by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising Theme of Poverty
For the first twelve years of her life, Esperanza lives the life of luxury. We kind of imagine it like this. But when she and her mother lose everything and have to flee to the United States, Esperanza gets a crash course in poverty. She learns about the connection between class and race, the relationships between the rich and the poor, and the quality of life for poor workers. What's more, she learns this all first hand. Talk about the biggest reality check ever.
Questions About Poverty
- What does Esperanza learn about poverty while on the train from Mexico to the U.S.? Who is poor in Mexican society, and who is rich? Who takes care of the poor?
- Miguel observes that, in Mexico in 1930, light skinned people tend to be wealthy, while dark skinned people tend to be poor. Why do you think this is?
- Esperanza finds it hard to believe that anyone can live in shabbier conditions than the ones at the company camp where she lives. But as it turns out, things could be worse. What groups are struggling even more than the Mexican farm workers? What are their camps like?
Chew on This
If Esperanza had continued to live her life of luxury and privilege, she never would have learned that many people live in poverty and struggle to survive. Losing everything makes Esperanza a more knowledgeable and sympathetic character.
The novel makes the argument that the unfairness of working conditions on the big farms is one of the causes of poverty.