by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising Chapter 4 Summary
Los Higos (Figs)
- Instead of dreaming of the birthday song, Esperanza dreams she's being suffocated by a bear. Not quite as good.
- Suddenly, Mama is shaking her awake—the house is on fire! Esperanza grabs her doll, and everyone runs to escape the burning house.
- But no one knows where Abuelita is. Like a boss, Miguel runs into the house to look for her, and out he comes, carrying Abuelita. Talk about heroic.
- Miguel's shirt is on fire, and Alfonso tackles him to put it out. Abuelita is okay, too, but her ankle is injured and she can't walk.
- So where was Abuelita, anyway? Oh, she was just looking for her crocheting. Because, you know, that's worth risking your life for.
- They watch as the fire consumes the entire house and the vineyards.
- Mama, Abuelita, and Esperanza sleep in the servants' cabins.
- They are sure that the uncles sent someone to start the fire. (And boy do we believe it.)
- At dawn, Esperanza goes to examine the rubble, hoping to save something. No such luck. Everything is black and sooty and all burned up.
- The evil uncles arrive at what used to be the ranch, supposedly to offer their condolences for this "bad luck." Yeah, right.
- Tío Luis repeats his offer of marriage to Ramona. If she agrees to marry him, he'll build a bigger, better house, and replant all the grape vines.
- Otherwise, she can keep living in the servants' quarters... provided nothing else bad happens. (Insert evil chuckle here.)
- He also points out that if Ramona refuses to marry him, all of the employees of the ranch will lose their jobs, since there's no house or vineyard to work in. What a slimeball.
- Mama reluctantly says she'll think about it, but Esperanza is outraged. She screams, "I hate you!" to Tío Luis.
- To top it all off, Tío Luis tells Ramona that he's going to send Esperanza away to boarding school.
- By the time the uncles leave, Esperanza is crying. But Mama tells her not to worry—she has a plan.
- Everybody crowds into one room for an emergency meeting. Mama consults her advisers.
- Alfonso tells her that if she doesn't plan to marry Luis, she's got to leave. Otherwise, Luis will burn down the servants' quarters.
- They could move to another part of Mexico, but they'd have to live in poverty. After all, Tío Luis has a lot of influence in this country.
- So here's a crazy idea: what if Mama and Esperanza go with Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel to the United States? Alfonso's brother is arranging jobs for them at a big farm in California.
- Abuelita says she could go later, once her ankle has healed.
- Abuelita says her sisters, who are nuns in a convent, can get duplicate papers for Ramona and Esperanza, since theirs were destroyed in the fire.
- It's all sounding okay, but Alfonso warns Mama that the only work in California is fieldwork. No problem—she can handle it.
- Yikes. Moving to a big country—this is a big stinkin' deal.
- Abuelita tells Esperanza about how she immigrated to Mexico from Spain when she was a girl. It wasn't easy, but it sure was exciting.
- Then it's time to wax poetic: Abuelita says that they are like the phoenix, rising from their own ashes to start a new life. This lady's pretty good at putting things in perspective, wouldn't you say?
- Esperanza envisions the beautiful home that she's sure they'll have in California, where Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel will take care of them.
- Esperanza also announces that she, too, can work. For some reason, everybody thinks this is funny. Go figure.
- Abuelita's awesome nun sisters come to pick her up and take her to the convent, where she'll recover. (We really like the idea of nuns conspiring to trick Tío Luis.)
- Abuelita gives Esperanza her zigzag blanket to finish for her while they're apart. She explains that the zigzags, which look like mountains and valleys, represent the obstacles that Esperanza will overcome by the time they see each other again. Is Abuelita always this deep? (Yes.)
- The nuns leave behind a box with new papers for Mama and Esperanza and clothes donated for the poor. Mama has to explain to Esperanza that the clothes are for them.
- Señor Rodríguez is their super-secret agent who helps the family plan their escape. He always arrives with a basket of figs to disguise his real reason for visiting. Tricky.
- At the end of the week, Tío Luis comes back. (Boo!) Mama tells him that she'll marry him, eventually, for the sake of the servants. But wait—she has a few conditions. Most importantly, Luis has to start rebuilding the house and replanting the vines immediately because the servants need jobs.
- Tío Luis says he'll announce the engagement immediately, and—surprise, surprise—he's acting all smug since Ramona has agreed to marry him.
- Esperanza knows better, though. She smirks because she knows he won't look so proud when he discovers that they've run away. (Insert not-so-evil cackle here.)
- Mama wakes Esperanza in the middle of the night, and they leave with only what they can carry. Esperanza has a valise containing some clothes and her doll.
- It's too dangerous to walk along the road, so they sneak through the rows of grapes towards Señor Rodríguez's land.
- When they come to the edge of Papa's property, Esperanza stops. She feels like she's leaving Papa. But Mama reassures her that Papa's heart will find them wherever they go.
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