by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising Chapter 12 Summary
Los Espárragos (Asparagus)
- Marta wasn't kidding; the strikers are super organized. We're talking flyers, meetings, billboards, you name it.
- The idea is to interrupt the asparagus harvest.
- On the first day of asparagus packing, Esperanza rides to the sheds with Hortensia and Josefina. For some reason, the company sends a man with a gun on the truck with them. Do they really need this kind of protection? Yikes.
- The sheds are surrounded by a crowd of women, including Marta and her friends. They're carrying signs that say, "¡Huelga! Strike!"
- The women shout and yell, trying to intimidate Esperanza and the other workers. When the guard isn't looking, one of the strikers even throws a rock at the workers. Esperanza is confused—shouldn't they all be on the same side?
- All day, as Esperanza packs asparagus, she listens to the chants and threats of the strikers. Alfonso and Juan say the same thing is happening in the fields. They have to cross picket lines to go to work.
- The asparagus that they pick has to cross the picket lines to get to the sheds, and the strikers sometimes slip surprises underneath the vegetables. We're talking rats, snakes, and razorblades in the crates of asparagus. Not cool, strikers. Not cool.
- Miguel says the strikers have a right to protest because, hey, "It's a free country" (12.20).
- But Miguel also warns that things will get worse, because every day more people arrive in the valley, willing to work for lower and lower wages.
- Josefina points out that everyone will starve if people keep agreeing to work for less and less money. In fact, that's the strikers' point.
- Isabel is worried that her family really is going to starve. But how could they starve when they're surrounded by food?
- One day at work, the chanting of the strikers stops. Something must be wrong.
- There's a caravan of buses and police cars headed toward the shed. It's the immigration officials.
- The strikers scatter and try to hide, but they're chased down by the authorities.
- Esperanza is worried, but Hortensia reassures her. The immigration officials are not here for the workers.
- See, the growers need the workers, so the company will protect them. Hence the scary dude with the gun.
- The immigration officials load the strikers onto buses. One woman shouts, "¡Americana!" and waves some papers. She must be a citizen.
- But the official takes her papers and rips them to shreds. He orders the woman to get on the bus with everybody else. Gulp.
- Apparently, the immigration officials will take the strikers to Los Angeles and then put them on a train to Mexico. It doesn't matter that some of them are American citizens. The strikers are causing problems for the government, so the government wants to kick them out of the country.
- The government and the growers are on the same side. They don't like that the strikers are talking about forming a farm workers' union.
- Immigration leaves the buses parked at the station with those they captured on board. When the family members find out that their loved ones are on the bus, they usually go with them. Immigration calls this "voluntary deportation" (12.47).
- The buses leave, but two immigration officials stay behind to keep an eye out for any strikers who might try to come back.
- Esperanza goes back to work and tries to feel grateful that she is not on the bus. But she can't stop thinking about the people being deported.
- Something doesn't seem right to Esperanza about sending citizens away for speaking their mind. Isn't this supposed to be a "free country"?
- When Esperanza goes to get more rubber bands, she's surprised to find Marta hiding in a corner.
- This is Esperanza's chance to get rid of Marta for good. Remember how mean Marta was on Esperanza's first day at the camp?
- But then Esperanza thinks about Marta's mother and how hard it would be for them to be separated. They are both citizens and have every right to be in this country.
- Esperanza goes back to the work area and picks up a dirty apron, a bundle of asparagus, and several burlap sacks. She gives these things to Marta to use as a disguise, and warns her that La Migra, Immigration, is still out front.
- Pretty quick thinking, Esperanza.
- Marta apologizes to Esperanza. It's about time.
- That night, Juan says that La Migra rounded up hundreds of strikers and put them on the buses. Rumor has it that Immigration is trying to create more jobs for workers coming from the east.
- Miguel says that the strikes are not over, and the strikers will be back. Everyone will have to decide all over again whether to join the protests.
- Esperanza is grateful that she is able to keep working, but she also feels that many of the strikers didn't deserve to be deported.
- She worries about Marta. Was she able to find her way back to the strikers' camp without being caught?
- The next day Esperanza begs Miguel to drive her by the strikers' camp.
- It's totally empty.
- Immigration has been there, and there's no way of knowing if Marta and her mother are safe and together.
- Dangling from a tree are the remnants of the piñata that Esperanza gave the children. It's been beaten with a stick, its insides torn out. Talk about a sad image.
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