Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6: Las Cebollas (Onions)


Everyone arrives at the camp and Esperanza sees her new home for the first time. She is horrified - the cabin is more humble than the servants’ quarters at el Rancho de las Rosas. Additionally, Esperanza and Mama will be sharing the tiny space with Hortensia, Alfonso, and Isabel. When Mama expresses her gratitude for the cabin, Esperanza becomes frustrated. Mama explains patiently that what matters is that they are together and far away from Tío Luis.

Esperanza is more cheerful the next morning when the adults all leave for field work and Miguel goes to Bakersfield in search of a mechanic job. Esperanza and Isabel are left to supervise Pepe and Lupe as well as sweep the camp’s platform. Isabel shows Esperanza around the camp and introduces her to all their neighbors, all of whom seem to know that Esperanza was once a rich girl.

Back in their cabin, Isabel teaches Esperanza how to wash the babies’ diapers because Esperanza has never washed clothes in her life. Esperanza is a bit embarrassed about her lack of household skills but she is determined to learn how to do all the chores before Isabel returns to school.

Esperanza attempts to sweep the camp’s platform. She has only ever watched the servants at el Rancho de las Rosas clean, so she struggles to complete the task. Marta witnesses Esperanza's failure and mocks her by calling her “Cinderella.” Esperanza runs back to the cabin in tears. For the first time, she is ashamed about her privileged past.

Miguel comforts Esperanza by showing her how to sweep properly. He understands that she has never had to learn how to do chores. Thanks to Miguel, Esperanza is able to sweep the platform successfully. Afterwards, Miguel jokes that Esperanza could actually be a good servant one day.

Isabel is impressed when Miguel calls Esperanza “his queen” and demands to know more about Esperanza’s life as a wealthy landowner’s daughter. Esperanza gladly agrees to tell Isabel stories about her past in exchange for instruction on how to do various chores.


Esperanza and Isabel develop a symbiotic relationship - they each need something from the other. Isabel consumes Esperanza's stories of her wealthy past as if they were fairy tales. Meanwhile, Esperanza needs Isabel to teach her about household chores. Their friendship is also symbolic of the way that people from different social classes intersect and depend upon each other outside of the normal social hierarchy.

In this chapter, Marta continues to serve as an antagonist. She judges Esperanza for her past, taunting her sweeping capabilities and calling her "Cinderella." Concurrently, Miguel further establishes himself as Esperanza’s support system, a balm to heal Marta's barbs. While Marta takes every opportunity to tear Esperanza down, Miguel is there to counter her remarks with caring words and help.

Throughout this chapter, Esperanza experiences waves of humiliation but is able to overcome each instance of insecurity with help from those around her. Esperanza feels horrified when she first sees her new living conditions but Mama helps her to see the bright side. Then, Miguel makes her feel better after Marta makes fun of her.

The rhythmic back-and-forth of Esperanza's emotions mimics the cyclical nature of the novel – when bad things happen, it is important to look ahead because good things await in the future. Abuelita promises Esperanza that every low point is followed by something better; and Papa taught her to wait patiently until the fruit falls into her hand.