by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Marisol and Señor Rodríguez
Most of what we know of Esperanza's life goes down in California. But that doesn't mean we can forget where she came from. Back in Mexico, Marisol is Esperanza's best friend. Together, the two girls dream about Quinceañeras and, of course, boys. But after her move to the U.S., and by the end of the novel, Esperanza has changed quite a bit. Do you think the two girls would still be friends if they met later in life?
Marisol's dad is also a friendly guy. Another wealthy landowner, he's the only one of Papa's neighbors willing to help the family after Papa dies. In fact, he's the one who helps Mama and Esperanza sneak out of town by hiding them under a pile of guavas.
Hortensia and Alfonso
When we first meet Hortensia and Alfonso, they are servants in the Ortega household. But this isn't your regular servant/head-of-house relationship. They are super loyal to Esperanza's family because Papa has been very good to them—he treats them like friends and gives Alfonso some land of his own. Alfonso is Papa's best friend and right hand man, and Hortensia, the head housekeeper, is a friend and confidant to both Mama and Esperanza.
But when Tío Luis takes over the family property, Hortensia and Alfonso tell Mama they're going to move to the U.S. to find work with Alfonso's brother. They know that Tío Luis will be a terrible boss and won't treat them with the respect that Sixto Ortega had shown them. On top of all that, it's impossible for them to ever be more than servants in Mexico, because Mexican society is rigidly divided according to class and race. Hortensia and Alfonso are Zapotec Indians with dark skin, so no matter how hard they work, they will never become part of the privileged class. Instead, they dream of moving to the U.S. and building a better life.
Aside from Esperanza and her mom, we get to know this sympathetic couple better than any other Mexican immigrants in Esperanza's camp. They're not fleeing from tragedy, like Esperanza and Mama. They're just looking for economic and social opportunity. In that way, Hortensia and Alfonso represent the authentic Mexican immigration experience.
Juan, Josefina and the Babies
Juan is Alfonso's brother. He and his wife, Josefina, live and work in the San Joaquin Valley in California with their three children, Isabel and twin babies. They find work and housing for Alfonso's family and Mama and Esperanza and help them adjust to their new lives in the United States. Juan and Josefina are clearly kind people whom Esperanza comes to think of as family.