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Esperanza Rising

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Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising
First edition
Author Pam Muñoz Ryan
Translator Regina Allentoff
Illustrator Joe Cepeda
Country Mexico
Language English
Genre Historical Fiction
Publisher Scholastic
Publication date
Media type Print (paperback)+ (hardcover)
Pages 253 plus authors notes
OCLC 43487323
LC Class PZ7.R9553 Es 2000

Esperanza Rising is a 2000 young adult novel written by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Set in post-Revolutionary Mexico and in California during the time of the Great Depression, it examines the plight of the Mexican farm workers as they struggle to adapt and survive in the United States. Esperanza Rising received numerous awards, including the Pura Belpre award.[1]


  • Plot Summary 1
  • Background 2
  • Critical reception 3
  • References 4

Plot Summary

Esperanza Ortega was a wealthy girl who had everything she wanted and had a loving mother and father whom she adored. One day, her father and some of his men are suddenly killed by bandits while he is out working at their ranch. Her father intended to leave everything to his wife, Ramona, and Esperanza, but the family lawyer informs them that a loophole in the will states that the ranch, where most of the money comes from, will go to Señor Ortega's step brother, Luis Ortega, whom Esperanza calls Tío Luis,[2] who is implied to have a hand at Señor Ortega's murder. He plans to go into politics even deeper, and feels that with Ramona, a famous wealthy socialite loved by many in their town, will look good on his side and offers to marry her. She refuses, and he subtly threatens that bad things will happen if she does not marry him.

Their mansion later burns during a mysterious fire and Tío Luis returns and re-offers his wedding proposal. Ramona accepts, under the condition that he rebuilds the mansion and sends her money and a wagon to visit her mother, Abuelita.[3] Esperanza openly tells him she dislikes him, and he says the moment he becomes her stepfather, he will send her to a boarding school. Later on, Ramona tells Esperanza that she is not planning to marry him, and plans to escape to America. With the help of Abuelita, Alfonso, Miguel, and Hortensia (all servants for Esperanza), they trick Tío Luis to give Ramona money and necessities, and escape with the help of their loyal servants to cross the border. They leave Abuelita in the mansion because of her injured ankle. Abuelita promises to return to them after she heals, though. Despite what happened, Esperanza and her family must migrate to the United States. Unfortunately, they move during the Great Depression. Now Esperanza learns to face conflicts and rise above them. Ramona and Esperanza live in a poor Mexican labor camp in Arvin, California[4] with their servants and their family. Ramona adjusts to a poor life, but Esperanza's attempt to hold on to her memories are laughed upon by the poor children, especially a poor girl named Marta. Many terrible things happen, but with the help from her family she tends to face the bad things.

Ramona, along with their former servants, get a jobs in a field, while Esperanza stays home with her servants cousins (Isabel, a young girl, and Pepe and Lupe, both babies). When a dust storm occurs, Mama gets sick (with valley fever) so she must move to a hospital. Unable to afford the hospital bills, Esperanza gets a job cutting out potato eyes. Esperanza then gets a better job to get a bus ticket for Abuelita, pay for the hospital bills, and take care of the household. However, upon learning that Ramona is better, and Esperanza has saved enough for Abuelita, Esperanza finds that a friend has stolen her money. Days later Ramona is better, her friend, Miguel, has gotten a surprise at a bus stop. Esperanza, Alfonso, and Hortensia go to the bus stop as told. They then learn that Miguel has used the money to go to Mexico and get Abuelita.


American shops from Oklahoma (called Okies) were often hostile toward Mexicans because they felt they were taking away their jobs. Mexican migrant laborers would work for much lower pay, so employers would much rather hire them. There was also much tension between the migrant workers on the fields. Some felt that their conditions were unlivable, and they deserved much better, so they began to protest and fight for what they believed. Still, others refused to join the protest in fear that they would be fired. In the 1920s and 1930s (about the time story takes place) California remained about 88% white. Most of these people were those who owned the land, while the 36,800 workers, many of whom were Mexicans, did not.

Critical reception

Along with its Best Books citation, Publishers Weekly gave Esperanza Rising a starred review, citing its "lyrical, fairy tale - like style". It praised the way "Ryan poetically conveys Esperanza's ties to the land by crafting her story to the rhythms of the seasons" and the fact that "Ryan fluidly juxtaposes world events... with one family's will to survive".[5] Kirkus Reviews disliked the "epic tone, characters that develop little and predictably, and... romantic patina". However it also found that the "style is engaging, her characters appealing", ultimately saying that the story "bears telling to a wider audience".[6]

Children's Literature praised Esperanza Rising and suggested that it "would be a great choice for a multicultural collection".[7] The book has been incorporated into school curriculum in literature, social studies, and Spanish.[8] The University of Missouri has a detailed literature unit available online, including maps, photos and links to other resources.[9] Berkely High School used recordings of the book with its English as a Second Language students in an Earphone English group. They found that Esperanza Rising doesn't just appeal to students who, like Esperanza, have emigrated from Mexico, but "also to those who have moved here after losing their fathers to violence in the former Yugoslavia".[10]


  1. ^ Pam Munoz Ryan's website (the author)
  2. ^ pages 18 and 19 of Esperanza rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  3. ^ pages 12 and 13 of Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  4. ^ page 89 of Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  5. ^ "Children's Review: Esperanza Rising". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Kirkus Reviews: Esperanza Rising". Kirkus reviews. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Barnes and Noble Review: Esperanza Rising". More About This Book: Editorial Reviews. Barnes and Noble. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  8. ^ Boccuzzi-Reichert, Angela (May 2005). "A Book Club for Teachers". School Library Journal. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ "eThemes". Literature: "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan. University of Missouri. 
  10. ^ Goldsmith, Francisca (May 2002). "Earphone English". School Library Journal. 
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