The year is 1930, just ten years after the Mexican Revolution. Esperanza is the only child of a wealthy landowner. They live on a vineyard in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Esperanza wears silk dresses, plays with porcelain dolls, and goes to private schools. She only knows the life of the very rich.
Bandits kill Esperanza’s father. Two evil step uncles, her father’s brothers, have control of the family’s money. Tío Luis wants Mama to marry him for the power she will give him. When she refuses, they burn down the family home. Esperanza’s grandmother Abuelita is injured in the fire and goes to live with her sisters in the convent until she is better.
Flight to America
Esperanza and her mother flee Mexico with their servants [Alfonso, Hortensia, and Miguel] to the San Joaquin Valley in California. They move into a small worker home with Alfonso’s brother and his family. There Mama works alongside the migrant workers in the sheds packing the harvest. Mama’s life changes completely. She goes from having servants to living in a poor Mexican labor camp.
The story follows Esperanza through years of hardship.
After a dust storm, Mama becomes ill with Valley Fever and has to be hospitalized. Esperanza must begin working in the sheds to pay Mama’s medical bills and try to earn enough money to bring Abuelita to California.
Due to the poor working and living conditions along with extremely low wages, the workers organize a strike. The workers in Esperanza’s camp decide not to participate. Many strikers are rounded up and deported. The deportation angers and upsets Esperanza. She takes out her frustrations by arguing with Miguel. Miguel takes the money Esperanza has been saving and leaves, telling everyone he is going north to look for work.
Will Esperanza’s family ever be happy again? Read Esperanza Rising to find out.
Activities to do with Esperanza Rising
Book Unit Sample
This book unit sample contains pages from the unit for you to test out. Vocabulary practice, Chapter 1 comprehension questions, and a setting constructed response question is included.
Esperanza Rising Character Trait Cards
Students will enjoy making these character trait cards. The cards make a great interactive notebook page.
First students write a brief description of 15 main characters. Answer keys are also included. Once created, the cards may be sorted by where the characters were born: Mexico or the United States.
This is a great way to help students remember the large number of characters while they practice an important skill.
The Book on Youtube
Ten Interesting Facts . . . The Great Depression
The novel takes place during the Great Depression. In my Ten Interesting Facts Series, I created a page on The Great Depression. Reading about the price of goods is a fun way to teach students to better understand tables. The nonfiction companion piece is also a great way to teach close reading. Some facts are hard to believe. For example, doctors only made $3172 a year.
Additional Teaching Resources
on the Web
Get a free book unit sample here.
Do you need additional teaching resources? Check out Esperanza Rising Book Unit on Teachers pay Teachers.