Aguascalientes, Mexico and Arvin, California, during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Dumas writes in a very conversational tone, as if telling a friend the story of her life. Along with that, there is not always a chronological order to the chapters or the events they detail, with some things being referenced in early chapters that do not occur until the later ones.
Esperanza Ortega- Thirteen-year-old Esperanza is the main character and protagonist
of this story. She has lived her entire life on her parent’s beautiful
ranch in Mexico. When her father is killed, Esperanza, her mother, and
their servants flee to California. Esperanza must learn how to live as
a poor farm worker.
Miguel - Miguel is the son of Alfonso and Hortensia, who work for Esperanza’s family. Esperanza and Miguel grow up together at the ranch. Miguel believes that living in the United States, even as a poor farmer, is better than living in Mexico because he has the opportunity to advance.
Ramona Ortega - Ramona is Esperanza’s mother. She is devastated by the loss of
her husband and her home. However, she refuses to marry her cruel brother-in-law,
Tío Marco, because she wants to remain with Esperanza--no matter
what the circumstances. In California, Ramona becomes ill with Valley
Fever. She spends five months in the hospital before she recovers.
Sixto Ortega - Sixto is Esperanza’s father. He is a good man who is very generous to those who work for him. When Sixto is killed Esperanza’s entire life changes.
Abuelita - Abuelita is Esperanza’s grandmother and Ramona’s mother. She lives with the family on the ranch in Mexico. When Tío Marco burns down the house, Abuelita hurts her ankle and cannot make the trip to California. Abuelita lives with her sisters in a convent until Miguel brings her to California with the money Esperanza has saved.
Marisol Rodriguez - Marisol is Esperanza’s best friend in Mexico. Esperanza cannot say goodbye to her when she leaves because her departure must be kept a secret.
Alfonso - Alfonso is Miguel’s father. He worked on Papa’s ranch.
Hortensia - Hortensia is Miguel’s mother. She worked in the house on the ranch. Among her duties was taking care of Esperanza. Esperanza must adjust to a new relationship with Hortensia once they move to California.
Tío Luis and Tío Marco - Tío Luis and Tío Marco are the antagonists of the story. They are Papa’s brothers who destroy Esperanza’s life. The brothers are responsible for burning down Esperanza’s house and keeping Abuelita’s money from her. Tío Marco wants to marry Mama and send Esperanza away to boarding school. changes.
Juan and Josafina - Juan and Josafina are relatives of Hortensia and Alfonso in California. They help Alfonso, Hortensia and Mama get work after the ranch burns down.
Isabel - Isabel the eight-year-old daughter of Juan and Josafina. At first she annoys Esperanza. However, Esperanza learns to love her. Isabel helps Esperanza adjust to her new life by teaching her how to perform many duties on the farm.
Pepe and Lupe - Pepe and Lupe are Isabel’s twin baby brother and sister. One of Esperanza’s duties on the farm is to care for them, which is very challenging at first.
Marta - Marta is a girl who is not very nice to Esperanza when they first meet. Marta pushes everyone to strike because she believes they are being treated unfairly. When there is a sweep of the camps, Esperanza helps Marta escape.