The winter season gets colder, but Esperanza must spend more time outside because she has a job tying grapevines. She works tirelessly, thinking only of how much more money she needs to save in order to bring Abuelita to California. Meanwhile, she also worries about her grandmother but has no way of contacting her in Mexico.
One day, Esperanza is examining her rough and calloused hands and admits that she no longer recognizes them as her own. Hortensia makes an avocado salve to soothe her injuries, but Esperanza knows that no remedy will ever restore her hands to their former softness.
At the end of the grape-tying season, Esperanza and Miguel visit Mama in the hospital. The doctor explains that Mama has contracted pneumonia and cannot have any visitors until she is better. Esperanza insists on seeing her mother for a few minutes, and then Miguel brings her back to camp.
Hortensia sees that Esperanza is feeling low, so she suggests that Esperanza and Miguel go to the market on Saturday. Miguel and Esperanza must take a truck to travel the long distance to Mr. Yakota’s store. There are other stores closer to camp, but Miguel explains to Esperanza that Mr. Yakota treats the Mexican customers well, while all the other store owners classify them as dirty migrant workers. Esperanza jokes about her ragged appearance and wonders if anyone can tell that she is better educated than most Americans.
At Mr. Yakota's store, Esperanza picks up all of the essentials. She cannot resist buying a small piñata, thinking that it will cheer Mama up. On the way back to camp, the truck stops for Marta and her mother, Ada. The two women are traveling to a different camp, which is where many of the strikers live. It is much dirtier than the place where Esperanza and Miguel live.
Esperanza feels sorry for the hungry children in the camp and gives them the piñata. Marta explains to Esperanza and Miguel that she is helping to organize a strike that will take place during the asparagus harvest. She warns them that workers who do not strike could be in danger. Esperanza listens to Marta without feeling any malice, but knows that she must keep working in order to bring Abuelita to the United States.
A few nights later, Esperanza hears the good news that Miguel had gotten a job as a mechanic for the railroad. The families celebrate with good food. When Esperanza sees the happiness in Miguel’s eyes, she has fond memories of her father.
As Mama recovers in the hospital, Esperanza descends into one of the emotional valleys that Abuelita had described while they were knitting together. Esperanza feels as though her problems are rising all around her like mountains. Abuelita's knitting metaphor applies to Esperanza's story on many levels. When she and Mama move to the United States, they are living in a literal valley - the San Joaquin Valley. Esperanza finds a brief respite from her problems when she and Miguel travel to Mr. Yakota's store.
When Esperanza purchases the piñata at Mr. Yakota’s store, she reveals her new selfless attitude. Esperanza buys the piñata to make Mama feel better, while only a few months earlier she would not even let a poor little girl handle her precious doll because she was afraid it would become dirty. Back then, she only considered her own wants and needs. Now, Esperanza has realized that she has the power to bring happiness to other people. Later, she does not think twice about giving the piñata to the poor children in Marta's camp.
Esperanza also becomes more sympathetic towards Marta in this chapter. When Esperanza witnesses the sparse and unclean living conditions at Marta's camp, she does not recoil in disgust as she did when she first saw her own cabin. Instead, Esperanza counts her blessings. For the first time, Esperanza also listens to Marta without letting her initial dislike cloud her opinion of the girl.
Finally, Esperanza continues to make comparisons between Papa and Miguel. When Miguel talks about his mechanic job, Esperanza likens his expression to the way Papa used to look when he spoke about their connection to the land. In this way, Miguel is filling the void in Esperanza's life that Papa has left behind - he keeps her grounded and protects her, but he also pushes her to grow and believes in her abilities.