when they lived in Mexico. Esperanza describes the decorations her family used to hang up and details all of their various traditions. She stops herself from talking about all the presents she used to receive and instead asks Isabel what she wants for Christmas. Isabel would be happy to receive anything. Meanwhile, Esperanza wishes for Abuelita to come to California and for Mama to recover.

On Christmas Day, Esperanza visits Mama in the hospital. Mama sleeps the entire time that Esperanza is there. After seeing her mother so weak, Esperanza promises to take care of her family as the new head of her household.


Esperanza’s emotional maturity becomes increasingly evident after Mama gets sick. Without any prompting, Esperanza takes on the responsibility of being Mama’s primary caregiver. She understands what needs to be done instead of having to follow someone else's instructions. She asks Miguel about getting a job. Although Mama's illness is a setback for the family, it forces Esperanza to mature much more quickly than if Mama had remained healthy.

Meanwhile, Esperanza displays an rigorous work ethic while removing the potato eyes. She does not complain about the harsh conditions - she does what she needs to do to take care of her family. If she is overwhelmed by the foreign task, she does not show it. Instead, she looks to her elders for guidance, respecting the importance of the hard work.

Back when Mama made plans to move to America, everyone laughed at Esperanza when she said that she would also do manual labor. When she finally starts doing it, nobody questions her ability, and Esperanza proves herself to be a strong worker. As the world is changing around Esperanza, Esperanza is evolving to adapt.

Although Esperanza is quickly becoming more mature, she still longs for Abuelita to come. She has no way to contact her grandmother. Therefore, Esperanza turns to knitting to feel closer to Abuelita. At the beginning of the novel, Esperanza complains about her grandmother's knitting lessons. Now, she takes on the task of completing the blanket that Abuelita had started.

By picking up where Abuelita left off, Esperanza shows the way that traditions and wisdom are passed down from one generation to another. In addition, knitting keeps Esperanza close to Abuelita, even though they are miles apart.