This book opens a window into a different time era, culture, and way of life. Esperanza is used to living as a queen on her family’s ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She has a loving family, and wealth beyond imagine to provide her with silk dresses, dolls and servants. However, everything changes when Esperanza’s dad is killed by bandits a day before her 13th birthday. Unable to own the ranch without her father, and the overwhelming pressure from her uncle’s desire to marry Esperanza’s mother, they decide to move to a migrant camp in California.
Everything has changed for Esperanza once she arrives to America. She no longer has servants, wealth or her grandma to keep her comfort. She must rise above all these changes in order to survive. She has to learn how to work and provide for her family, while still grieving her father’s death. When her mother becomes sick from a dust storm and gets worse due to depression, Esperanza has to work even harder. She goes from not knowing how to sweep to being a productive worker like everyone else. Esperanza proves herself to the others when she works without complaining and attempts to save her earning to bring her grandmother to California with them. While this is all happening other works are trying to form a workers union and strike so they can earn higher wages and better living conditions. This adds some drama and conflict while also giving an insight into the workers lives.
Esperanza does not only learn how to be a great worker but also realizes she can be happy without having silk dresses or servants. She really progresses with having a better attitude in working hard and staying strong through trials. She is able to see other’s perspectives and can have empathy for them. Although at times I would become frustrated because she would act selfish or like a spoiled brat. It was hard to read through at times because I desired for her to reach the point that she grew up and realized she can’t have her old life back.
This books also touches on more important issues such as the Dust Bowl, Mexican Deportation Act, and the discrimination foreigners receive. It also shows the perspective of immigrant workers and how they struggle to even just put food on the table. I really enjoyed this book because Esperanza really does grow up and learn how to be responsible.
It also would be great to incorporate into a classroom. I would think either a first or second year of Spanish would be an appropriate level for this book. It would be an easy book to introduce some Spanish vocabulary and talk about the culture of Mexico. I would break this book up by chapters and have them students write down the Spanish words as they read the book and make any notes about the Mexican culture or immigration. I would also want to talk about the historical events that took place during the time this story is taking place. I could co-plan with the history teacher to see if while they learn about the Great Depression in history they could read a real example in my class.