There are too many characters in the book to give specific details of all of their experiences, but if you follow the link below, you will get these details about each of the characters.
Esperanza's mother left school when she was younger because she didn't have nice clothes to wear. Alicia's burden is taking care of her family while trying to go to college. Minerva, not much older than Esperanza, already has two children she's raising on her own since her husband walked out. Mamacita, the obese wife of a neighbor, refuses to leave her apartment because she's afraid to speak English. Rafaela's husband in effect keeps her imprisoned because he's afraid she'll leave him since she's so beautiful. Sally's father is abusive, while Rosa is overwhelmed by trying to raise her large family on her own.
While a few of the male characters are affected by the poverty in their lives, all of the women characters are oppressed due to the limitations and controls placed upon them by the men in their lives and/or a society who doesn't accept their language and culture.