The House on Mango Street is Sandra Cisnero's first novel and it traces the struggles of Esperanza Cordero, the narrator and a young Latino girl struggling to rise above her difficult circumstances and what is for her a rather embarrassing background of poverty. Esperanza's surname Cordero is Cisnero's own mother's name (Elvira Cordero Anguiano), her father's being Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral. As the daughter of a Mexican-American mother and Mexican father, Cisneros traveled between Mexico and America as a child as her father pursued his upholstery business. Cisneros challenges traditional values and aims to reveal that it is not necessary to deny one culture in order to be a part of another.
Esperanza is very aware of her surroundings and watches others in her neighborhood, especially the women as they manage their daily lives. It is these observations that give Esperanza insight into her own potential but also reveal to her that reality is very different from what she sees on TV and in magazines. Esperanza feels resentful about that. She searches for her own identity and for ways to create a life for herself which is not defined by her surroundings. She recognizes the struggle of many of the local women who cannot challenge their traditional role and at the same time, she knows that she needs to ensure that she does not deny her heritage or culture or "forget who you are." She learns some harsh life lessons.
Esperanza's last name is Cordero.
Esperanza is the name Sandra Cisneros used because it means "hope". All the vignettes are things Sandra experienced or someone told her. She uses the name Esperanza maybe also because her grandmother's name was Esperanza and she admires her grandmother because like her, her grandmother was born a horse under the chinese zodiac and never wanted to get married until her husband forced her.