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Esperanza isn't like the other girls in her neighborhood, including her sister. Boys don't pay attention to her. She feels ugly, untamed, and unattractive to men.
In the movies, Esperanza says, there's always a beautiful woman who attracts all the men with her red lips. She never gives in to any of their amorous advances, though – her sex appeal gives her power, and she's not giving it away.
Esperanza says that she's "begun [her] own quiet war" (35.5). Her strategy involves acting with the carefree, uninhibited attitude of a man.