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Last Updated on November 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1627

Esperanza Ortega

Esperanza is the main character of Esperanza Rising, and she experiences a great deal of growth over the course of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Esperanza is a rather proud and spoiled girl. Her father, Sixto, owns a large ranch and commands several servants. An essential part of Esperanza’s character is how others treat her at the start of the story, because it demonstrates why she thinks so highly of herself.

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At one point, Esperanza considers her future and thinks about what marriage will be like. She is a member of the upper class in Mexico, so it is expected that she will marry someone who is of equal rank or higher. Her life, up to the point of her father’s death, has been blessed by doting love from everyone around her. Esperanza enjoys the love they show her so much that she doesn’t want to leave her parents’ house, even when she is grown and married:

She couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than El Rancho de la Rosas. Or with any fewer servants. Or without being surrounded by the people who adored her.

Esperanza has an inflated sense of self because of the way she lives. She is waited on hand and foot by the family servants and even called “Mi Reina” (“my queen”) by Miguel, the son of some of the indigenous servants. Having grown up with all of this attention makes Esperanza’s downfall even more difficult when has to flee with her mother to the United States and finds herself in the company of “peasants.”

Her flight to the US and subsequent loss of social standing cause immense turmoil in Esperanza’s life and result in a great deal of character development. First, Esperanza lowers herself to learn how to do everyday tasks that she used to see as beneath her station. Then, when her mother becomes ill, Esperanza has to work hard to pay the medical bills, and this helps to rid her of the stubborn pride she used to feel. However, it isn’t until the end of the story, when Miguel retrieves her Abuelita, that Esperanza finally sees that there is always hope, even at the darkest of times.

Through all of her struggles, and from learning to work on the farm and supporting her mother, Esperanza learns a valuable lesson: “Do not be afraid to start over.” Esperanza has realized that her life, even if it isn’t the life she always imagined, is precious. There is always hope, and things that are lost can be replaced.

Ramona Ortega (Mama)

Ramona is Esperanza’s mother. She is a reliable and resilient woman who flees with Esperanza to the United States rather than be forced into a terrible marriage with Luis. Ramona becomes deathly ill with valley fever during the novel, forcing Esperanza to work hard and support her. She eventually recovers and has an emotional reunion with Abuelita when Abuelita arrives from Mexico. Ramona demonstrates what Esperanza can become, because while Ramona was a member of the upper class in Mexico, she understands the value of work and the importance of family over wealth and comfort. Her resilience and hope provide an essential example to Esperanza. When Esperanza struggles to cope with their new situation, her mother tells her, “Do you know how lucky we are, Esperanza? Many people come to this valley and wait months for a job. Juan went to a lot of trouble to make sure we had this cabin waiting for us when we got here. Please be grateful for the favors bestowed upon us.”

Sixto Ortega (Papa)

Esperanza’s father, Sixto, whom Esperanza calls Papa, only appears briefly in the novel before bandits murder him for being a landowner. He is a jovial and robust character who teaches Esperanza important life lessons like “Aguantate tantito y la fruta caera en tu mano,” which means “wait a little while, and the fruit will fall into your hand”—meaning “be patient.” This is a lesson...

(The entire section contains 1627 words.)

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