Elena is Puerto Rican and she lives in a tenement building for immigrants. Eugene is from Georgia, white, and lives in the two-story house next to Elena's building. It seems as if Eugene's family is well enough off financially; although, they must be going through a transition in life, or a career change, because they are a long way from Georgia. Plus, Eugene's mother is a nurse, his father also works, but his mother says that their stay in the house next to El Building is only temporary. They don't want to live in their current situation for long.
Elena, on the other hand, is accustomed to salsa music, prejudice at school, and listening to her parents dream of a better life. Being from Georgia, Eugene is most likely used to being in the majority at school, so this is a big change for him when he moves to Patterson, New Jersey and must attend Public School Number 13. Based on the way Eugene's mother treats Elena, Eugene is more than likely not accustomed to experiencing any type of prejudice towards him. Even though there are major differences in their backgrounds, Elena seeks friendship from Eugene and she is surprised to be received well rather than rejected by "snobbery."