by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising Theme of Prejudice
In moving from Mexico to the United States, Esperanza and her family move from a very classist society to one in which discrimination usually depends on racial and ethnic bias, rather than how much money you've got in your wallet. As a light-skinned member of Mexico's upper class, Esperanza isn't used to being discriminated against. In fact, she's used to being the one doing the discriminating. But Esperanza Rising is all about out with the old, in with the new, so Esperanza will have to figure out how to rise above the differences that divide her community. In doing so, we're pretty sure she'll create a new and better life for herself.
Questions About Prejudice
- How does American society characterize Mexican immigrants? How does the novel show us that these stereotypes are false?
- Why does Isabel deserve to be the Queen of May at school? Why isn't she chosen for this honor?
- Besides Mexicans, what other groups experience discrimination in the novel? What is that discrimination based on?
- Why does Miguel lose his job as a railroad mechanic? What is his reaction to being fired? What does he say he will have to do in order to succeed in the United States?
- Even though in Mexico Esperanza is one of the wealthy elite "with Spanish blood, who have the fairest complexions in the land," in the United States she is seen as part of "one big, brown group who are good for only manual labor" (5.100, 11.41). How can Esperanza be seen as "white" in one country, but as "brown" in another? What other factors besides skin color affect people's understanding of race in the novel?
Chew on This
So much for equality. Even though the United States is supposedly a classless society, racial discrimination in Esperanza Rising means that the Mexican immigrants, as well as any other groups that are not white, are treated as second-class citizens.
Funny how the tables have turned. Esperanza goes from being a person who discriminates against the poor in Mexico to a person who experiences discrimination because she is Mexican.