Esperenza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

On her parents’ vineyard in Mexico, Esperanza lives the life of a princess surrounded by the love of her family and servants. But on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, this dream is shattered when bandits kill her

father and her dishonest uncles threaten to take everything. Faced with impossible choices Esperanza and her mother flee, and must begin a new, harder life far from home.

The Authors Style

Pam Munoz Ryan’s ‘ Esperanza Rising’ is one of the best books I have ever read. It shows conflicts of the early 1930’s in Mexico when many Mexicans were out of work and moved to the Californian states to find work. Many moved onto Company Camp Farms. These are large farms that pick crop all year round and supply housing that is only small one-bedroom cabins without proper furnishing. The book is based on Pam’s Abuelita grandmother, Esperanza Ortega Munoz Hernandez Elgart, who lived a life like the Esperanza in the book (her as a young child.)

She suffered many of the pains that the Author wrote about and inspired people to have ‘esperanza’, The Spanish word for Hope.

The Book is written in third person. The main character’s thoughts and emotions tell you a bit more about conflicts and hard times they are going through or witnessing. This helps the reader to understand the emotional changes evident in the character throughout the book.

It Caught my Attention!

Ramona,” said the Lawyer, “ Your husband Sixto Ortega left this house and all of its contents to you and your daughter. You will also receive the yearly income for the grapes. As you know, it is not customary to leave land to women and since Luis was the banker on the loan, Sixto left the land to him.”

“Which makes thing rather awkward,” said Tio Luis. “ I am the Bank President and would like to live accordingly. Now that I own this beautiful land, I would like to purchase the house from you for this amount. “ He handed Mama a piece of paper.

Mama looked at it and said, “ This is our home. My husband meant for us to live here. And the house… it is worth twice as much! So no, I will not sell. Besides where would we live?”

“I predicted you would say no Ramona,” said Tio Luis. “And I have a solution to your living arrangements. A proposal actually. One of marriage.”

Page 30-31

This part of the story made me feel very anxious and wanting to see how things would turn out. It made me wonder how I might feel if I was in Esperanza’s or even Mama’s position and what I might do to fix the problem. If Mama did end up marrying Tio Luis, I tried to imagine what Esperanza would feel like and how she would react.

My Reflection

The situation I chose to reflect on was when Mama is sent to hospital with valley fever where she had to stay for nearly 6 months. It made me feel as if I was longing to get Mama back. It made me wonder how people in the real world feel when their mums and dads are taken away. It gave me some insight on how upsetting it could be.

The Character That Surprised Me!

The character that surprised me most throughout the book was Miguel. Although at times Esperenza was rude to him, he still acted very respectfully towards her. One way that he showed this was acting as if he was still lower than her when he was not and by calling her ‘Mi Reina’ my queen. Although Miguel and Esperenza are equal, they are still on different sides of the river that never could be crossed.

Several years ago, when Esperenza was still a young girl, Mama and Papa had been discussing “Good Families” whom Esperenza should meet some day. She couldn’t imagine being matched with someone she had never met. So she announced “I want to marry Miguel!”

Mama had laughed at her and said, “You will feel differently as you get older.” “No I won’t,” Esperenza had said stubbornly.
But now that she was a young woman, she understood that Miguel was the Housekeepers son and she was the ranch owner’s daughter and between them ran a deep river that could never be crossed. In a moment of self-importance, Esperenza told all of this to Miguel. Since then they had only spoken a few words to her. When their paths crossed, He nodded and just said politely,”Mi Reina, my queen,” but nothing more. There was no teasing or laughing like there used to be, Esperenza pretended not to care though she secretly wished she had never told Miguel about the river.’

Pg 17-18.

A Taste of the Book

Esperanza looked up to see Miguel, holding a broom and a dustpan. But he wasn’t laughing. She looked down and bit her lip so she wouldn’t cry in front of him.

He shut the door, then stood in front of her and said, “How would you know how to sweep a floor? The only thing that you ever learned was how to give orders. That is not your fault. Anza, look at me.”
She looked up.
“Pay attention,” he said, his face serious. “You hold the broom like this. One hand here and the other here.”
Esperanza watched.
Then you push like this. Or pull it towards you like this. Here, you try,” he said, holding out the broom.
Slowly, Esperanza got up and took the broom from him. He positioned her hands on the handle. ‘

Page 118