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Esperanza and her family move to Mango Street. Esperanza recalls the many places she's lived in her short life, and lets us know why she feels like she has to have a real house of which she can be proud.
Esperanza is charged with the annoying task of constantly babysitting her little sister. She's lonely, and wants a best friend.
Esperanza meets Cathy, who's kind of a snob.
Esperanza buys a bicycle with Lucy and Rachel and, thus, acquires two new friends.
A new family moves in to Cathy's house, and Esperanza meets Meme, Louie, and Louie's cousins. When Louie's cousin steals a Cadillac, all the neighborhood kids get to take a ride in it before he's chased by the police.
Esperanza learns about girl stuff from Louie's cousin Marin.
A woman from a wealthier family in the neighborhood gives Esperanza and her friends a bag of hand-me-down high-heeled shoes. The girls run around the neighborhood in them and get some unexpected attention from creepy old men. Later they abandon the shoes and aren't upset when Lucy and Rachel's mom throws them away.
Esperanza begs her mom to let her eat lunch at school. Her mom writes her a note, but the Sister Superior doesn't want to let Esperanza stay, saying that she lives too close. When she assumes that Esperanza lives in a run-down tenement building, Esperanza feels humiliated and begins to cry. The nun lets Esperanza stay that day, and Esperanza eats her cold rice sandwich in the canteen, crying the whole time.
Esperanza's mama buys her a new party dress to wear to her cousin's baptism. But she forgets to buy new party shoes, so Esperanza is forced to wear her ugly brown school shoes. Because of the shoes, Esperanza is ashamed to dance, and turns a boy down when he asks her. But then her Uncle Nacho persuades her to get up and dance, and soon she's having so much fun that she forgets all about the shoes. She notices that the boy is watching her dance, and she likes it.
Esperanza and her friends talk about getting hips. Esperanza notices that her sister Nenny doesn't seem to get it – she's still a kid, while the other three girls are growing up.
Esperanza's aunt gets her a job at a photo lab. Esperanza is really nervous on her first day. An older man offers to be her friend, and she starts to feel better, until he forces her to kiss him.
Esperanza's father tells her that her abuelo has died. Esperanza has the responsibility as the oldest child of breaking the news to her younger brothers and sisters. She comforts her papa and imagines how she would feel were he to die.
Esperanza and her friends invent a game in which they make fun of her Aunt Lupe, who's dying of a terminal disease. Aunt Lupe was always nice to Esperanza, and told her that she should keep writing because it would keep her free. When Aunt Lupe dies, Esperanza feels really, really guilty.
Esperanza goes to see a "witch woman" named Elenita to see if there's anything in her future about a house (24.1). Elenita only sees "a home in the heart," and Esperanza is disappointed (24.17).
Esperanza makes friends with an adult woman named Ruthie. She doesn't understand why Ruthie left her house and husband in the suburbs and moved back in with her mom on Mango Street.
Esperanza notices that a boy named Sire looks at her whenever she passes his house. She watches him with his girlfriend and wonders what it would be like to kiss him.
Esperanza feels a connection with the four skinny trees growing outside her bedroom window, because she feels like, just like her, they don't belong.
Esperanza makes friends with a sophisticated girl at school named Sally. She wonders why Sally rubs off all her makeup before she goes home, and imagines a house for Sally, where she could be free and happy.
Esperanza and Minerva read each other's poetry. Minerva's husband abuses her, but she keeps letting him come back to her. When Minerva comes over to Esperanza's house covered in bruises, Esperanza recognizes that she can't do anything to help her friend.
Esperanza stops going to visit rich neighborhood with her family because she's ashamed to look at things they can't afford. She dreams of having a big house and letting bums sleep in the attic, because she knows what it's like to be without a house.
Esperanza feels ugly and awkward, and envies the power that beautiful women have over men. She starts leaving the table like a man, "without putting back the chair or putting up the plate" (35.5).
Esperanza's mom tells her not to let shame hold her back, and to keep going to school.
Esperanza gets embarrassed when she tries to rescue Sally from a group of boys who persuade her to kiss them all in the garden. Sally doesn't want to be rescued, and tells Esperanza to go away. Esperanza feels foolish, and hides herself in the garden to cry.
Esperanza arranges to meet Sally at the carnival, but Sally never shoes up at their meeting place. While she's waiting for Sally, a group of boys accosts her, and one of them rapes her. Esperanza is mad at Sally for having lied to her about what sex is like.
Esperanza meets three elderly sisters at a wake. The old women affirm Esperanza's secret wish to leave Mango Street, but make her promise that she'll come back one day.
Esperanza confesses to Alicia that she feels like she doesn't have a home. Alicia convinces Esperanza that, like it or not, Mango Street is her home, and that she'll have to come back one day to make it better, because the mayor's not going to do it.
Esperanza describes her dream of having a house of her home.
Esperanza acknowledges that, though she fully intends to leave Mango Street, one day she'll be back to help the ones she leaves behind.