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Esperanza spends her childhood in El Rancho de las Rosas, her father's ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She grows up surrounded by a family who loves her, and lots of servants. It's a pretty swank life.
On the day before Esperanza's thirteenth birthday, her dad is murdered by bandits, which leaves Esperanza and her mom to flee the clutches of her evil step-uncle.
Esperanza finds the journey to the U.S. exhausting. She's used to traveling in style, and now she has to ride in a dirty, smelly train car with peasants. Not cool.
In California, Esperanza feels overwhelmed. She doesn't understand English, and she's not used to living in such shabby conditions. She dreams about having her old life back.
After an embarrassing incident with a broom, Esperanza is determined to learn how to work. Soon she's taking care of babies and keeping house like a pro.
Mama gets really sick, and Esperanza has to take on even more responsibility. She gets a job in the sheds so that she can pay for Mama's medicine. And she decides to save up money so she can bring Abuelita to the U.S. That will definitely make Mama feel better.
Esperanza is annoyed and a little nervous when some of the workers begin to strike. But when immigration officials raid the strikers, Esperanza starts to sympathize.
After a fight between Esperanza and Miguel, Miguel disappears with all of Esperanza's hard-earned money. Esperanza has nothing to do but work, crochet, and worry.
Not too long after, though, Miguel returns with Abuelita. It's family reunion time.
By the time Esperanza's fourteenth birthday rolls around, she's looking forward to a future in the United States. She dreams about learning English, supporting her family, and maybe even buying a house one day.