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“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Synopsis of the book

The synopsis of Esperanza Rising is the girl’s life-changing year. Esperanza had a wealthy family in Mexico, but bandits killed her father; his brothers attempted to take advantage of Esperanza’s family situation. However, her mother was not willing to obey, and they managed to escape to the United States. Esperanza turns from a wealthy girl into a Mexican migrant: she faces struggles of manual labor, takes adult responsibilities, and grows over the challenges, such as her mother’s sickness and the danger of deportation. In a year from Esperanza’s father’s death, the grown-up girl becomes happy with her new life.

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Main characters and their roles

There are five characters with significant roles in the book: Esperanza, Mama, Miguel, Isabel, and Marta. Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy Mexican landowner; she is the protagonist in the novel. Mama is how Esperanza calls her mother Ramona, who initiates their escape to the United States. Miguel and his family served Esperanza’s home in Mexico, and the girl tended to avoid a close relationship with him due to their social differences. He also escapes, and by the end of the novel, Esperanza discovers that he is a valuable person for her. Isabel is a bit younger than Esperanza and lives in her new home. The girl is mature for her age, she teaches Esperanza to live in the camp, and they become friends. Marta is the camp inhabitant and organizes the strike to fight for the rights of migrants. She pushes Esperanza to overcome the fears and habits of the wealthy past.


There are different types of Mexican culture described in the book, such as Mexican wealthy and poor people’s culture, migrants’ from Mexico, and Mexican-American culture. Esperanza Rising includes many Spanish words, highlights the fundamental values of Mexicans, and shows readers the significant influence of the social status on Mexican culture.

Family dynamics

At the beginning of the novel, Esperanza lives in a complete, wealthy family with mother, father, and grandmother, until bandits kill her father, and the family breaks. Esperanza and her mother escape to the United States, leave grandmother in Mexico, and the family becomes even smaller. During the camp life, the mother gets sick, leaving Esperanza in the family where they lived. Although Esperanza was not alone, she felt like an orphan. Happily, her mother got back, and her grandmother managed to move to the United States so that Esperanza’s family reunited and became almost complete.

Overall lessons

During the book’s events, Esperanza learned several lessons that made a significant impact on her life and will inevitably affect her future. Her life changes rapidly, and new conditions force her to be responsible, do manual work, make new friends like Isabel, keep old friends like Miguel beside, and hope that everything will be alright.

The first lesson is about happiness: it is not material and does not depend on external conditions. Esperanza meets people in the camp, who cannot afford anything that the girl used to have and love. Moreover, the circumstances of their life were terrible, and the daily labor drained these people. Regardless of these factors, people stayed happy, because they enjoyed sharing moments like evening dances together, having a roof and food, and just being alive.

The second lesson is that there is no need to be scared of a fresh start: at the beginning of the novel, her grandmother says, “Do not be afraid to start over” (Ryan, 2000, p. 15). The advice was about crochet, yet Esperanza then learned it as a lesson in life’s reality. The whole year described in the book is about the new start in the girl’s life, and she dealt well with it.

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The third lesson Esperanza learned throughout the year of her life is to be more tolerant and accept that people are different. She used to divide her from people of the lower class, yet she discovered that they could be kind, generous, and helpful. The brightest example of kindness is Miguel’s travel back to Mexico to bring Esperanza’s grandmother and reunite her family. The girl learned that there are no deep rivers between her and people of different cultures or statuses.

The fourth lesson reveals that there is always a place for hope. Esperanza hopes that her grandmother will eventually join them in California, as well as she hopes that her mother will get better and return to the camp. Hoping was the only thing to do in both of these situations as the girl was not able to force them to happen. Esperanza’s mother and grandmother were reunited with her by the end of the book, so that hopes were not in vain.

The fifth lesson Esperanza got is how to learn to do different things quickly. For example, she needed to improve her household skills to be able to help Isabel and then learn to work in fields to earn money. Quick learning for these things was necessary to adapt to new life, and Esperanza did her best to survive in her circumstances.

Could Esperanza have learned it in an academic setting? Will she need the knowledge/information that she gained from these lessons late in life?

  1. Happiness is not material and does not depend on external conditions. a. This lesson can’t be the one to learn in an academic setting because it is the question of life experience, not education. b. Esperanza will need knowledge about happiness late in life because being happy is one of the key needs of a human, and Esperanza will know what makes her happy.
  2. It is necessary to be brave enough to start over. a. The lesson might be learned in an academic setting because there are many different things people need to do over and over again to improve themselves. b. The lesson is vital for her late life as the history of the twentieth century is full of turning points, and Esperanza will meet most of them.
  3. It is important to be more tolerant and accept that people are different. a. She would learn the tolerance lesson in an academic setting if she studied with people of multiple backgrounds, yet there is a low chance for such an experience for her time. b. As a migrant in the United States, she would expect respect from different people and would respect the social minors in return.
  4. There is always a place for hope. a. This lesson is also more about the life experience, yet it might be learned in an academic setting by studying history and literature that are full of stories where hope took an important place. b. Esperanza will need this lesson in her future because there will be moments of despair in her life when only hope can help to keep moving and living.
  5. New things need to be learned quickly. a. The lesson could be learned in an academic setting because it also requires many knowledge and skills to get and use. b. Esperanza will widely use the lesson as it might turn to have unexpected turnarounds that will require new knowledge and skills to be learned and applied.

In what ways are family/culture important in a child’s development?

Family and culture are vital for a child’s development as the two are around them from the first day of life. The family raises a child by giving them moral values, habits, and interests that it mostly brought from the culture of its country or region. Moreover, a child cannot choose a family and culture like they do not choose their character that develops in the cultural environment.

CHDV 15 assignment

Esperanza Rising was assigned for CHDV 15, mainly because of the many lessons it might teach the children. It faces the fact of the changing life conditions, shows children how important the family and friends are. Moreover, it includes cultural and historical backgrounds so that the young readers would find out more about Mexican culture and the historical period of the Great Depression in the United States. Lastly, it is an essential part of a child’s development to compare themselves with a book or movie character. Esperanza, her thoughts and feelings, might let the children be thrilled about her adventures and reflect on how they could behave in her place.

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Ryan, P. M. (2000). Esperanza rising. Scholastic Press.

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