They arrive at a barn, where Señor Rodríguez is waiting with a wagon and lots of crates of green guavas.
Here's the plan: The men have built a false floor in the wagon. The women will lie down in the space between the floors, so that no one will see them leaving town. They'll take the cart to Zacatecas and catch the train there.
It looks a little claustrophobic to Esperanza, and she wants to sit in the front with Miguel and Alfonso. But it's just not safe.
Off they go. The women lie down and the men cover the floor with guavas. If anyone sees them on the road, it will just look like a farmer and his son are taking a cart of guavas to market. No big deal.
To distract Esperanza, Hortensia tells the story of how, when she was small, they had to hide from some bandits who broke into the house.
Here's the story:
Miguel, Hortensia, and Esperanza hid under the bed, but what they didn't know was that Miguel had a mouse in his pocket. Great.
The bandits were searching the bedroom when a pin poked Esperanza and she made a noise. No!
But quick-thinking Miguel pushed the mouse out from under the bed, and the super-scary bandits figured the noise had come from the mouse. They left, and Hortensia, Esperanza, and Miguel were safe.
To reward Miguel for protecting his most prized possession (his daughter), Papa asked Miguel what he wanted as a reward.
Money? Toys? A lifetime supply of jelly beans? Nope. What Miguel wanted most was to go on a train ride.
And that's the end of Hortensia's part of the story. Esperanza picks it up from there, though, remembering the train ride that Miguel earned as his reward.
Miguel was eight, and Esperanza five. They had taken a day-long train ride from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas.
The children wore their best clothes, and we're pretty sure Miguel looked ridiculously cute in his little bow tie.
Their car had soft leather seats, and the dining car had white linens, silver, and crystal. When the waiter asked if he could bring them anything, Esperanza responded, "Yes, please bring lunch now." Well that's blunt.
Papa, Miguel, and Esperanza had been the image of a doting father and two privileged children.
In Zacatecas, a woman boarded the train carrying carved mangoes on a stick that looked like exotic flowers. Papa bought one for each of them.
Back in the present, Esperanza wishes they could travel to Zacatecas in comfort, like they did that day when she was five.
No can do this time. Now they have to take back roads, with the women hidden under a giant pile of guavas. Not exactly first class.
It takes them two days to travel from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas in the wagon. When they arrive, they hide the wagon in a thicket of shrubs and walk into town.
Esperanza is looking forward to a comfortable train ride, but they sure don't board the fancy car with leather seats. Instead, they board a car with wooden benches, crowded with peasants. It's dirty and smelly.
Esperanza has never been around peasants before. She tells Mama that they can't ride in this car—it's not clean, and she doesn't think the people look trustworthy.
Mama tells her daughter to check herself before she wrecks herself. This is all they can afford now.
Esperanza sulks. Turns out being poor is no fun.
She opens her case to check on the doll, and a little barefoot peasant girl runs over to see it. Esperanza quickly jerks it away—she doesn't want a dirty peasant girl touching her doll.
Mama apologizes to the peasant girl's mother for Esperanza's bad manners, but Esperanza is appalled. She and Mama shouldn't even be sitting in this car—why is Mama apologizing to a peasant?
Esperanza is in for a major lecture from Mama. She's acting like a spoiled brat.
Mama tells Esperanza that being rude to people because they're poor is like being rude to her friends Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel. She needs to cut it out, and quick.
Esperanza feels ashamed and sulks in the corner.
The little peasant girl is still crying so Mama gets Esperanza to help her make a doll out of yarn. She gives it to the little girl, who is pleased as punch.
It seems to Esperanza like the train ride is never-ending. And whenever they stop, Miguel and Alfonso get off the train with a mysterious package. Hmmm.
Not surprisingly, Esperanza is super cranky. Miguel keeps chattering on about trains and how cool they are, and she wishes he would be quiet already.
Miguel dreams of working for a railroad. Papa was going to get him a job, and Miguel gets misty-eyed just talking about it.
Apparently, in the United States, you can get a job on a railroad without having connections. So hey, maybe he can make his dreams come true.
On the fourth day, a woman gets on the train with six chickens. She sits down next to Mama and Hortensia, and the three women quickly warm up to each other.
The woman's name is Carmen. She explains that she is poor, but she has everything she needs to be happy: her children, a rose garden, her faith, and the memories of her loved ones who have died.
Mama finds this woman really inspiring. Soon enough, she loosens up and tells Carmen all about her troubles.
Esperanza is really confused. Before Papa died, Mama would never have been this open with a peasant woman.
She tries to tell Mama not to tell a peasant all their personal business, but Mama says it's all right—now they are peasants, too.
When Carmen gets off the train, Mama gives her three of the lace doilies she has made, and Carmen gives Mama two chickens. They hug goodbye like they've known each other forever.
In front of the station, a crippled beggar holds her hand out to a group of wealthy men and women. They ignore her, but Carmen gives the beggar some tortillas and a coin.
Miguel points out this selfless act to Esperanza: "The rich take care of the rich and the poor take care of those who have less than they have" (4.96).
Esperanza doesn't understand why Carmen has to help the beggar at all. After all, right next door is a market with all sorts of fresh food.
Miguel can tell that Esperanza doesn't get it. He tells her that in Mexico, people with Spanish blood and light complexions are the wealthiest, and people with dark skin are poor. Esperanza feels guilty that she's never noticed this before.
But she doesn't have to worry about that now—they're going to the United States, where she won't have to worry about pesky problems like racism and poverty. Right?