Study Guide

Abuelita in Esperanza Rising

By Pam Muñoz Ryan


Words of Wisdom

We're pretty sure this lady speaks only in proverbs. Esperanza's grandma is just full of wise gems. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • "Do not be afraid to start over." (2.38)
  • "We are like the phoenix […] Rising again, with a new life ahead of us." (4.70)
  • "No hay rosa sin espinas. There is no rose without thorns." (2.34)

The words that come out of her mouth are eloquent and wise, sure, but what purpose do they serve? Well, she's there to guide Esperanza on her own journey.

Been There, Done That

Who's Abuelita to give Esperanza advice? A wise old woman with lots of experience, that's who.

As a child, Abuelita (which means "Grandmother" in Spanish) was also an immigrant; she came with her family from Spain to Mexico. We even get a bit of foreshadowing when she tells Esperanza about her immigration experience: "When we arrived, nothing was as promised. There were many hard times. But life was also exciting" (4.68). In other words, Abuelita has made a similar journey before, and she can tell her granddaughter what to expect.

Esperanza's grandma is a source of inspiration for her. If Abuelita can do it, so can she.

The Fun Grandma

With all these grand displays of wisdom, you'd expect Abuelita to be a very serious woman. And in fact, she looks super respectable and distinguished in her uniform of black dress and gold earrings, with her white hair pulled back into a bun.

But Abuelita is full of surprises. For example, "Abuelita might host a group of ladies for a formal tea in the afternoon, then after they had gone, be found wandering barefoot in the grapes, with a book in her hand, quoting poetry to the birds" (2.30). Esperanza loves this combination of elegance and quirkiness in her grandmother. It shows that Abuelita knows how to hold on to the beautiful and valuable parts of the past—like "a lace-edged handkerchief peeking out from beneath the sleeve of her dress"—while being open to new ideas and experiences—"a flower in her hair, a beautiful stone in her pocket, or a philosophical saying salted into her conversation" (2.30).

The way Abuelita lives her life teaches Esperanza, and us, an important lesson—hang on to the past, but don't be afraid to move forward.

The Blanket

Remember that nifty blanket that Abuelita teaches Esperanza to crochet? The one that pops up every so often throughout the novel? Well, believe it or not, that blanket means more than meets the eye. When Esperanza's stitches are crooked, Abuelita throws one of those wise sayings her way: "Do not be afraid to start over" (2.38). This isn't just about arts and crafts—it's about life in general. And it's especially important to Esperanza as she starts her life over again as an immigrant in a new country. For much, much more on this, check out our discussion in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory."